The number of Nigerians losing money to fraudsters impersonating bank officials has continued to rise despite the wide publicity given to this form of scam. Known as voice phishing, the scam involves a caller pretending to be a customer care personnel of a bank and tricking victims into disclosing their account information with the aim of perpetrating fraud. Usually, the caller sounds professional and even provides correct information about the target.
Adewale Adekola almost fell victim to this scam recently. His story: “I got a phone call from 08148292037 and the caller introduced himself as Mr. Franklin from First Bank of Nigeria (FBN), Abuja. He said one Mr. David attempted to transfer money from my account to another bank but he stopped the transaction. He wanted to confirm if I authorized the transaction and he gave my correct names, BVN number, date of birth, and the five-digit numbers I used for my FBN mobile bank app.
“I told him to block the transaction as I did not authorize it. He then asked me to give him my ATM number and PIN for verification purposes but I declined. He tried other means to trick me into disclosing the information he requested but I stood my ground and cut off the telephone line. When I contacted my bank to find out what was going on with my account, I was informed it was an attempted fraud and I was commended for not giving him my ATM information.”
Unlike Adekola, many Nigerians fall victims to similar telephone-based scams on a daily basis. Vivian Asuquo is one of them. She got a call recently on her mobile phone from a number that appeared to be similar to the one used by her bank in their emails. When she picked the call, she was told that fraud had been detected on her account. The caller read out her address, date of birth, account number, and the last four digits of her ATM correctly.
By this time, Asuquo had gone into panic mode as she had made a huge deposit into the account a few days before. On request by the caller, Asuquo provided the remaining digits of her ATM, PIN, and the three-digit card verification value (CVV) on the flip side of the card. She also verified her mother’s maiden name. Having done that she was assured her account would be kept safe. Shortly after this call, she realized she had been scammed as she began to receive debit alerts on her mobile phone. Before she could do anything about it, she had lost her ₦350,000 deposit to the scammers. After the fraudulent transfer from her account, she was left with less than ₦2,000.
Unknown to Asuquo and many others, fraudsters can use a variety of open-source and free tools to fake or “spoof” the number displayed as the caller ID, lending legitimacy to the phone scamming scheme. They often sound very professional and the targets are sometimes greeted with the bank’s jingle before starting the caller’s voice. Apart from banks, many other companies, organizations, and government agencies are being impersonated by fraudsters to steal people’s money. Millions of naira are being lost to these fraudsters every year and everyone is a potential victim.
How to Protect Your Finances from Fake Bankers
- Never give out personal and financial information in response to an unsolicited phone call. Do not confirm or deny your identity unless you are sure who the caller is.
- Never disclose any of your ATM data to someone via a telephone or email. Your bank will never call you to request such data. A caller asking for this sort of information should immediately alert you to the possibility of a scam.
- Do not allow any other person access to your ATM cards or bank documents.
- When a ‘bank official’ calls you and requests personal and financial information to enable them to complete the upgrading of your bank account or ATM, just hang the phone. If you need to confirm, call the number at the back of your ATM.
- Always remember that information like passwords, PIN, etc., are strictly confidential and are not known even to employees/service personnel of the bank. You should, therefore, never divulge such information.
- Phone phishing usually invokes an element of urgency to get people to act fast without pausing to think it through. Therefore, resist pressure to make an immediate decision.
- If you have any doubt about the genuineness of a call, hang up and call the number on the back of your ATM card or the customer support number on the website of your bank.
- Do not fall for fake winnings. When a caller says your account has won some prize item or money in a bank promo, be cautious because that could be bait to scam you. In cases like these, you’ll be asked to pay registration, processing, or shipping fees in order to get the prize.
- Do not be deceived by a caller ID that appears on your phone. Fraudsters can clone the telephone number of the bank they want to impersonate and then make it appear on the victim’s caller ID display when they call in. This is known as number spoofing. They do this to gain your trust so you can believe you are talking with your bank. Never assume that people are who they say they are just because their phone number matches that of your bank or the organization they claim to represent.
- Caution should always be your keyword when dealing with a caller regarding your finances to avoid being a victim of a dangerous scam.
Consumer Life says be informed, be empowered, to safeguard your finances!