A social message circulating in Sierra Leone claims a COVID-19 Emergency Relief fund is available to families.
The message is characteristic of similar messages that dominate social media asking users to share clickable contents.
The message has been shared widely on various social platforms including WhatsApp. It is accompanied by instructions to click a link and fill the survey questionnaire with age and gender components. After this, one is asked to share with 10-20 friends/contacts, after which an SMS notification confirming winning will be issued.
We carefully analysed the link http://i4an.com/en/# with the objective to associate it with the claim and realized that it did not in any way provide any explanation as to the identity of who was giving out the fund, be it an agency/institution, a humanitarian body or government.
In a telephone interview, however, a member of the Strategic Communications Unit of the government of Sierra Leone, Mr Mohammed Bah, disclaimed that the government was supporting such an initiative. Mr Bah therefore dismissed the scam as he distanced the government from what he described as a “so-called” fund.
DUBAWA also found out that there is no “ABOUT US” section on the page for viewers to learn about the fund providers or any contact that could be reached for concerns about the fund. All the otherwise blank website had was no more than the questionnaire and the logo of the COVID-19 Relief fund.
This particular “COVID-19 Relief Fund” has every characteristic of similar messages in Ghana, as well as in Nigeria that dominate the social media, asking users to share clickable contents to a number of people or groups before they get rewarded.
Based on scrupulous analysis and investigations on the claim, we come to the conclusion that no such fund existed and that the message was designed to misinform through deception and should, therefore, be disregarded.