Students at the newly opened Yabongo Girls Boarding School South Sudan

Fully funded scholarship opportunities are hard to come by, so when South Sudanese on Facebook found a series of promises by Gai Apollo, many risked parting ways with their money. Unfortunately, the risk did not pay off.

Gai Apollo is a Facebook account operated by a scam artist who is using a fake name and photos of another person who has nothing to do with the scam. Gai Apollo, who has managed to collect thousands of South Sudanese as Facebook friends, often posts fake scholarship opportunities and events, scamming unsuspecting and eager South Sudanese, at the cost of 50 to 300 USD per application fee. The victims would send money using a transfer agent such as Western Union, after which the applicant would receive a fake admission letter. Often almost immediately, they would be blocked by the scam artist. This has happened for years, and Gai Apollo has many victims, and a few of them have come forward since I publicly discussed the issue on Facebook.

I first came across Gai Apollo on Facebook last year. I found it interesting that he was friends with many South Sudanese, especially those in Africa. It is interesting to note that the fake persona is very deliberate in who he selects to be his friend on Facebook.

Earlier this year, I encountered a post on my Facebook timeline in which a friend called Gai Apollo a scam artist. I then decided to dig deeper.

I went through his Facebook posts and carefully looked at the different photos. I realised that ‘Gai Apollo’ did not look South Sudanese. I inspected the photographs closer, and realised some of the alleged scholarship events were events of the British Conservative Party. It started to become clear that Gai Apollo was a fake name, and the photos used was of a British politician, who has nothing to do with the scam. Upon more digging, I discovered the photos were of a Conservative party councilor. He was informed and was horrified to find his photos being used in this elaborate scam. I am withholding his name in the article to respect his privacy.

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Gai Apollo is no longer on Facebook, however, the scam artist came back as ‘Marial Garang.’

So how can you ensure that you or your family and friends, do not take the bait? It’s important that you do not fall for what you see advertised, and that you assess the legitimacy of any program you come across. So, here are some tips to help with that:

  1. Never pay money for a scholarship opportunity. Legitimate scholarships do not ask you to pay any fee for processing applications. They are scholarships for a reason. If you must pay to apply to a scholarship, it is likely to be a scam.
  2. Do your research. Who is providing the scholarship? Is it a known scholarship? Does the scholarship have any recipients? Look up the scholarship online if you are in doubt, and if there is no information about past recipients, or the organisation does not look legitimate, then you have your answer.
  3. Scholarships are not easy to obtain. This is a known fact. A school or an organisation giving away money for tuition fees and stipends, usually has stringent rules about who can receive it. For example, the Chevening scholarship requires you to complete several essays demonstrating your leadership ability. The scholarship also requires you to have high grades and recommendation letters.
  4. Follow reputable websites for scholarships. There are websites that regularly advertises scholarships, such as Youth Opportunities (youthop.com), Opportunities for Africans (opportunitiesforafricans.com) and Opportunity Desk (opportunitydesk.com). Chevening and the Mastercard Foundation, also offer scholarships on an annual basis for Master Degrees (Chevening), and Masters and Bachelors degrees (Mastercard Foundation).

Follow these tips for a peace of mind, to ensure that you do not fall victim to these scam artists. Try to also remember that old age adage, ‘’if it is too good to be true, then it probably is.’’

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The author of this article chose to remain anonymous

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