Nowadays, most people, except those Olamide will call “learners”, won’t fall for cheap tricks like the Black Money Scam(In which ordinary black paper is said to become money if washed with certain chemicals) or the Spanish Prisoner Scam(In which an unknown person promises to share stolen money with the you if you put it in your bank account).
But as people have gotten smarter, so have fraudsters (419-ners). The following 5 scams are a little more difficult to recognize for what they really are. Note that while variants of this scams may exist abroad, this list talks about them with respect to Nigerians.
1. Fake Facebook Account.
The former version of this trick involved someone masquerading under a false name and picture, adding people up, and then attempting to con them. In a new variant which has become extremely popular of late, a fraudster creates an account with your name, (Facebook obviously allows multiple users to have the same name) uploads your pictures, adds up your friends and then attempts to get money or recharge cards from them.
If you have been seeing duplicate friend requests from people who are already your friends, on Facebook, or your friends have been telling you they are receiving friend requests from you again, you have most probably witnessed this scam.
To avoid falling victim, tell your friends to ignore additional friend requests from you and do not add people who are already your friends on Facebook.
2.Text Message asking for Recharge Cards.
This trick exploits our weakness for our loved ones. You receive a text message, supposedly from someone close to you, like a sibling, child, Pastor or friend, telling you that they are stranded somewhere, or need cash for a very urgent reason and that you should send recharge cards of a certain amount so that they can sell and convert to cash.
The text will of course be sent from an unfamiliar phone number under the pretext that loved one of yours doesn’t have credit or his/her phone is dead.
In the spur of the moment, calling the person’s real phone number doesn’t usually occur to most people, and they send the recharge cards, only to realize later when they see the person that they had been scammed.
Unfortunately, this scam could indeed be difficult to detect if the phone number of that loved one of yours isn’t going through at that moment, no thanks to the erratic network in Naija.
3. Unknown Caller from Abroad.
This trick is so funny, it is strange that it even works at all, yet I know a lot of people who have fallen for it, and both my parents have received these type of calls. The conversation usually goes like this;
Fraudster: (In very friendly voice) Hello my very good friend, how are you? How have you been?
You: Errr, I’m fine, sorry who is this?
Fraudster: What?! You don’t know me? This is disappointing! You have forgotten your friend from London? Ok, guess who this is!
Everyone knows someone in the UK right? That is what the scammer is banking on. And this is the make or break moment. Naturally, you will rack your brain for that friend of yours who could possibly be calling, and mention a name.
Whatever name you mention is what the scammer will go with, let’s say James.
You: Errrm, James?
Fraudster: Yes! I knew you would remember me!
Naturally, the scammer will attempt to evade any question that might prove he doesn’t know you and will pitch his scam immediately. He could tell you he wants to send something to you or someone else through you, but needs you to pay some “processing” or “clearance” fees. Do not fall for it.
4. Fake Websites.
This is one of the most difficult scams to discover immediately, mostly because most people who are not very familiar with the internet and its workings don’t realize anybody can put together a website with one or two software tools and host it at less than 20,000 Naira.
Have you ever received a message informing you that you have won a promo by a telecommunications company and that you have to enter your bank details in a website online so that you can redeem your price? Well, if you do it, someone may end up getting a lot of money, but it certainly won’t be you.
Another variation which I saw recently and which a couple of friends fell for is a fake website impersonating a government institution, say FRSC or NSDSC. This websites usually look so convincing, sometimes it looks exactly like the real thing, except for the domain name.
You will see an information about them recruiting staff but the catch is that you have to apply with money, which will usually be by an online transaction. One way to identify websites like this is that they won’t ask for any qualifications or your CV, they just tell you to send money!
The best way to avoid scams like this is to try and call customer care lines or hot lines for the companies or institutions they claim to represent, and of course not the one you find on the “website”. Better still, visit offices or secretariats to ascertain genuine information.
5. Ponzi Schemes.
Last on this list, but absolutely not the least. In fact, probably the biggest form of scam in Nigeria today. It also goes by several nicknames including Multi-Level Marketing and Network Marketing. I have fallen for it before too, but thankfully, I’m wiser now.
Let me start by saying that not all Network Marketing business which utilize Pyramid schemes are fraudulent. Forever Living Products, GNLD and a few other companies in Nigeria have utilized Multi-level marketing in what seems to be a legal way. They have products that they sell, (drugs, drinks etc.) and they will usually not advertize on TV or billboards but use word-of-mouth advertising to get people to buy their products and in doing so, people earn money for inviting people to also join the business.
Ponzi Schemes on the other hand have no real product to market, or even if they have a product it will be intangible, like selling the form to join the business to other people. Some may claim to have products, but they really do not.
The difference is short is this, a real Multi-Level Marketing company has a product, a Ponzi Scheme doesn’t have one. A real multi-level marketing company can survive without the continuous influx of people joining the pyramid, but a Ponzi Scheme cannot.
A Ponzi Scheme requires that the members keep on bringing people in, to make the scam keep running.
This is because what a Ponzi Scheme really does is to take money from some people (people who just joined) and give part of it to other people (existing members), after keeping a slice of the money.
As a result of this, a few innocent people who are actually not part of the scam may make a lot of money, but after a while when recruiting dwindles, the fraudsters melt into the background and the business is no longer heard of.
Take time to ascertain if that Network business is genuine or just a scam before investing your hard earned money.