Times are hard in Zimbabwe and people are trying to hustle by any means necessary. The gullible shall be taken advantage of by the sly and cunning. Zimbabweans have become experienced in creating value out of nothing, from the street vendors selling forex, to the WhatsApp groups reselling Econet e-learning data bundles for a ZWL$50.00 markup.
On Friday last week I received a password protected pdf document titled Mathematics Paper 2 2020 June Session ZIMSEC.pdf. As a tech guru (let me have my fun please) I was asked to open the document and check if it was genuine or not. The size of the document immediately made me dismiss it as a fake, it was only 48Kb. A single page pdf document with 500 words is approximately 50Kb in size, there is no way a complete mathematics paper 2 examination can be that small. But then it was a Friday, I had nothing going on and this was as good as it gets so, I dove in.
Using my awesome tech skills as a guru (read, I uploaded the document to an online platform that helps you recover forgotten document passwords) and a few minutes later I had opened the document and I was right, the document was not the exam that was scheduled to be written in a few hours. My going theory is that a clever individual created the document, locked it and asked for payment via a throwaway EcoCash account in return for the password.
Most of these scams find us when we are very desperate and they always seem too good to be true. They always are too good to be true. Last year I had to track down an individual who had defrauded my friend’s daughter. The young girl was looking to buy bridal wear in preparation for a wedding and found someone on Facebook. The scammer asked her to pay a deposit via EcoCash and afterwards, she was blocked. The EcoCash account was registered in the name of a woman who claimed to not know the scammer. I managed to track down the scammer and along the way realised he was a serial scam artist and had even defrauded one individual of US$1,000.
Another friend was scammed out of ZWL$400 via EcoCash in an investment scheme that promised a 30% return in money invested after a three-month period. After she made her contribution, she was blocked by the people and the money was gone. We failed to get any justice for her sadly.
Think about this for a second, would you meet a total stranger in the street and hand over your hard-earned money in promise of goods or services? This is essentially what we are doing. Some of the scams are just so ridiculous, like the one that promises to give you back your money plus 30% interest in three months. The icing on the cake is that more often than not, we cannot report these scams because we are ourselves doing something illegal in the first place. How do you go to the police to report that you were trying to buy an exam paper but got scammed?
Zimbabweans seem to have very short memories. Have we forgotten about GeoZing? Or about MMM? Allow me to refresh your memories; in 2013 the two companies started a Pyramid Scheme. What they would do, is take your money from a minimum of US$50. After three months you would get your money back plus 30% interest. What they were actually doing was circulating your money, taking money from Farai and paying it to Tinashe. When Farai came back after three months, they would take money from an eager new participant, Valentine and give it to Farai. And the cycle would go on and on. This all came crashing down when too many people wanted to cash out.
Fast money? Forget it
As Zimbabweans, we need to learn that there is no easy way to make money or buy Zimsec exams. With the prevalence of the internet, we often hear stories of people making easy money via forex trading, stock investments and online betting. All these are not easy money-making schemes but require you to study the statistics behind them and understand. The funnier part is that most of us would run away from a mathematics textbook, but can easily read and understand the odds and calculate payouts on a soccer betting site.