The Defence Minister, James Kabarebe, has disclosed his frustrations about repeated futile attempts to close a fake Facebook account in his name linked to an imposter.
Kabarebe was yesterday speaking to The New Times just days after Police arrested a man it says had opened two Facebook accounts, posing in one as Minister Kaberebe, and claiming the other to be for his (Kabarebe’s) supposed secretary.
Police say the suspect used both accounts to fleece unsuspecting members of the public.
The suspect, identified by Police as Jacques Mugema, allegedly managed to dupe some people that he was Minister Kaberebe and successfuly collected money from some with promises of attending to their issues expeditiously -- which would be deposited on a mobile money account he claimed belonged to the ‘secretary’ .
Mugema is alleged to have collected over Rwf 700,000 over a period of one year.
Minister Kabarebe said he had tried to have a Facebook account operating in his name closed but his efforts had been unsuccessful.
He even contacted Facebook’s head offices to help him deactivate the account but no action was taken.
“I have been aware of the existence of the impersonator for the past three years. But efforts to contact Facebook to block it didn’t yield any results.
‘‘The other day an IT expert and a friend of mine helped Police net the criminal. Personally, I have no Facebook account. I only own a Twitter account,” the minister told The New Times.
Early last week, another man was arrested for impersonating Pastor Paul Gitwaza of Zion Temple Ministries on the same social media platform.
The suspect, Marius Kubwimana, also created a fake Facebook account which he used to dupe members of the public to send money as donations.
Kubwimana is said to have run the account for close to five years before his arrest.
Floribert Nzabakira, Zion Temple Ministries representative, said the fake account had more traffic than Apostle Gitwaza’s original account.
“He had over 9,000 likes on his page which are more than those of Gitwaza’s official account which got members of Zion Temple thinking that it was their leader’s official account,” Nzabakira said.
The suspect was arrested as he attempted to withdraw USD 500, that he had illicitly obtained from a church faithful.
Police justified the time taken before the arrests, arguing that it was not ‘a simple exercise’ that takes a day or two.
Chief Superintendent of Police Celestin Twahirwa, the Police Spokesperson said prior to the arrests Police had been following the lead seeking information from various stakeholders.
Police say that though the crime does not feature on the most prevalent crimes list in the country, they are seeing a steady rise.
“We have a financial investigation unit which deals with issues of money laundering, fraud. We also have a department responsible for communication and Information communication which also deals with cyber security and they all work closely with Criminal Investigations Department,” Twahirwa said.
He urged members of the public to be cautious of their interactions on social media, especially with people soliciting money from them.
Didier Nkurikiyimfura, the Director General of ICT at the Ministry of Youth and ICT, said beyond law enforcement, public awareness and sensitisation campaigns would go a long way in preventing the rise of such cases.
“We urge members of the public to exercise caution, conduct due diligence and verify the identities of people they interact with on social media, especially when it involves transfer of money,” Nkurikiyimfura said.