Police dispel fear of scam ‘death SMS’

Police have warned the public against a scam short messaging service (SMS) spreading on people’s mobile phones that threatens that one would die instantly if they answered a telephone call with a certain code.
A lady reads a text message on her mobile handset. The New Times/ File.
A lady reads a text message on her mobile handset. The New Times/ File.

Police have warned the public against a scam short messaging service (SMS) spreading on people’s mobile phones that threatens that one would die instantly if they answered a telephone call with a certain code.

The alarming message reads: “It’s horrifying, there is a phone number that is calling people with a code +229 and it’s made of five digits. It’s alleged that this number is calling from Cameroon and Benin and that it was aired on TV5. When you pick it you die immediately. Yesterday, 37 people died in Nigeria and Ghana. Pass this SMS to your friends.”

Over the past weekend, some people panicked after receiving the message.

But Police have urged people to remain calm and ignore the spam message.

“There is guaranteed security, no one has died as alleged and nothing else happened abnormally,” said Theo Badege, the Police spokesperson, adding that people should not believe such lies because they are like other known online scams that aim at fleecing unsuspecting victims.

People may fall in a trap of crooks who want to fleece them, he warned.

According to experts, such spam messages is scam sent by people with sinister motives.

Eng. François Zimulinda, vice dean of engineering faculty at Kigali Institute of Science and Technology, said it is impossible that a phone call from a distant network can kill a person.

“It’s technically impossible that the frequency from another network can kill. Even then, frequencies are registered by regulators,” Eng. Zimulinda said.

He added that it is just a fabrication by people who want others to panic.

“I remember that back at school people used to send SMS and say if you don’t forward it twice or more times you die, but all that was a lie,” Eng. Zimulinda said.

He, however, appealed to responsible entities to beef up the network security, saying as the technology evolves wrongdoers also develop their tricks to earn a living.

Evariste Mugenzi, from Gitega Sector, Nyarugenge District, said he had heard that some people had died after receiving ‘ghost’ phone call though he couldn’t independently verify it.

Radio presenters called


David Kezio-Musoke, the head of public relations at MTN Rwanda, said they are yet to record any complaints from their subscribers.

“MTN Rwanda, as a credible service provider, doesn’t really engage in censoring, monitoring or controlling subscribers’ messages unless, of course, there is something of grave concern, in which case those receiving such messages have to notify security,” he said.

However, radio presenters have received calls from listeners asking clarifications on the scam messages they had received.

Radio One’s Celestin Ntawuyirushamaboko said some listeners alleged that some people had died after receiving the alarming call, but others called in refuting the information.

Ntawuyirushamaboko said last week, a listener called in claiming that a person in Ruli in Gakenke District had died after receiving the said phone call.

But when the radio’s correspondent in the area went for the funeral, relatives said the deceased did not have a mobile phone for weeks and that he had been sick.

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