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Guarding against con men and women

NEARLY every adult living in Zambia has at one time or another been swindled out of items or cash.
The most common type of swindling, in my view, is that to do with land.  A lot of people, including this author, have been swindled out of land or property.  
Stories abound of plots of land or even complete houses that have been sold to more than one person.
For transactions to do with buildings or land, some of the con men and women employ such advanced tactics that one can hardly suspect that there is anything peculiar until the cash is gone.
When one advertises to purchase or sell a plot, a house or a car, and even when one is only looking for a house to rent, they will receive enquiries from many quarters and some of the callers will most likely not be genuine.
I vividly remember a time, many years ago, when my employers were looking for a house to rent in Lusaka for one of our directors.
We advertised in the print media and chose not to use estate agents.
Several people called to offer their properties and one man in particular even came to our office in the company of another man.
They parked outside our office premises and walked in to have a discussion with me.  They told me that they had a house that they wanted me to see and they would offer me a lift in their vehicle.
I opted instead to drive behind them, and efforts to get them to tell me the physical address of where the house was failed.
I told them that I would go with a male workmate and would drive behind them.  When we got outside our office, to our shock, we found the two men had driven off.  The security guard told us that they were almost running when they came out of the office.
Efforts to call them on the numbers that they had given me failed and I never heard from them again.  I shuddered to think of what would have happened to me had I jumped into their car.
A few years later, one of my sisters was looking for a house to buy and she, too, got swindled by unknown people who asked her to lend them K2,500 on short-term basis, that she would deduct from the purchase price for the house.  She had taken a ride in their car and without thinking much, she went to an automated teller machine (ATM) and withdrew the cash and gave them. Before she knew what was happening, they asked her to wait for them at some spot while they went to fetch their other colleague.  As “security”, they gave her some stones that they claimed were diamonds to hold on to while she waited.  My sister waited and waited but the men never came back.  She then took the stones to a precious stones dealer and learnt, to her dismay, that the stones were fake.
At first I laughed at her and asked her how she could be so trusting, but later I felt sorry for her and just wished that we could not be so trusting. My sister represents the average Zambian who trusts nearly every person that she comes across.  Just notice how sometimes a young man will approach you and claim that he is requesting for piece-work to raise money for school fees and let’s say he says he has raised K50 out of the required K100. Upon interrogation he tells you that he leaves with his widowed jobless sister and lost both his parents. You feel sorry for him, reach for your wallet or purse and give him K100  Thirty minutes later you see the same young man going to ask for money from other motorists within the same car park.  Watch out for con men and women – they are all around us and for the next few weeks I will share tactics that they use and tips on what we can do to safeguard our families and organisations against these crooks.