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Beware fraudsters using photos of sick and disabled people to scam ‘donations’

IN SHORT: Scammers often appeal to our emotions to con us out of money – the desperation of job seekers or the compassion we feel for the suffering of others. Personal Facebook accounts, possibly hacked, are being used to post bogus fundraising drives on group pages – but the money will only help the fraudsters.

Warning: This report links to distressing photos.

Several personal Facebook accounts have been posting appeals for donations, supposedly to help sick and disabled people, on Kenyan Facebook group pages.

For example, one account started posting photos of a man with huge growths on his face, back and torso in several public groups (including here, here, here, here and here) on 12 January 2023. The account identifies the man as Nahashon Karanja from Kiambu county.

“Nahashon suffers from growths which has popped all over his skin,” the caption reads. “He has one big growth on his back which is very heavy and another one near the face which makes one eye to sag.”

The posts then ask users to “support” the man by donating money, via M-Pesa mobile money transfer, to the account 1500164815929 using the paybill number 247247.

On the same day, a second personal account posted exactly the same photos, with the same caption, in several other public groups. (See here, here, here, here and here.) Again, it asks for donations – using exactly the same paybill and account numbers.


‘Please pray for my son’

Also on 12 January, and for days after, the first account posted photos of a young man with massive tumorous-looking growths on the back of his head, his upper back and on his side. (See here, here, here, here and here.)

“Please pray for my son,i believe your prayers will work for him,” the caption begins. The young man is identified simply as Ronald. The posts end with the same appeal for donations to the same account.

And the same photos, caption – and payment details – have also been posted on group pages by a third account. (See here, here, here, here and here.)

‘Please say a prayer for my baby’

The first account has also posted, from 9 January, photos of a woman holding a baby with an abnormally large head. In one of the photos the woman is crying.

“Please say a prayer for my baby,” the posts begin. “I know your prayers will work for him.”

They identify the baby only as Collince, and say he has hydrocephalus. This is a real condition in which fluid builds up in the brain.

“Have you imagined what we would achieve if we donated kshs 100 each to Collince?” the posts ask. They then, again, provide payment details.

The same photos, with the same appeal for donations, have been posted on group pages by other personal Facebook accounts here, here, here, here and here

And the identically worded appeal for donations to a baby with hydrocephalus, with only the baby’s name changed, have been posted with different (and distressing) photos of extremely sick children – here, here, here and here.

Other photos and donation requests – to be paid to the same M-Pesa account – have been posted in public groups by the three Facebook accounts here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

But are they legit? We checked.

Hacked accounts?

All of these posts are part of a wide-ranging scam.

And it’s quite possible that at least some of the three personal Facebook accounts – here, here and here – have been hacked by scammers so they can be used to post the dodgy appeals messages. This is why we haven’t named the accounts.

Here’s why the posts are scams.

Save a Life fundraising for John Shikuku and Ronald Odhiambo

First is the appeal for “Nahashon Karanja”, the man from Kiambu county with huge growths on his body.

In July 2022, Africa Check debunked exactly the same claim, using the same photos. We found that the photos actually show John Shikuku from Kenya’s Trans Nzoia county.

Save a Life, a legitimate Kenyan community-based organisation, posted the photos of Shikuku on Facebook on 13 June 2022 in a genuine donations drive.

“The story we posted on our Facebook page with John Shikuku named as the patient is genuine,” Save a Life spokesperson Carol Kariuki told us at the time.

“We only have two mobile money numbers for the contribution. The M-Pesa pay bill number is 600054 and the M-Pesa number is 0722 214 817.”

The photos of “Ronald”, the young man with tumorous growths, have also been pinched from the Save a Life Facebook page.

His full name is Ronald Odhiambo. In another fundraising drive, Save a Life posted the photos on Facebook on 4 and 6 July 2022. Again, the paybill number is 600054 and the M-Pesa number is 0722 214 817.

Baby with hydrocephalus from South Africa, died in 2019

Finally, a reverse image search of one of the photos of the baby with abnormally large head shows she – not he – was named Lemicah Faith Arendze, not “Collince”. The woman in the photos is her mother, Rozanne Arendze.

Lemicah, from South Africa, died in late July 2019 at the age of just seven months. She did have hydrocephalus. Her death came after a shunt surgically inserted in her skull to remove the fluid from her brain became infected.

Her story was covered by several South African news outlets.

But in May 2020 news emerged of her mother’s anguish after Facebook fraudsters started using photos of Lemicah to scam people out of money.

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