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Internet banking fraud victims recall experience

Bunmi lives in Maitama, a swanky district of Nigeria’s capital city, Abuja. She runs a medium-sized fashion design and fabric procurement outfit from her home from where she dresses a small but well-heeled posse of customers, and supplies draperies and textiles to clients.

She sighs as she remembers the day, she said changed her life. “It was on Saturday, July 11th last year,” she said.

With a corporate account in one of the fastest growing banks in the country, she had become worried after customers, including an international NGO based in the city had paid ninety-three million naira into her corporate account over a two-day period for the supply of fabrics. “I became nervous,” she said, “when I neither received alerts nor emails on my phone alerting me to these deposits. It was very unusual. I actually thought it was a network problem. In fact, I hadn’t been bothered initially; it was after a few hours that I began to get agitated. I needed to pay my suppliers in Lagos that Saturday”.

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Bunmi called her friend who works in the bank that evening, and it was then she found out that her alerting system had been compromised. Fraudsters had taken over the phone and email alert instructions she left with her bank and routed the alerts to themselves.

They had also changed her daily transfer limits of ten million naira.

“They stole ninety-nine million naira from my account!” she said agonizingly.

Bunmi’s account wasn’t the only one hacked that day by fraudsters. Four accounts, including a public sector account were attacked a day before, and four hundred and eleven million was stolen from the bank.

She said the experience has left her paranoid and suspicious. “I am always going online to check my accounts’ status every now and then. I just have these paranoid thoughts that it’s going to happen again. If the bank hadn’t refunded my money, I would have been ruined. It took me years to build my business”.

Her bank replaced her money after they pleaded with her not to publicise her experience.

Archie (not real name), an accountant, also lives in Abuja. He used to work with a parastatal under the Federal Capital Territory involved in the provision of water to the city’s residents. He remembers the day they discovered that over three hundred million naira had been stolen from their account.

“It was in 2016, if I recollect well. We later found out that the hackers had compromised our passwords, changed our debit and transfer instructions with our bankers and simply stole our money.

“Until then, we had always thought we had a fairly safe system of managing our finances with the banks. I cannot remember if we had a phone alert system in place but we certainly received emails from our bankers whenever there were transactions on our accounts”.

Large public sector organisations as well as big corporate concerns are common targets of certain gangs of bank hackers who want to maximise the economies of scale. The principle is to target big institutions and steal large amounts of money.

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