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(JAMAICA OBSERVER) – A 22-year-old Montego Bay man is urging Jamaicans to be on the alert when engaging in activities on social media after he was duped and mugged when he met up with an online friend.
The man, who asked not to be identified, first wrote in a Twitter post that he had been robbed and assaulted last Saturday in the Retirement area of St James, resulting in scores of social media users commiserating with him.
“I’m trying to send a message about cybersecurity and human trafficking. While we think the Internet is a good place, it can be a very bad space as well. It can be a very dangerous space, so persons must be very careful when using the Internet and the different social media sites,” the young man stated in an interview with the Jamaica Observer earlier this week.
“It’s because of the Internet, and me being naïve, why this happened to me. So basically, I want to use this as a message to let the young people, and people on a whole, know that you can’t just meet someone online and think it is safe to physically meet them. Everyone is not who they appear to be, so I just want people to be careful,” the man added.
The lead-up to the ordeal began a month ago, he said, when he started communicating with someone on the dating app Tinder.
On Saturday, the two agreed to meet in Sam Sharpe Square.
The man said he arrived at the location shortly after 3:00 pm, then he received a telephone call from the person he was to meet, who informed him that a family member would instead be sent to meet him because something had come up.
The Observer was told that a male relative of the friend arrived in the square and escorted the 22-year-old to what later turned out to be a remote, unknown area in the city.
“In hindsight, I would say that I was stupid to agree to this, because when we were walking the place looked really lonely and deserted. I became sceptical because I was saying to myself, ‘Where are we going?’, because nobody was back that side,” he said, adding that he continued because he had noticed a house some distance away and thought it to be the location where they were headed.
Approximately five minutes into the journey, he said his escort told him that he needed to make a rest stop which aroused his suspicion.
That is when he said four men emerged from an abandoned house with what appeared to be handguns.
“Two grabbed me and mi hold on pon one a dem gun, and that get him angry. So dem drag me inna the house and start beat me and a seh, ‘B…y bwoy a today you a go dead. Gi wi all weh yuh have.’ So mi start beg dem and tell dem I don’t have anything on me but my iPhone and a little cash, but dem never satisfied,” the man recounted.
He said his attackers continued the assault then asked for his bank cards, and also told him to log in to his online banking platform from his phone to show his account balance.
Traumatised, the man said when he was unable to comply with their request because of a system glitch, the men tied him to a grille and again threatened to kill him.
“Dem a seh, ‘If yuh nuh have nothing more fi give wi, a today you a dead’. I said, ‘Lord, Jesus, wah mi a go do?’ Mi start plead with dem and tell them mi life story, seh I’m a trying youth and that mi nuh deserve this. That’s when I start tell them my bank cards [were] at home and we can go there for it… I tell them it’s not smart for them to go to the machine where a lot of cameras could pick them up,” the man said, admitting that, at that point, he believed that he had managed to win them over.
“Apparently that worked and it took me like an hour to convince them that when I get to the house am not going to run weh or raise any alarm or scream — mi naah go do nothing stupid. I beg them; I plead with them, then them agree, because dem look like dem really did desperate for the money.
“Dem start tell me what dem going do to me if mi act funny and make people know what going on, and tell me I am not the first person this happen to. They wanted me to be scared…” the man shared.
He said the men untied him and escorted him downhill, back to the main road, and into a waiting motor vehicle. They then travelled to a well-known community in the parish, where he had told them he lived.
“Dem put me in the middle and sit beside me, so me couldn’t open the door and jump out. We reach a point in traffic and a policeman pass and I couldn’t say anything, because dem have the gun on me. Wi reach [the house and] dem seh, ‘Hear what, we going to follow you halfway and wait. If you try anything, you and everybody in yuh house a go dead’,” the man, who appeared still traumatised by the incident, recalled.
He told the Observer that the house he led the criminals to was not his, but that of a relative.
Upon getting to the doorway to the premises, he said he was greeted by another relative who opened the grille.
“When she opened the grille mi run past and tell her, ‘Lock up the gate, lock up the gate, quick, quick,’ because she was still standing there. She was frightened and a ask, ‘What happen, what happen’, and mi a tell her seh, ‘Unnuh call the police’, and mi start break down and cry and tell them everything. When I was inside dem (the attackers) did still a wait, and when dem realise mi not coming out back them speed off,” he said.
He added that the police responded in approximately 10 minutes.
The Observer contacted the investigating officer assigned to the case who confirmed that a report had been made to the police and that the investigation is ongoing.