How Fake credit alerts from Fraudulent Customers plunge PoS operators, others into Bad debts

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.

There should be a strict law agains fraudsters – Security experts

An Information Technology expert, Mr Jimi Awe, said that fake bank alerts were generated when there was an alteration in the Short Messaging System and such messages manipulated by the perpetrators.

He said, “Fake bank alerts are generated by people manipulating the SMS and telecommunications system, who are hackers that have access to people’s databases using certain tools (that I mention for  security  purposes) to generate such SMS.”

Awe explained that in most cases, those actions were usually premeditated, noting that the perpetrators would have been scouting or snooping around searching for information about their victims.

He explained, “There is an IT term known as social engineering. The actors would have been checking around for information.  They could have got certain information about the victim which will help them in their escapades on unsuspecting victims.

“In some cases, they could have even called to get one’s account number as a customer without one knowing. That would give them enough time to carry out their evil plans.”

Awe said that one of the ways business owners could beat the criminals to their game was to double-check whenever they received alerts, adding that it was also important for banks to sensitise traders who bank with them.

He noted, “It is often advised to people to check their balances to note if there is an increase. Traders are advised to check and double-check. They should have more than one means of double-checking their account balances before they receive money.

“It’s quite difficult to track them in cyberspace because they work outside the cyberspace. What we can do is to sensitise the traders to be extra vigilant. And when a person falls victim to such, they should ensure that such an incident is reported to the police, so that it can be investigated. If they don’t report, there is no way the cyber crime security agencies would be aware.

“When the case is investigated, they would find out what system they are using because it’s almost certain that they wouldn’t all be using the same system.”

The ICT expert noted that after investigating the case, the system would be blocked.

He added, “For instance, if they are getting their information banking system, they would be able to know. Also, the responsibility also falls on the banks to educate the traders on how to spot the fake bank alerts and what to do when they see such.”

Also, a security analyst, Dickson Osajie, explained that the emerging threat of  banking electronic fraud known as ‘Alert Flashing’ or likely called ‘fake bank alert’ is a terrible concern to bank customers.

He said, “This is a financial terrorism and must be seen as a threat against the society by the government. This financial trick involves the application of SMS messages to misrepresent a successful transaction alert from a perceived bank to defraud unsuspecting persons.”

Osajie explained that in this age of technology, credit alert was no longer a confirmation of payment of goods and services, adding that people must seek other means to verify payments.

He added, “The mitigation factors to this alert flashing trend is to go to the next level of prevention mechanism by first of all calling your account manager for him or her to confirm if payment was received in your account before you can release any purchased goods. Remember that it is your property until payment is confirmed

“Second, if you don’t have any account officer, call your bank manager, operations officer or the customer service department and give your true identity to verify if you are the true owner of the account and discuss your request or worries to verify a credit to your account. “

The security expert also said that banks were also faced with everyday threat, stating that their countermeasure mechanism was to protect themselves from cyber attacks everyday.

He added, “Fraudsters are consistently looking for new methods and technological devices to continue defrauding individuals and institutions of their hard-earned money. One of the best ways bank customers can eliminate the issue of fake bank alerts or alert flashing is by visiting Google play store and downloading their various bank mobile applications and registering their details.

“They can also validate evidence of any payment that’s reportedly made by suspecting a criminal client or a true client in the bank app. They can also visit the nearest ATM to check their account balance before allowing the customer to depart with the goods.”

Osajie noted that urging sellers to ‘act quick’ was another trick fraudsters use to alert traders without knowing it, advising traders not to be in a hurry to let them go with goods without payment proof.

He said, “The detrimental aspect of this fake bank alert verification in business is that it would affect the swift exchange of goods and services without cash. But the customer must be told to be patient during verification

“Business owners must not be scared about losing a client that is impatient because criminals will pretend to be in a hurry. Please don’t be intimidated by their rush, calm down, let them know it’s your business policy. It is better to lose an impatient client than to lose money or goods.

“Finally, the Central Bank of Nigeria must synergise with the Administration of Criminal Justice System and the anti-cyber crime agencies to project stringent punishment for fake bank alert criminals.”




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