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Scammers use child’s old sick photos to defraud victims online

5 mins read

Claim: Posts on social media are using the photos of a child whom they claim has kidney cancer, to solicit help from people.

These posts are circulated by scammers with the aim of defrauding unsuspecting donors.

Full Text

The story of Miss Hubert Ikoi Nkanu came to the public after information about her condition was shared on the internet in 2018. 

Born medically fit and sound, Hubert’s parents, who are based in Calabar, Cross River State, said they were worried when they noticed that her stomach was growing unusually bigger, sometime in 2017.

“We observed that her stomach started growing big and she was also losing weight,” Nkanu Okoi, her father recalled. 

“It made us very worried, so later we took her for a scan at Asi Ukpo Diagnostics to find out what was wrong.”

Diagnosis after a Computed Tomography (CT) scan revealed that Hubert, aged 2 at the time, had Nephroblastoma with metastasis to the lungs.

Also known as Wilms’ tumor, Nephroblastoma is a rare kidney cancer that primarily affects children aged 2 to 5. It occurs mostly in one kidney, but can sometimes be found in both kidneys at the same time.

“We did not have money for her medical care and she was going through lots of pain, so we started looking for help,” Nkanu said.

The family made videos and pictures of the ailing child and the medical report, which were circulated on news websites and social media, soliciting donations from members of the public. Donations were requested to be made to the Sterling Bank Account of Vital Signs with Account Number 0065009571.

Screenshot of one of the posts by the Hubert’s family seeking financial support for her treatment in 2018

Hubert has since recovered after surgery and other medical treatments. Her father said “she now attends school and is doing well.”

But in 2021, pictures and videos of Hubert before her treatment resurfaced on the internet, but with a different name and a different bank account details, in posts seeking financial donations for her surgery and medical treatments.

Screenshot of similar posts shared by another user using the photo of the girl with a different name

The posts have been widely shared between May and August by many social media users, bloggers and influencers, including ex-Big Brother Nigeria housemate, Ike Onyema.

Screenshot of the post with a different name and details shared by ex-BBN housemate, Ike Onyema

Findings

Dubawa found that the recently circulated posts seeking help with the girl’s photos are scams.

In an interview with Dubawa, Nkanu Okoi, father of the girl in all the photos, revealed that his daughter’s real name is Hubert Okoi Nkanu. This implies that all the posts using the girl’s photos and/or videos with different names, such as “Beatrice or Beatrice Alimi”, are fake. 

Screenshot of another post requesting financial donations

Mr. Nkanu also said that the posts did not emanate from him or his family, adding that the bank account details attached to the posts (Wema Bank, Fidelis Alimi Agbahi, 7810604013), are scams, which suggest a ploy to defraud unsuspecting members of the public.

He confirmed that his daughter was diagnosed with Nephroblastoma in 2018, after they took her for a scan, due to an unusual swelling of her stomach.

“We spent all our money, borrowed money, and even had to sell my shares in Zenith bank to get money, but it was not enough,” he said.

He said they found hope when they met the CEO of Vital Signs and Ayade Care Home Health Services, Calabar, Dr. Genevive Barnaby, who advised and assisted them to reach out to the public, to help raise the money needed for their daughter’s treatment. They made videos and uploaded pictures of the girl and the medical report, which were shared on social media to solicit for donations.

She was referred to the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital, where doctors prescribed surgery and 21 weeks of chemotherapy, which was pegged at Nine Hundred Thousand Naira (N900,000).

Although a total sum of N800,000 was donated, Mr. Nkanu said Dr. Barnaby only remitted N75,000 to the family. 

He said his daughter’s case got the attention of the doctors at the UCTH Doctors’ Welfare unit, who facilitated her treatment, surgery and chemotherapy, free of charge.

He confirmed that Hubert recovered after the surgery and had since started school.

“We spent 6 months at UCTH for the surgery and treatment, after which my daughter recovered. This happened  3 years ago. She has been attending school. I was surprised when I saw those old photos and videos online again with posts asking for money,” he said. “My daughter’s name is Hubert Okoi Nkanu and not Beatrice Alimi. It is a scam.”

Hale and Hearty: A recent photo of Hubert Okoi Nkanu

Edu Ele, a social worker who is close to the Nkanu family, said the scam had received wide attention due to the large followership of celebrities and influencers who had shared the posts.

“With their posts on those celebrities’ pages, it’s spreading like wildfire,” she said. She has engaged a campaign on twitter and instagram to draw attention of the public to the scam, and has tried to get celebrities and influencers to take down the posts.

Dubawa found many burner accounts, including one in the fake name “Beatrice Alimi”, which are involved in perpetuating the scam. While some made the posts, others were in comment sections, cajoling people to make donations.

Screenshot of comments section showing one of the fake accounts cajoling users for donations

One of the posters even claimed to be the little girl Beatrice Alimi’s uncle and the person who has been taking care of her since she was diagnosed with the illness – a claim that Dubawa has confirmed to be false.

Conclusion

Dubawa has found that the real name of the girl in the photos circulated on social media is Hubert Okoi Nkanu. Every post carrying the same photo but identifying her with a different name is fake.

It was also discovered that the girl in the photos, Hubert, was diagnosed with nephroblastoma 3 years ago, but has since recovered and is now in good health. Those circulating her photos and seeking donations for her medical treatment recently, are fraudsters.

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