Online Chama~ the new online scam in town?

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Deborah Kisongochi, who has run successful online chamas for three years

By Anne Chebet, Bungoma

When Nelly Khisa was introduced to an online chama by a friend, she did not know that she was getting herself into an arrangement that would lead her to lose money.

She was excited to get an opportunity where she would buy a 3-piece modern suitcase set in an easy and convenient way.

“I joined a suitcase chama where we contributed ksh. 930 each so that when your turn comes, you get a set of three suitcases. We were ten members, and the suitcases were going at ksh. 9300,” she said in a phone interview.

She recounts that at first, the merry-go-round was doing well, but when it was her turn to get the much-anticipated suitcase, the suitcases were not delivered.

Deborah Kisongochi who has run successful online Chamas for three years

“I contributed the money as required, but when my turn to get the suitcases came, nothing was delivered to me,” said Khisa

Nelly engaged the group leader for two weeks, and nothing was forthcoming, forcing her to give up on the matter. “I decided to leave the chama because it had become stressful to ask for the suitcases. I later had an agreement with the group leader that she would refund my money by July 30, but that has never happened,” Khisa told County Splash.

In another case, Emmily Nyasiri lost her money to an acquaintance who introduced her to an online merry-go-round.

“She introduced me to a WhatsApp group where we contributed ksh. 300 weeklies. Every Friday, members sent money to the group leader (my acquaintance), who would then send it to one of us.”

Nyasiri narrates that by the third week, members had already started complaining that she had not sent them their money, and when members raised the concerns, the group leader was adamant.

“When it was my turn to receive the money, she sent half the amount when we insisted that she refunds us or money, she removed all of us from the group,” she recounted.

In an interview with Deborah Kisongochi, who has run successful online chamas for three years, Miss Kisongochi admitted that while online chamas are formed for genuine reasons, it is also associated with risks, and some are using the opportunity to con others.

The journalist cum businesswoman revealed that she started online chamas when she ventured into business and considered the idea as a way of increasing sales.

“When I introduced money chamas, we created a group of trusted members who contributed money frequently, and members managed to achieve their goals such as buying property,” ~Ms Kisongochi

“The strategy allowed customers to pay for the products in installments, attracting more customers and increasing sales,” narrated Kisongochi.

According to Kisongochi, she later introduced money chamas, which became a good saving strategy for the members.

“When I introduced money chamas, we created a group of trusted members who contributed money frequently, and members managed to achieve their goals such as buying property.”

She further admitted that the strategy contributed to her personal fulfillment, as she enjoys seeing women and youth making significant economic steps by investing in the chamas.

“It has helped me to know how to save, but most importantly, it has helped other people to develop financial discipline and achieve their goals,” she said.

“We have had several police cases involving serial defaulters who fail to honor agreements. Some of them have become well-known that no group is willing to accommodate them,” revealed Kisongochi.

However, she reveals that it is not an easy journey, citing that it is time-consuming to do background checks before admitting someone to a group.

She mentioned that most of her members are people she knows or members referred to by close family and friends.

Kisongochi revealed that there are several defaulters in Bungoma who take advantage of online chamas to con people.

“We have had several police cases involving serial defaulters who fail to honor agreements. Some of them have become well-known that no group is willing to accommodate them,” revealed Kisongochi.

She cautioned members of the public against joining saving groups without understanding the motive behind the group, especially from social media platforms.

“It is risky to trust someone from social media because there are hundreds of pseudo accounts operated by individuals with malicious intentions,” she said.

Despite the challenges, Kisongochi maintains that high levels of financial discipline and good leadership are paramount.

“Most of these chamas are draining. I have lost friends, I have lost reputation at some point, I have lost focus as a leader, and we have experienced hard times, especially during the corona pandemic, but I have tried to be financially disciplined and demonstrated good leadership skills to maintain them,” she narrated.

End

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