My terrible experience in the hands of Banks and online fraudsters
By Sanya Onoyoade
I have retrieved my SIM and blocked all my bank accounts. But about N200k was fraudulently transferred from two accounts. I thank all those who showed concern following the theft of my phone on Thursday. I have been a stickler to one phone for many years because it is burdensome for me carrying more than one phone. In my days of carrying numerous phones, especially at the onset of GSM in Nigeria, I looked odd among friends when carrying more than one phone (if I activated roaming) whenever I travelled to Europe or US. So, this one phone had all the local and foreign banking mobile apps. I have just discovered the disadvantage of having one phone: quickly reaching out became impossible. And the tech-savvy fraudsters could break so many codes within minutes.
May Nigeria never happen to anyone. Some things are just strange and esoteric with everything Nigerian! Within minutes of the phone being stolen, I managed to reach a kiosk operator whose phone I used to make calls on some important numbers stored in my wallet. I called a manager of Polaris Bank, Ikoyi where I have a corporate account. She knows me because we had engaged on that account some months back. Her response was startling: That I should use the bank’s code to block the account and if I don’t have the code, I should go on internet. Go on internet with what? I used that phone for internet and my laptop was not within reach. I begged her to help reach out to the bank’s customer care, telling her I was not composed to even search anything on internet. She told me only customer care could handle it and that I should call their Yescentre. What if I was in the middle of nowhere and I just managed to call her from someone’s phone? She later sent the code through the phone I was using. When I dialed the code, the recorded voice was taking me through some voice prompts: If you want this service, press 1, if you want that service press 2. The voice even asked to press a number if I wanted to open a new account. For about three times, I dialed the code, the same rigmarole. I later called this lady back and she never picked again. A manager in Polaris Bank! By the time I accessed my mail on my laptop shortly after, debit alerts had started going off from another Polaris account. The strange thing was that I didn’t have mobile app for this second Polaris account. The fraudsters even borrowed a loan of N13,000 from the account after exhausting the account up to the minimum balance. I never knew you could use a code to borrow money.
About the same time that I called this woman, I also called my account officer in StanbicIBTC Opebi branch. I asked him to help me block the account or reach out to the customer care: His own response was even more direct: “I’m sorry sir, there is nothing I can do from here. You have to call the customer care.” He later sent a number which I called severally without success. At times, the response would be “wrong number.” He didn’t even pick my calls thereafter and he never bothered to ask if I sorted out the problem. This was the same guy who would call customers (including me) randomly to avail us of the bank’s offerings. The banks are more interested in fleecing you than fixing you!
A friend in GTB was the one who facilitated blocking of my Polaris accounts that night. It wasn’t until I visited StanbicIBTC the following day that the account was blocked.
The security architecture of the banks is obviously poor and lousy. And I strongly believe that the fraud of siphoning money from people’s account is a ring involving the banks officials, especially those in the IT department. A top bank manager asked me how they were able to transfer monies from my account if they didn’t have access to my PIN or code, I said only banks could answer the question. Because before initiating any transaction on my phone, I would go through process of verification and PIN. I did not store my PIN on my phone, I didn’t share it with anyone, so what happened? You will now understand why people get kidnapped everyday with ransoms paid without trace. If banks fleece customers through ridiculous charges and declare absurd profits in a depressed economy, the best they could do is fortify their payment security system. It is ludicrous to keep sending us nicely worded messages about keeping our account out of the fraudster’s reach when their porous processes and complicity of their staff are too damning.
Nigeria spent billions of naira updating our records: BVN, NIN et al with one aim, to keep us safe from criminals. Banks did the same thing including KYC. You were not supposed to open an account until you could be traced. The monies taken out of my accounts were transferred, with names and recipient banks. The safety guards were obviously absent because I couldn’t explain why transfers were allowed between 12 and 2 a.m. to accounts I had never dealt with. There are banks that will withhold transactions in this period of the day just as security measure. I have sent my complaints to the two banks involved and waiting for their internal investigation. But no doubt, they have a lot of explaining to do.
If you withdraw an amount beyond a threshold, an alert should trigger on some security agencies’ platform as measures to curtail money laundering. Yet, huge sums – cash in a supposedly cashless economy – would be taken out of banks to pay kidnappers and the money would never be traced. The absurdities are just too commonplace. As stated earlier, may Nigeria never happen to you.