We called her Mad. I don't remember what her real name was. She and I, with two other campus girls, shared a hostel room which had a balcony overlooking a noisy nightclub in Parklands.
Mad introduced us to pyramid schemes. Her mother, a teacher, owned a school in Nanyuki. Mad told us about how the two of them had invested lots of money from the school and managed to 'earn' tonnes more.
The trick, she convinced us, was to put in your money when the scheme was new. Wait for them to pay that first round of investors to bait more people then pull out your money before they began making plans of bailing.
We set out to scam the scammers. I put in 900 Bob. It sounds little now but at 19, that was lunch for a week. Or three pairs of jeans. I saw all the signs. This company which claimed to have huge investments and could double my money in three weeks was run from a dingy office in an old building on Moi Avenue. There was barely any furniture in there, the employees seemed disinterested. I was not surprised when I came back three weeks later and there was no sign that there had been an office. I was ashamed. I mean, I was not a lawyer but I had been on campus long enough to know the principle of hard work and reward.
I pushed this incident to the back of my mind until a few days ago when a friend recounted an incident that happened to a young woman in Nairobi recently. After weeks of chatting with this white man on social media, he told her that he was coming to Kenya to marry her. But first, he wanted to send her some gifts and some money. She received a call a few days later from the ‘airport’ that a package meant for her had been received and she needed to pay some money for clearance. She borrowed Sh30,000 to get the surprise.
She was truly surprised. The borrowed money and her new catch soon vanished.
My first thought was, 'How often does a stranger you just met want to give you money or buy you smartphone, a MacBook or that designer perfume?' I'm sure this young woman must have wondered the same. Even fleetingly. But our love for free things makes us do strange things.
I had many unanswered questions when I 'invested' my 900 Bob but still, I went ahead. The thing is, con artists whether they are after your wallet, heart or even your body rarely catch us off guard. There will be that niggly wiggly feeling at the back of our mind; that this may be too good to be true. Con artists prey on our desire for luck, quick bucks, and love for shortcuts. Simply put, our Greed.
You always see it coming. A man who simply wants to get under your knickers can only pretend for so long. If you don't see it, you will feel it. Sometimes, even when your heart tells you that this man is the best thing that's happened to you, your instincts will tell you that he is up to no good.
So listen. Believe people when they show you who they are. Don't start thinking that you can change them or that you are an exception. If a business deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. If you look at a situation or a person and think, 'this can't be true', you're probably right.