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Growing Concerns Over Online Scammers In Nigeria

In this piece, STEPHEN UBIMAGO takes a look at the growing concerns over internet fraud in Nigeria…

By Stephen Ubimago - Independant.ng - 19-02-18a
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Ibrahim Magu, EFCC Chairman
Ibrahim Magu, EFCC Chairman

Despite the existence of legislations and institutions put in place to protect purchasers of goods (and services) via the internet, statistics indicate that over N127 billion is lost annually to Internet fraud in Nigeria.

For instance, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was set up to investigate and prosecute financial crimes, including Internet-related fraud.

Nonetheless, the number of Nigerians who are being defrauded online is on a steady rise. This is because the number of Nigerians making online transactions is growing.

e-commerce has many advantages; the most important being that the customer could make his choice of goods and services on a global bandwidth, at attractive prices, and expect to have his purchase delivered within 24 hours in some cases and in other cases in a few days.

However, online transactions have their disadvantages.

For instance, you cannot physically inspect the goods before buying them; the customer often does not have immediate knowledge of the owners of the websites and so can’t wholly trust them. Yet the customer would usually have to pay to be able to have his order delivered.

Generally, fraud tends to be under-reported and more so online fraud. There are a countless number of fraudulent websites selling implausibly cheap electronic products that are often known not to be delivered.

Consumers are however, attracted by the low prices of goods on some of the websites. Some offer significant discounts on, say, trendy electronic products, such as smart phones or cameras.

The vendor generally requests payment via a money wiring company which leaves the consumer with no recourse when the item fails to arrive.

Generally, it is very difficult for consumers to seek redress for the fraud to which they have been subjected by these bogus websites due to lack of adequate facilities for that purpose.

Kehinde Sogunro’s Case

Kehinde Sogunro, a Surulere resident, shares with DAILY INDEPENDENT his experience of Internet scam of which he was subject recently.

He said: “I invested my life savings in a scheme that ultimately turned a scam.”

According to Sogunro, he had received a private message on Facebook from a supposed ‘Facebook Freedom Lottery.’ The scheme claimed that he (Sogunro) and 50 other winners could claim various amounts up to N5 million. But this did not make any sense to him.

He said: “I did not want to believe it. In fact, I thought it was too good to be true: businesses don’t give money away out of the blue; and to win in a lottery you need to buy a ticket.”

However, moments later, his cousin (Dapo Aileru) with whom he hadn’t spoken for some time sent him a Facebook message about the winnings.

Aileru claimed he had won and noticed that his cousin (Sogunro)’s name was on the list of winners.

He claimed he had already received his winnings after going through a relatively easy process.

“This got me curious and excited even at the thought that since my cousin had won, I definitely had a chance here,” he said.

Trusting his cousin, Sogunro began the process for accepting the prize money which required him to first pay a small upfront fee of N50, 000.

Without hesitation, he did as requested; he was to receive the money via his nominated bank account for which he’d provided details.

The next day he was informed that since the prize money was sitting in a bank in America, he would have to pay an ‘international transfer fee,’ which could not be subtracted from the winnings for some complex legal reason.

Sogunro sincerely believed that since his cousin had managed to receive his win, then he must have gone through the same process and so might have paid the additional fee.

Over the three weeks that followed, Sogunro made three other payments, each time believing it would be the last.

Eventually, in desperation, he spoke to his cousin and asked how many additional fees he paid before he received his winnings.

His cousin had no idea what he was talking about and told him that he had only just regained control of his Facebook account after it had been hacked.

That was when it became clear to him that he’d been scammed.

There never was any prize money and the Facebook message was part of the scam. By this time, Sogunro had already sent N200, 000 and handed over a wealth of personal information to the scammers.

“I was beyond devastated. I reported the incident to Facebook but they disclaimed responsibility for the money loss despite the fact that messages were exchanged. According to the Facebook team they do not take liability for such schemes,” Sogunro lamented.

“Facebook however, stated a willingness to look into the organisation that scammed me,” he added.

“But I have yet to get any feedback from them.

“I however, contacted the alleged Lottery team, but got no response from them. I’m so gutted at the amount I lost, because it is not money that is easy to come by.”

Scammers don’t just target the young, gullible and inexperienced. People from all walks of life can fall victim if the timing is right and the background narrative is extremely convincing or plausible.

Bolaji Akhimien Case

Akhimien narrated that not long after his wife’s demise, he received an unexpected email about an investment opportunity.

“Earlier, I was already sinking into depression, as it is not easy losing one’s wife of 30 years. My children are all grown and live in their respective homes,” he told DAILY INDEPENDENT.

“I am familiar with the internet, given that one of my grandsons had set up the facility for me and an email account.

“The more you familiarize yourself with the internet, the easier it becomes. He wanted a situation where we could communicate via Skype.

“The emails sent to me were very professional in their approach and seemed to have excellent knowledge of investment matters.

“I was highly impressed and this was the first of its sort to be sent to me via email.

These emails, according to Akhimien, answered all his questions and his initial contacts with the offerors on the other end were followed with calls from their ‘senior advisors.’

As Akhimien’s pension funds were not doing so well, he decided to give this new “investment opportunity” a try, he said.

And he did not think it necessary discussing the investment proposition with anybody.

According to him, “I knew I would be discouraged and so I thought ‘why not, what else do I have to lose?’”

Over the next 12 months, Akhimien had made a number of transfers to the “investment professionals,” initially starting with N150, 000.

He was referred to a very professional-looking website and did set up a login account, which showed his money increasing in value as the market “appreciated.”

Confident that the system was working, he invested more money.

“My confidence began to increase and I was gradually coming out of my depression,” he said.

Overall, Akhimien had invested N750, 000 before realising that the investment scheme was a scam considering that the website went down before long. Hence, he could no longer access his account or contact the offshore group by telephone.

“I was completed disappointed in myself for being so naïve,” he lamented.

He then did some research and discovered that the company was bogus and not registered with the Australian Securities Investment Commission (ASIC). He was however, too embarrassed to tell anyone or report the matter to the police.

He was however, contacted by the police after they discovered his name on bank transfers made to known fraudsters.

Upon learning about Akhimien’s loss, some criminal-minded persons have again contacted him with offers to help him recover his money from the original investment.

But this time around, Akhimien, having learnt his lesson, decided to contact the local police which explained to him that this was a ‘secondary fraud’ and warned him to expect more calls like this, as his name was most likely passed around the cartel.

Unfortunately, it is highly unlikely that the police will be able to recover Akhimien’s loss of N750,000.


 

Tags: Nigeria, online scammers, Internet fraud, EFCC, e-commerce, Kehinde Sogunro, Bolaji Akhimien


 


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