Claim: A viral post shared on WhatsApp, purporting to come from the Sierra Leone Commercial Bank (SLCB), is promising a government economic subsidy.
Verdict: False! The researcher did not receive any cash reward after going through the process promised. Also, the bank officials have denied any such financial programme and have described it as fraudulent.
A viral message on WhatsApp is promising financial support to citizens through the Sierra Leone Commercial Bank (SLCB) in collaboration with the Government of Sierra Leone (GoSL).
The financial support, according to the message’s link, is to help cushion citizens from the harsh economic conditions of Sierra Leoneans.
The purported message promised patrons 17-plus million Sierra Leonean Leones (17,408, 800), as a way of alleviating poverty.
The statement reads in part: “Sierra Leone Commercial Bank government economic subsidy… Through the questionnaire, you will have a chance to get Le 17,408,800.”
Did people believe the claim?
A student told DUBAWA, he was ready to go through the process to receive the Le 17 Million promised.
“The amount the message claims to grant anyone who religiously follows the process made me fall for what turned out to be a scam,” a WhatsApp user told DUBAWA.
He added that he’s just a poor student who struggles to pay his fees.
Another WhatsApp user stated that he knew the content of the post was fake because of the promise.
DUBAWA, therefore, decided to investigate the claim due to its virality and because of the bank’s credibility.
DUBAWA’s researcher followed through the process stipulated in the link. Upon clicking the link, the researcher was given further instruction to answer some personal questions.
After answering the questions, the last order is for the researcher to share the said link with 5 WhatsApp groups or 15 WhatsApp personal contacts, before the money can be claimed.
However, after following the instruction, there was an acknowledgement with “congratulations” but no cash prize was given.
DUBAWA also noticed a page featuring commentators praising the Bank’s Management for the policy. See the screenshot below:
Are the commentators real or connected to the bank?
DUBAWA noticed that the names carried by these commentators are not common to Sierra Leoneans. For instance, names like “Neha Kale,” and “Anju Gupta” did not resonate with typical Sierra Leonean names, thus suggesting a red flag.
DUBAWA, however, proceeded to contact staff of the Sierra Leone Commercial Bank (SLCB) to ascertain if the Le 17M Giveaway story was true.
The SLCB’s Corporate Affairs Manager – Shuaib Sahid Kamara, working at the Bank’s Headquarters in Freetown, clarified that there was never any such offer.
“How can the bank offer such a whopping sum of money, it is false,” SLCB’s Corporate Affairs Manager – Shuaib Sahid Kamara noted.
Mr Kamara called on the public to ignore the said viral message alleged to have come from the Bank. He also warned the public to be very careful with the proliferation of the numerous internet links that are shared on social media handles. He noted that there was no way the Bank could engage in such a project without engaging some strategic media houses.
The Bank has since issued an official press statement dissociating itself from what it described as a “scam” or “fraudulent.”
Investigations by DUBAWA, including interviews with a few WhatsApp users and SLCB’s officials, show that the message asserting the country’s primary commercial bank is offering money to Sierra Leonean is untrue.