How fake credit alerts from fraudulent customers plunge PoS operators, others into bad debts

How fake credit alerts from fraudulent customers plunge PoS operators, others into bad debts as ‘fraudster’ shares modus operandi

Punch

TOPE OMOGBOLAGUN writes about how criminally-minded customers use fake credit alerts to pay for goods, thereby making sellers incur losses

A Point of Sale attendant, Tomiwa Arobatele, has yet to come to terms with the fate that befell her after falling victim to criminally-minded customers.  The lady said she recently lost N140,000 to some  customers who came to make a withdrawal and credited her boss’ account using a fake alert. The slim-light-skinned young lady said she was currently using her salary to pay back the debt she incurred after the incident.

According to her, her hope of earning N40,000 monthly has been dashed by the incident after searching for a job for about four months to raise money to further her education.

She said, “After my secondary school, I have been trying to get into a higher institution but my parents are unable to afford to finance me. The last admission I secured, my parents were unable to raise enough money before the closing day and that was how I lost the admission.

“I engaged in many menial jobs including working as a factory worker. I also worked in poultry but it was too stressful for me. When I got a job as a PoS attendant, I was excited that the pay would help me to attain my academic goals.

She continued, “My boss warned me not to give anyone money before receiving a credit alert. What she didn’t tell me however was that I could get a credit alert and still not get money in the account. Fake bank alerts are real.

“I was in the shop when three friends walked in and told me they wanted cash. When I heard the amount they needed, I was excited because of the charges on it for my boss. I brought out the PoS. I gave them the account to credit and they made a transfer. I waited a bit and they got debited while our account was credited. I gave them the amount they credited; they paid the charges on it and left.”

Arobatele said reality dawned on her a few hours later when the money didn’t reflect in the account when she checked the balance.

She said, “It was when I screamed that the people in the neighbourhood came and told me that I probably had fallen victim to a fake alert.  They sympathised with me and that was where it ended. When I told my boss, she felt sorry but told me that I would have to refund her.  She has been deducting N15, 000 from my money monthly.’’

The lady added that it was also painful that she couldn’t recognise them, noting that she always placed curses on them every day for the situation they put her in.

Harvest of losses

A fake bank alert also known as alert flashing involves using a short message service that mimics a bank’s transaction alert to fleece an unwary victim.

It was a similar incident for another PoS operator, Mrs Bose Agatha, as some customers, who used a fake credit alert, swindled her mum and sister.

She said, “I was sad to discover the loss I suffered.’’ She said she was in church between 9 and 10 am that day when the incident happened.

Agatha stated, “They came to the shop disguised as workers working in a site behind our house unknown to them that they were thieves. They perfected their plan to the extent that they even wore clothes of people working in a construction site to deceive them that they were working on the site. They requested withdrawal of N30, 000 and did a transfer. My sister called me to inform me that a transfer of N30, 000 had been made to my account but I told her I had yet to receive the transfer. I also checked my mobile app and found out that it was the same.  I told her not to give them the money yet but I overheard them mounting pressure on my mum and sister.’’

Agatha added that her sister and mum could no longer bear the pressure as the swindlers told them that the bank had debited them.

“The pressure became much after they showed them a fake debit alert which conformed with every necessary detail. They gave in to the pressure and gave them the money,’’ she said.

She further said that she thought she would receive the money on getting home, adding that when she didn’t get the money, she concluded immediately that she had been duped by the purported customers.

She stated, “When I got home, I already observed the way the issue was and I had yet received the money in my account. I waited till the end of the day and it was still the same thing.  They fleeced us and even dropped an android phone as collateral. The phone was also a useless piece of item.’’

Agatha said though she struggled to move on, she noted that her business had yet to recover from the blow and she was still trying to pay back the debt she owed.

She said, “The money I transacted with was a loan from the firm that owns the PoS. I am paying the loan and now I have to refund N30, 000 to make. It’s taking extra effort to run the business because of some people’s wickedness.’’

Fake credit alerts, one of the growing ways fraudsters now use to dupe business owners, have become a menace in many parts of the country. For established and budding entrepreneurs, the phenomenon is proving to be a threat posing a danger to their investments. Many PoS operators have become victims of the act in recent times.

Mr Sayo Jimoh is another PoS operator who suffered at the hands of those using fake credit alerts to defraud people.  He told our correspondent that he had been swindled by them many times.

He noted that the events had taught him not to release money for anyone making withdrawals until he confirmed transfers in his account no matter how impatient the customer was.

He said, “In the last incident I lost N10, 000. The customer told me he was in a hurry.  He showed me the debit on his account and I gave him the money since I had been credited. He left hurriedly.’’

Jimoh noted that while he thought all was well, he later realised that he had been duped. He noted that it was the last incident that made him cautious. The father of two told our correspondent that throughout that day the money didn’t reflect in his account.

“I found out later that something was wrong with the credit alert I received. Since then, I decided to always confirm payment in my account before parting with money,’’ he said.

Another PoS operator, Mrs Mariam Sanusi, has also been swindled through fake credit alerts.

She explained that she suffered scams on a number of occasions via fake credit alerts despite not making much profit from the business.

The mother of two said in one of the incidents it was her child who fell victim to their antics while at the shop to help her.

She narrated, “The first one happened about two months ago. I wasn’t around and my son was in the shop. A customer came and he attended to him. The customer was given N20, 400 and transferred the money to our account as they claimed. I had warned them never to give anyone money without receiving a credit alert. He gave the man the money after he received the alert. My name and every other detail showed on the alert, so he gave him the money. It was when I got home that I found out that the money didn’t reflect in my account and the so-called alert was faked.’’

