I was finishing up a report when he walked into my office this evening, panic clearly written on his face. He was close to tears. His strides betrayed the distraughtness that wrung his soul. The distraughtness I’d come to recognize so well.
I knew exactly what was wrong as soon as he walked in. Knew that he was about to receive worse news. Nevertheless I asked how I could be of service to him.
Then he began – the same sob tale I’d heard thrice this week.
He had received a call from someone claiming to be an agent of the bank. He was informed that his debit card was compromised. The ‘agent’ had given him all his account information (DOB, BVN, Phone numbers) to convince him that he was actually speaking with the bank’s agent. The ‘agent’ then requested for his card details to enable him (agent) block it. He divulged quickly, thankful that a proactive bank agent was kind enough to want to block his card.
Then came the debits, withdrawals upon withdrawals summing up to over N140k. Everything in his account, taken.
The tears came freely now as he finished his tale.
“Please help me, Sir. That’s all the money I have.”
I told him the bank would be unable to recover his money. It was the work of fraudsters. I quickly took him to the officer responsible for cards in the branch and requested he block his debit card from further transactions.
There are very few moments in life that evoke the kind of sadness that come with looking into the eyes of someone who’s lost all his money. I empathized with him. It was all I could do to stop myself from breaking down.
It’s bothered me a lot, the frequency of these yahoo frauds. Some two weeks ago, friends that I am unfortunate to share this online space with mounted their defence for internet fraudsters. From “yahoo boys are helping the economy” to “they’re taking their revenge for years of colonialism and imperialism”, we were treated to bewildering responses from supposedly sane and educated individuals on social media.
Understandably, it is difficult to empathize with nondescript Europeans who’ve lost all their money. They’re too far removed from us. We look at the hospitals and nightclubs, the hotels and strip clubs, the music studios and automobile showrooms built from ill-gotten wealth; all that employment created by defrauding foreigners and we pat ourselves on the back. We say they’re of use to the economy. We say we’d choose yahoo Boys as hundred times over Nigerian Politicians. We whitewash their criminal proclivities and worship at their altars of expensive free-flowing champagnes.
But we fail to take cognizance of this: that in the last two years, more Nigerians have fallen for internet frauds than foreigners. Every week, I get complaints from at least three low to medium income earners who’ve lost monies to fraudsters. Routine awareness SMS and mails are circulated by the bank I work with, warning customers against fraudsters but they are not nearly enough. About N127 billion was reportedly lost to cyber crime last year alone.
We call people who fall for internet frauds dullards. We say they’re not “sharp” enough. But those people are our mothers and family members in the village; those people who barely get by and rely on the assured security of their monies in banks. Those are the people your friends and siblings rob. You take the N140k from that widow who has school fees to pay next term so you can fund your drink-pouring, club-shutting lifestyles.
We can continue making excuses for internet fraud like many of y’all did two weeks ago, or we can realize that internet fraud is ruining our societies and tearing people’s lives apart.
I have made a resolution that I will never support or be a party to internet fraud and will continue to battle it where I find it. For the sake of people like the customer that walked into my office today.
Written by Godswill Vesta