SCAMMERS have taken advantage of the internet and social media to defraud people of their hard-earned money using various tricks.
This article highlights various scamming methods you should be aware of to avoid being scammed by fraudsters.
1 – One of the ways fraudsters carry out their scams is through what can be categorised as an employment scam. They clone a website – usually that of a government agency – and ask people to fill in their details, including sensitive ones like bank information that can be used to compromise the account.
A fee would be requested before the completed form can be submitted. A payment portal will be provided whereby the applicant puts his or her bank card.
Two things happen here: the scam is either targeted at taking the fee or getting your details, which they will use to carry out transactions on your account without your approval.
This was what happened to Mercy Olayinka, who unknowingly enrolled for enlistment into the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) through a cloned website in November 2021.
She was to pay N1,500 as a submission fee; using her husband’s Automated Teller Machine (ATM) card. She put the bank details on the portal and N4,000 was deducted. Still, the application did not go through. She made another attempt using her debit card, but another debit of N5,000 had taken place without her approval. Still, the application didn’t go through.
“I didn’t know the job offer was fake because it looked real, but I was desperate and wanted to get a job badly, so I had to believe,” she told The ICIR in an earlier report.
According to the Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System Plc (NIBSS) fraud analysis, web channels account for 51 per cent of fraud attempts in 2019 and 47 per cent in 2020.
The FactCheckHub, a fact-checking arm of The ICIR, in a report, highlighted some ways of recognising phishing websites to avoid becoming a victim.
2 – Another method is what can be termed card skimming fraud. This doesn’t necessarily fall under the online category, but it is worth knowing.
In this type of scam, the scammer fits a skimming device on a real card reader in a Point of Sale (POS) machine or Automated Teller Machine (ATM) to steal the sensitive personal information of the card.
This happens mostly when people make use of bugged ATM or POS counters to perform transactions.
Alternatively, they may also install a pinhole camera at an unnoticeable location of the ATM or POS channel to record how the user is entering his/her PIN. The objective is to obtain the numbers written on the ATM card and the secret code. Once it’s obtained, they can run transactions on your account.
Card skimming fraud may not be easy to detect, but the easiest way to prevent it is to ensure that you use trusted channels to perform transactions.
3 – Investment scam is another way fraudsters use to defraud people.
The investment scams can come in the form of a Ponzi scheme like the ‘MMM’, where you are expected to pay a certain amount and get a high return in a few days. For instance, they may say when you invest N5,000, you will get N10,000 within 24hrs or N10,000 and get N20,000 in return.
It can be sold as a business – oftentimes Agric business where you are expected to get a high return on investment over a certain period.
It’s been argued that some of such businesses didn’t set out to defraud people but instead had a very poor business plan and model, hence the failure to meet up with the payment.
When approached to invest in such a business, ask critical questions and do background checks. Do not be dazzled by phrases like ‘registered with CAC,’ ‘insured with XYZ,’ or having a functional website, it doesn’t guarantee its genuineness.
4 – Hijacking social media accounts to promote Ponzi scams is another common means fraudsters explore in defrauding people online. They hack into the account of someone familiar to you and use it to message you on social media, especially on Facebook.
They would tell you that they had invested in a particular business and have got multiple returns on their investments, advising you to invest in the industry. Some people fall for this because they think the message they receive is from the actual owner of the social media account – a person whom they trust.
Another dimension of this is the fraudsters pretend to be the person whose account they have hijacked and ask you for money or call recharge card.
The easiest way to check this is by calling the account owner. By doing so, you will find out that their accounts have been hijacked.
5 – Some social media users have also reported the case of blackmail and extortion. Scammers would barge into your social media account or call your number and tell you that they have kidnapped someone close to you.
They will tell you some details of the person to show that they actually have their information, and you will be asked to pay a certain ransom. It may also be a direct threat where they will tell you they know you and they can harm you, and if you want to be safe, you should pay a certain amount.
6 – Another method is for the fraudster to create social media accounts using the profile and image of a highly respected public figure like celebrities, politicians and business tycoons to defraud innocent people.
They use the account to message you on social media, and you will be told that they are considering you for a specific opportunity or wishes to do business with you. Then, you will be asked to pay a certain amount to claim the opportunity.
Twenty-three-year-old Abdulgafar Ola from Kwara State told The ICIR that he had once been chatted by a fake social media account of Funke Akindele, a popular Nollywood actress, that he was one of the 25 Facebook users selected for her birthday giveaway, which comprised brand new laptop, Infinix Note 10. The catch, he had to send the delivery fee of N10,000 to get the prize.
