5 Tricks Nairobi Newbies Fall for Upon Arrival in CBD

  • They say Nairobi is a concrete jungle and anyone visiting for the first time would face a bout of confusion trying to find their way in the capital.

    The fast paced city life, congested streets alleys and the never-ending noise emanating from the confusion that is the transport system can even be confusing to those born and bred in the city.

    It is, however, worse for the new arrivals who cannot make the head or tail of the city. Scammers love such newbies; and will spot them from a mile away ready to pounce on the guise that they are ‘orienting’ them on the way of life in the city. Those who are not witty have fallen prey.

    Matatu Bus Stop Sign at GPO Stage, Along Kenyatta Avenue in Nairobi. Monday, October 21, 2019

    Matatu Bus Stop Sign at GPO Stage, Along Kenyatta Avenue in Nairobi. Monday, October 21, 2019

    Below are some of the ways in which newbies are scammed in the city;

    1.) Handcarts or Mkokoteni pullers

    Handcarts are a common sight in the streets of Nairobi, almost an eyesore, with a huge concentration in the Central Business District (CBD).

    While some of those who operate carts are genuine businessmen and women out to help people move luggage from one spot to another, other unscrupulous mkokoteni pullers have taken advantage of newbies’ naivety to cart away their property.

    A victim by the name Tony Ng’ethe shared his experience at the hands of crooks the day he landed in Nairobi.

    “I remember placing my luggage on the cart, and before I could turn, he had melted in the crowds leaving me stranded with nowhere to turn to,” Ng’ethe stated.

    A handcart puller in Nairobi

    A handcart puller in Nairobi.


    2.) Elderly conmen

    Times have gone when elderly looking men and women attracted sympathy from Nairobians who would go ahead to offer them a helping hand because they genuinely needed it.

    While there may be some deserving cases out there, numerous stories have been told of the elderly colluding with gangs in the city to rob Kenyans in the city.

    Often, their age exudes respect and order, hence, many fall in their traps. One popular scam is when an old woman approaches you and requests to use your phone to call someone. Out of respect, you offer your phone. They dial the number which will go though but no one picks up. She will then expresses her gratitude, and let you proceed to board a matatu.

    Meanwhile, her accomplices will board the same vehicle. They will claim that their phone has been stolen then proceed to dial your phone number, and before you get time to explain yourself, the phone is gone.

    Others will join Nairobians seated on the city benches and strike a conversation. Once they have won your trust, they will employ tricks that will see you hand them your money and even phone. The funny thing about this is that it is always never clear how you end up handing a stranger your stuff..

    A photo of Nairobi's city centre

    A photo of Nairobi’s city centre


    3.) Scratch-to-win deal

    This is a common scam in the city. You will see them parked across the streets spending every minute luring passerby’s to the vehicle. They will then ask candidates to scratch some cards with a promise to win huge prices which include mobile phones, tablets and other electronics.

    Once the target has been made to scratch the card and the price won, he or she is then required to pay a small fee (money) to be able to redeem the prize.

    Once the money is gone, the ‘winner’ is handed a different gift, one of much lower value than the amount the target has paid. reported that the scam saw a man lose Ksh40,000 after being lured by these scammers.

    Prize won by the scratch to win victim on December 2, 2020.

    Prize won by the scratch to win victim on December 2, 2020.


    4.) Fake mitumba tricks

    In an effort to triple their sales, mitumba traders have mastered the bad art of displaying designer clothes but parking rags for their customers.

    Many Nairobians have arrived hope after a shopping spree at Gikomba only to unpack their bags and find rags. The trick is done meticulously by unscrupulous traders who execute the scheme when the customer least expects. It often starts the second the customer begins sampling the clothes. The trader will allow them to pick the best clothes which they will proceed to sell to them at an agreed price. The trader will then pretend to pack the clothes and then proceed to switch them with rags. The customer will then walk away satisfied, not knowing that they are carrying rags, and not the clothes they had paid for.

    5.) Lured into buying fake electronics

    Some electronics dealers will have no qualms selling to customers fake electronics. This is particularly common with mobile phone shops. The dealers will charge you an arm and a leg for a phone especially if they realize that you are a newbie – and hand the client the most basic phone.

    If nit the vendors themselves, then it will be that street urchin standing by the electronics shop and fiddling with what looks like iPhone 12 Pro.  They will wittily flash it on your face, then beckon you to follow them. They will demand a paltry Ksh2000 for the phone. They will not hand the customer adequate time to inspect the phone citing police officers and hawk-eyed County Council Askaris. Once they have the money, they will melt in the crowd leaving the customer holding a toy phone.

    Once these goods are bought, it would be hard to return because it would be impossible to trace the sellers.

    Unopened bales of second-hand clothes.

    Unopened bales of second-hand clothes.


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