Sanusi noted that she was pained particularly because she didn’t even make as much profit as N20, 000 in a day.

She stated, “I warned both my children and my sales attendant to check with me to ensure that I have received any money in my account before giving any customer who wants to withdraw money.

Sanusi said she thought she had seen it all until last Friday when a customer who drove a fancy car came to her shop to withdraw some money.

She narrated that she attended to the customer herself, adding that he withdrew N97, 000. She added, “I received a credit alert and the money immediately reflected in my account.’’

Sanusi noted that after waiting for some time without receiving the money she went to her bank to seek explanation and was told that there was an embargo on the transaction because it was dubiously done.

“I was confused and shocked at the same time. I asked myself how I would know if a customer was dubious or genuine. Was I supposed to ask for an Identification card in that regard? The bank is still holding onto my money and denied me access to make use of it. I obviously cannot let go of N97, 000 like that. How much profit do I make in a year,” she asked rhetorically.

Other merchants not left out

Some arrests have been made in the past that do not seem to curb the acts which fester like a bad sore.

Azeez Bakare, like others, was also duped using a fake credit alert on August 2, 2018. Since he encountered a fraudster while selling mobile phones, life has taught him a hard lesson. The Osun State indigene, who plied his trade at the popular Computer Village, said the incident marked the beginning of a new meaning of life for him.

He told Sunday PUNCH, “Right now, I don’t know if I want to continue the business or not. The experience really left me unhappy and afraid of people. I find it hard now to trust anyone when I’m transacting a business because I fear that they could do worse things than I had experienced.’’

On the day of the incident, Bakare said the customer who later turned out to be a fraudster ordered four sophisticated iPhones after seeing his advertisement on Instagram; a popular social media platform.

Bakare rushed excitedly to deliver the items at Abule Oja, a community in Akoka, Lagos, at about 6pm – less than an hour after receiving the order. It was not the first time he was responding to such calls, so he had no reason to worry. But about 30 minutes after arriving at the place and the business deal supposedly sealed, Bakare realised that he had been lured into a trap – one that has not only affected his relationship with suppliers but also others as well.

He said, “Ordinarily, I don’t go to deliver orders myself or attend to such at that time of the day but because of the way the guy spoke to me, I had to take the pains to go from Ikeja to Akoka despite the heavy traffic on that axis.

“I went because I thought he was a genuine customer; I never knew that it was someone that had plotted evil for me.

“The guy bought three iPhone 8 Plus and one iPhone X. Each used iPhone 8 Plus costs N235, 000 while the brand new iPhone X was sold at N325, 000.

“When I met him, he took me to the front of an apartment he claimed was his, but I didn’t know that he gave me a fake name and home address as well. After delivering the phones to him and he inspected them, he requested my bank account details so that he could transfer the money into it. Right in front of me, he paid the money into my account and the app even showed my name and bank details as if it was real. He also received a debit alert on his phone.

“Meanwhile, a day before that, I had problems with my SMS notification. Someone transferred money to me in the afternoon but I got the alert at night. So, I thought it was the same situation after waiting for like 20 minutes and not receiving it on my phone.

“Later, one of his friends came and began shouting at him to put on the generator. He pleaded with me to wait for him to quickly do that but unknown to me; the two of them had escaped through the back of the building. After waiting for more than 30 minutes, I called his number to find out what happened. As soon as he heard my voice, he ended the call. When I used another person’s phone to call him, he answered but ended the call when he realised that I was the one. Soon, he switched off his phone.’’

Bakare said he was confused and arrived at his bank early the next day to confirm his fears. But unfortunately, he had just started to experience his worst nightmare.

He said, “The next day, I went to my bank to confirm if the money had entered my account but I was told that there was no such transaction on my account. I felt like disappearing when they told me that.

“I went back to that same house in Akoka to see if I could find the guy but I didn’t. However, one guy was arrested by the police at the place after I reported the matter at the Sabo Police Station. With that and the help of Truecaller app that revealed the culprit’s real name and photograph, the police were able to trace his parents’ house to Ifo in Ogun State.

“Idowu’s father was arrested and asked to produce him. He was later granted bail and showed up with his son and a lawyer at the station a few days later. After negotiations back and forth, the money was eventually paid to me in full on Monday, September 3, same year.”

But while Bakare can at least take solace in the fact that his money was recovered after one month of heartbreak and rigorous pursuit, many of the victims are usually unable to trace the perpetrators of such evil, leaving them in a prolonged state of terror and suspecting of anyone who comes to transact with them. Like they say, once bitten twice shy, no one wants to fall victim to the same incident repeatedly.

Alleged fraudster shares modus operandi

Some of these fraudsters at different times have been caught, arrested and prosecuted in different states such as Akwa Ibom, Oyo and Lagos states.

Men of the Akwa Ibom State Police Command arrested two suspected fraudsters, Emeka Akuma and Moses Asuquo, over fake bank alerts.

The spokesperson for the police in the state, Odiko Macdon, said Akuma was arrested with a Lexus 330 car in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, on January 18, after buying the car with a fake bank alert. The second suspect, Asuquo, was reportedly apprehended on January 17, while attempting to use a fake bank alert to defraud two people of N200,000.

The police said, “The Akwa Ibom State Police Command on January 18, 2021, relying on credible information that a Lexus 330 saloon car was bought with a fake bank alert at FESTAC Town, Lagos State, trailed the said car to Uyo via Abia State.

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