A heightened wave of electronic fraud known as ‘alert flashing’, otherwise, ‘fake bank alert’ has become a major source of concern to bank customers. It involves the use of SMS messages disguised as a transaction alert from a bank, to defraud unsuspecting victims.
The Commissioner of Police, Alagbon, Ikoyi, Lagos, Mr. Damian Okoro, has warned the public about this menace in a message where he also narrated how a bank customer fell victims to a fake bank alert.
He said: “Please this is a true story which happened just few days ago. My friend advertised for sale a car and put the price at N2.7 million. A prospective customer called and was given direction on how to get where the car was parked. He observed the car and informed my friend that he was heading to the bank to make payment and that she should assemble the document ready for collection as soon as payment is made.
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“Shortly after that alert came to my friend’s phone and few minutes after the alert the customer came and all the paper plus the car was handed over to him and he left. To my friend’s greatest shock, she went to the bank and couldn’t find any money and the bank said that the alert did not come from them.
“My friend is planning to go to court with her bank. The advice is that alert is no longer a confirmation of payment. Please let’s all be careful when doing transactions especially this season now in this technology crazy generation”.
Vanguard MoneyDigest investigations revealed that the menace is not new but has recently been rampant as more bank customers now fall victims.
A Facebook user and businesswoman, Sandra Joseph, also fell victim of fake fraud alert during the last yuletide season.
She took to Rant HQ, a group on Facebook to warn innocent Nigerians about the menace.
According to her, three presentable men walked into her shop and pretended that they wanted to buy ten Infinix Hot6X phones which cost N48,050 each. They decided to make a cash transfer using mobile phone because they did not have cash.
The transaction was successful on their phone but when the sales rep went to the bank to withdraw the cash, the money did not reflect in her account, leaving her with a debt burden.
She wrote: “Admin please approve in order not to let another rant member fall a victim. So I was at the office today eating when three well-dressed men walked in, they said they needed 10 pieces of INFINIX HOT6X and each phone cost N48,050.
“I was overjoyed that my Xmas will be soft. Little did I know that the devil was laughing at me. I started writing receipts and when it was time for payment, I gave them our boss’s Zenith Bank account to make the transfer since they didn’t come with cash but the transfer wasn’t successful, so the sales girl who was banking with Fidelity Bank gave them her own account number to run the transfer and an alert entered indicating that the money has been transferred successful
“I now sent the girl to withdraw the money as the customers left but lo and behold the money didn’t reflect on the girl’s account and that was how I was duped N482,500 today which means the alert was ‘flashing’ and not real. Now I will be paying for an avoidable mistake.
”Please you all should stay awake this festive period so that no one will feel the pain that I am feeling now. These days thieves wear suit and tie with matching shoes and briefcase.”
Speaking on the development, President, Bank Customer Association of Nigeria (BCAN), Dr. Uju Ogubunka, said: “If the fake bank alert is not traceable that is a different thing but if it is somebody that is traceable then we will get him to say where he made the payment and how he made the payment. Then he will either be vindicated or convicted.
“The menace does not affect banks but it affects the confidence of the people in doing e-payment transaction. So it puts a question mark on how you can trust that somebody actually has made the payment to you except you will call your bank or go back to cross check first before you now release whatever value you want to release.
“Unlike before when somebody makes a payment if there is an alert you assume that it is genuine, but with what is going on now, it is not going to be comforting to anybody to just make the assumption, oh I got an alert, and therefore, it is okay.
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‘‘What you then do is to go to the next level, call your account manager for him or her to confirm indeed that payment was made into your account before you can release goods.
‘‘If you don’t have an account officer, at least you should have a number with the bank that you can call maybe that of the manager or the operations officer or the customer service.’’
A Customer Care Manager at Ecobank in Lagos, who pleaded anonymity, said: “It is not a new phenomenon. As banks derive new techniques to mitigate different types of fraud, the fraudsters are also looking for new methods to continue defrauding individuals and institutions.
“The only way bank customers can avert the issue of fake bank alert is by downloading their banks’ mobile application where they can get valid evidence on any transaction being made. They can also use their ATM to check their account balance”.
On his part, Johnson Chukwu, a businessman said: “I am aware of the fake bank alert. This type of fraud will affect businesses and smooth exchange of goods and services without cash. This means that the cashless policy which the CBN and banks are working so hard to sustain will disappear.
“Recently, I bought an electronic gadget and paid for it through mobile transfer. If people, especially business owners, are continuously swindled through this fake bank alert, they would be forced to accept only cash which would lead to increased arm robbery cases and little or no confidence in the country’s banking system. Some customers would not be allowed to go home with their goods if they are cashless.
“To mitigate this menace, as we know that fraud cannot be eradicated because these fraudsters are always a step ahead of banks, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), banks and financial institutions should give intensive technology training to youths on how to crack a code or any tactics used by hackers or fraudsters and also inform the public once any type of fraud is noticed within the banking system. I think with this the federal government will help save the cashless policy”.