7 – A variation of the above is where spam messages flood a news report or social media comment section. The messages often claim to be a Dangote Cement dealer offering mouth-watering discounts or from the Nigeria Customs Service auctioning off seized cars at giveaway prices. They scam people by asking them to pay for a form or advance fee.
This was quite rampant at a point it became a subject of multiple media reports, and the service sent out counter and sensitisation messages about it.
“We’ve continued to enlighten the public on the menace of online fraudsters, and as we have always said, the Nigeria Customs Service does not auction overdue cargos through Facebook,” said a custom official.
Sometimes, a profile is created with the picture of a Customs officer, and a target is contacted via direct messaging.
8 – There is also the phone call from someone posing to be a bank staff member. They tell you there is an issue with your account, and you will need to provide the numbers on your ATM cards or your Bank Verification Number (BVN) and password. Giving them such information gives the scammer access to your account.
Banks over time have repeatedly warned against providing such information over the phone while noting that a bank official would never ask for your PIN or password.
9 – Another method that combines the elements of numbers 7 and 8 is you get a call that you have won a prize or selected to be the recipient of a grant.
The caller tells you to give him or her the code sent to you via email or SMS so that your prize can be validated.
The grift here is the scammer wants to either hijack your social media account or your bank account.
The scammer would have activated a password reset for your bank or social media account, and a One Time Password (OTP) or code would be sent to you. Giving the scammer the code compromises your account.
10 – Also, there is the scamming done via a congratulatory message that you have won a particular lottery, a grant from the government or an organisation. You will be asked to send a certain amount so as to be able to claim your reward. Thereafter, they will either cook up another thing that requires you to send additional money to them, or you will not hear from them again.
A variation of this is that phishing is done through direct calls. You will be called to provide your bank details numbers on your ATM cards.
Ezeogu Uchechukwu encountered that in April 2020. He got a call from a number claiming to be his bank’s ‘customer care.’ A search of the number on Tru Caller—a smartphone application for identifying phone numbers—showed ‘Eunice Floxy’ even though the caller’s voice was male.
The caller told Ezeogu he was one of the beneficiaries of government palliatives of N45,000, but he would need to provide his bank card details. The caller wanted all the numbers on his ATM card alongside other bank information.
This was at the peak of the lockdown in Nigeria necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic. This scam was riding on the coattails of similar government intervention meant to alleviate hardship.
11 – A method of deception you should be wary of and can even make you run afoul of the law is when you receive money from a random account. An acquaintance – usually someone you have done one form of banking transaction with -will call to say he mistakenly sent your account number to a client of his who paid X amount of money to you.
He will then provide an account different from that of the sender for you to transfer the money. You might even be asked to keep a percentage of the money for the inconvenience.
What often happens here is that through phishing, or other means, a scammer fraudulently gets money from someone and uses your account as the receiver, and from there, he asks you to move it to another account.
When you are faced with such, always insist to send the money back to the account that sent it to you. If they refuse, it’s a red flag that something is fishy. Inform the relevant security agency and your bank.
Bonus point – The catfishing. Scammers create fake social media accounts with fake online profiles and attractive photos. They build relationships and eventually ask to borrow a considerable amount of money from you and vanish.
The Economic and Financial Crime Commission(EFCC) has arrested several Nigerians for romance scams. For instance, the commission secured the conviction of Yusuf Adekunle Amuda, who scammed a Chinese woman of the sum of N2 Million (Two Million Naira) over a phoney romantic relationship. Yusuf had disguised as a Sino-American Military Officer on a peace-keeping mission in Syria. The scammer was sentenced to six months imprisonment.
A study by Techshielder rated Nigeria as the second most notorious country with romance scams. Many people from foreign countries have narrated how they were swindled by their Nigerian ‘lovers.’
12 – Similar to employment scams is that of shopping. Fraudsters create fake shopping websites or sometimes clone an existing one. You shop, make payments, and you will never get the goods. They can even have access to your card details. Aside from shopping, this can also be done on betting websites.
Did we miss anyone? Let us know in the comment section.
Nurudeen Akewushola is an investigative reporter and fact-checker with The ICIR. He believes in-depth investigative reporting is the key to social justice and good governance. You can shoot him an email via firstname.lastname@example.org and @NurudeenAkewus1 on Twitter.