Exposed: Bogus airtime vendors on the prowl

Source: The Herald – Breaking news.

Exposed: Bogus airtime vendors on the prowl

Trust Freddy 

Herald Correspondent 

Con artists pretending to be airtime vendors are selling fake and used recharge cards around the west of Harare city centre.

Used cards have a layer of the greyish paint carefully put on top of the used code numbers but there are also freshly printed cards, made by someone with the correct press, where there are messages such as “Oh no, Try again!” under the scratch panel.

That particular message suggests the press was originally set up for a scratch card lotto scheme or else specially prepared by a printer with the correct equipment who just wants to humiliate the buyer.

The fraudsters, posing as genuine airtime vendors, wearing lime green reflectors with Econet logo, roam the Harare’s busy areas, including Copacabana Market, Joina City, and Gulf Complex.

Their tactics are convincing and many have fallen prey to their scheme after being lured to purchase airtime ranging from US$5 up to US$20.

The Herald caught up with one of the victims who simply preferred to be called Mutsa from Chitungwiza.

She had bought a recharge card from a vendor at the corner of Mayor Urimbo Terrace and Augustinho Neto Avenue at the southeast corner of Joina City, but when she scratched off the panel, instead of revealing a subscription key, she was greeted with the mocking words “Oh no, don’t try again!”

“I felt so foolish,” Mutsa said, holding up the fake recharge card. I couldn’t believe I had been sold a dummy. It just takes a few minutes to be duped, if not seconds,” she said.

The con artist, according to Mutsa, had tried to convince her to buy a US$5 airtime voucher instead of the $1 one she needed.

 “I will keep it in my handbag to warn others to be cautious when vendors try to coerce them into buying large amounts of airtime,” Mutsa said. 

She only realised that she had been sold a fake voucher after the fraudster had already disappeared into the crowded streets of central Harare.

“I tried to look for him, but I was still in shock because I never imagined someone would have the audacity to sell me an airtime voucher without a subscription key.”

“I guess these fraudsters sell genuine airtime to other people, they just take advantage of those who appear to be in a hurry,” she added.

The Herald has gathered that Mutsa is not the only victim. The scam is widespread, with many victims coming forward to share their stories. 

The vendors are relentless, targeting people in busy areas and disappearing into the crowd before their victims realise they have been duped.

“Last week, I bought a reused US$10 Econet recharge card,” said Mr Gilbert Nyanhongo from Highfield. 

“I think it’s high time everyone recharges their cards in the presence of the vendors.” 

The cunning con artists are reportedly collecting used recharge cards, resealing the rechargeable numbers, and reselling them to mislead the public.

It appears that a sophisticated syndicate is specialising in printing fake recharge cards, but the source remains unknown, and it is still unclear whether they are being imported or produced locally.

“Authorities must hunt down these fraudsters and arrest anyone who walks around picking used recharge cards,” Mr Nyanhongo added.

Econet, the telecommunications giant, has since issued a warning to its customers to be cautious when purchasing airtime cards.

“We encourage recharging your airtime in the presence of your airtime vendor,” the company advised. 

“Check for a watermark written, ‘Do not scratch with a sharp object’ or ‘Scratch off the panel to reveal the subscription key.” The company also urged members of the public to report any suspicious activity to the authorities adding that the selling used recharge cards is a crime.

When contacted for comment, national police spokesperson Commissioner Paul Nyathi said he had not yet received such reports. 

“I am hearing about it for the first time from you,” he said.

“As the Zimbabwe Republic Police, we haven’t received any reports of this nature. However, I encourage members of the public to come forward and report such cases, and we will investigate them further.”

The post Exposed: Bogus airtime vendors on the prowl appeared first on Zimbabwe Situation.

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