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May 24, 2022

WhatsApp Scammers Target CARICOM Leaders

WhatsApp scammers reportedly targeted CARICOM Heads of State, in an attempt to have them transfer significant sums of money to a Chinese bank account. Numerous warnings exist about the perpetuation of monetary scams on social media. But, what happens when a world leader has no reason to doubt the legitimacy of a message that is purportedly from another world leader? That is what happened to Prime Minister Keith Rowley of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago when he received information that the Secretary General of the U.N. secured a substantial amount of funds from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to be distributed to member nations for poverty alleviation programs. This information was reportedly passed on to him by Prime Minister John Briceño, the Chairman of CARICOM, during the recent Agricultural Investment Summit in Guyana. In a release from the Office of the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, PM Rowley says he thought nothing unusual of it because the Gates Foundation had made grants to the nation before. As a result, he announced the grant during a weekend press conference. But, PM Rowley became suspicious when on Monday he contacted the U.N. Secretary General and was only able to do so via WhatsApp text messages. The release from PM Rowley’s Office says suspicions grew even further when the person on the other end of the line attempted to persuade him to use a foreign bank account to deposit a significant amount of money as a processing fee to receive the grant. As a result, PM Rowley reportedly reached out to Prime Minister John Briceño. It was then he reportedly found out that PM Briceño had also been receiving a similar thread of messages from the U.N. Secretary General’s phone number. PM Rowley has since informed his citizens that the grant does not exist. We reached out to PM Briceño for comments. He informed us via text that he was first contacted by Prime Minister Mia Mottley who informed him that the U.N. Secretary would reach out to him. He says he was subsequently contacted by WhatsApp upon which he named three countries, including Saint Lucia and the Bahamas.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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