KAMPALA, UGANDA: The police have warned the public about bursary and scholarship scams as schools reopen next week.
Fred Enanga, the police spokesperson says that a number of conmen are targeting vulnerable parents, schools, and guardians with fake bursaries, scholarships, and fundraising activities.
“As schools prepare to open, we have started getting concerns from the public, about conmen who are targeting vulnerable students, families, and good Samaritans, with fake bursaries, scholarships, and fundraising activities,” Enanga said.
Police have cited an example of fraudsters using the “O” level results of Princes Atucungwire, who scored first grade at Kibingo Girls SS to collect money claiming she is vulnerable and needs financial aid to proceed with her education.
Even though Atucungwire was indeed vulnerable at some point, her education expenses were taken over by an American organization. But the conmen have continued to use her result slip to hoodwink unsuspecting members of the public.
“We are asking the public to ignore the tweet that has gone viral, simply because the victim has already secured sponsorship from an American organization. As a result, a case file has been opened at Sheema Police Station, to track down the culprits,” Enanga said.
Cases of fraud and human trafficking often become rampant when children are reporting for the first term of the academic year. The Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID) records show parents and children are often targeted for their school fees, trafficking, and sometimes children end up being sexually abused by people who claimed to be providing bursaries and scholarships.
In 2020, the biggest economic crime was obtained by false pretense while forgery and cyber fraud came second and third respectively. At least $4m (over Shilling 15 billion) was lost in scams. Online fraud such as fundraising, jobs, and Visa accounted for more than Shillings 665 million while online business fraud accounted for 398m.
“The other common areas of fraud are; offers of bursaries and admissions to schools never applied for, processing fees for bursaries, companies with expensive and sometimes vague bursaries to mention but a few. The conmen use language and techniques which entice intending beneficiaries,” Enanga said.
In order to avoid being duped, the police advise parents to always do sufficient research about the scholarship or bursary. Other tips include looking for previous beneficiaries or students for legitimacy. Since tricksters fear documentation, the public is urged to often correspond with the alleged sponsors in writing for record purposes and if they are conmen, they would immediately hesitate.
Agnes Igoye, the Deputy Coordinator Anti-human trafficking department at Internal Affairs ministry also cautioned parents that traffickers use similar tricks to abuse children. Igoye asked parents not to just give their children to anyone to take them to school.
In 2020, 223 children, majority girls were trafficked by people who claimed to be having opportunities to make their life better. The girls ended up working as housemaids in urban areas.