Banks raise the alarm over increase in social media fraud
…Victims narrate bitter experiences
By Clement Adeyi
The trending social media cyber crime in the country has hit increase and alarming proportion.
Findings by The Insight indicated that several people fall victim of the menace which trends mainly on Facebook and WhatsApp, email, SMS on daily basis.
The increased rate of the scam, which is a global trend, has come under a close monitoring following an alarm by banks.
Barclays, a British Universal Bank, has warned against the fraud in a BBC report.
A Nigerian victim, Kunle Lawan, while narrating his experience in a chat with The Insight, said that he felt victim recently when a fraudster used the WhatsApp number of his pastor friend to defraud him of some money.
“I fell victim of this trending social media fraud by the rampaging fraudsters who are desperate to siphon money from gullible victims on the platform. He did it expertly that you would think he is a credible person. He had hacked into the WhatsApp number of my pastor friend and hooked up to a WhatsApp group that he belongs to. Then he forwarded a message to all the members with his bank account details that he needed some money urgently because he was constrained to send money to somebody who was stranded somewhere. I got carried away by the message because I felt that my friend, being a pastor, would not lie and was actually in need of money. Almost immediately, I transferred some money to the account. But when I later called my friend (the pastor) to confirm if he had seen the alert, he lamented that the message was not from him. That was when I realized that I had been scammed by a social media fraudster,” he said.
He added: “Many of them are on rampage. So, one needs to be very careful, wise and be at alert at all times not to fall victim to these people from hell.”
He did it expertly that you would think he is a credible person
Another victim Chuwkwudi Samuel, who lamented the increasing cyber crime, told The Insight:
“They are everywhere on the social media, especially Facebook and WhatsApp. In fact, they are on rampage and desperate to defraud people of their hard-earned money. They want to reap from where they did not sow.
They usually advertise land and other valuable items on Facebook and would ask people to deposit N10,000 for form and apply to buy land at juicy prices to make gullible customers fall for it. Meanwhile, the land they are advertising does not exist. I narrowly escaped one of this tricks on Facebook recently. One needs to shine one’s eyes very well because social media fraudsters are on rampage,” the victim claimed.
A pastor of a Pentecostal church in Nyanya area of the FCT, Abuja, who narrated his experience on the condition of anonymity, lamented that he lost some money to one of the new generation banks during the recent currency change crisis.
“Sometimes, banks raise the alarm on cyber crime, whereas they, too, are fraudsters. They scam customers too. During the recent currency change, I lost some money to one of the banks. In fact, my N10,000 is still hanging there. I have other amounts of money that are still hanging in other banks where I have accounts. When I complained to the customer care staff, they asked me to fill forms. I did but up till now, none of the money has been refunded to me. When I followed up again, I was told to come back. Now, they are telling me that the money can not be traced. What do we call that? Is that not cyber fraud?” he said.
Sometimes, banks raise the alarm on cyber crime, whereas they, too, are fraudsters
According to Barclays BBC report, much of the scam which heightened in 2022, festers on various online platforms.
Barclays told the BBC that 77% of scams took place via online marketplaces and dating apps.
TSB said a large increase in cases of impersonation, investment and purchase fraud were the main drivers of the trend.
It also discovered that impersonation scams on WhatsApp had tripled in a year, while fake listings on Facebook Marketplace had doubled.
And it said there had been “huge fraud spikes” on platforms owned by Meta, such as WhatsApp and Facebook.
A spokesperson for Meta told the BBC it believes fraud is “an industry-wide issue.”
“Scammers are using increasingly sophisticated methods to defraud people in a range of ways, including email, SMS and offline,” they said.
“We don’t want anyone to fall victim to these criminals, which is why our platforms have systems to block scams. Financial services advertisers now have to be FCA (Financial Conduct Authority)-authorised and we run consumer awareness campaigns on how to spot fraudulent behaviour.”
Liz Ziegler, Lloyds Banking Group’s Fraud Prevention Director, told the BBC that banks had been facing an epidemic of scams.
“With more than 70% of fraud starting with contact through the main tech platforms, these companies must be held responsible for not stopping scams at source and putting things right for innocent victims,” she said.
Previously, NatWest Chief Executive Alison Rose told a Treasury Select Committee that three million people in the UK were victims of fraud in 2022.
“We have seen an 87% increase in fraud,” she said, adding that NatWest estimated 60% of frauds originated on social media and technology platforms.
Meanwhile, TSB said 60% of purchase fraud cases of which it is aware – where a scammer sells an item they never intend to send to the buyer – happen on Facebook Marketplace, and two-thirds of impersonation fraud cases it sees are happening on WhatsApp,
The bank says it issued 2,650 refunds covering these cases last year.
Paul Davis, TSB’s Director of Fraud Prevention, said he believed social media companies “must urgently clean up their platforms” to protect consumers.
He further said that “It’s high time that social media and telephone companies took financial liability for the rising levels of fraud taking place on their platforms,”
According to the most recent figures from UK Finance, which represents the banking and finance sector, 56% of the total amount lost to scams was returned to customers in the first half of 2022.
Many banks, including NatWest, Lloyds and Barclays, are signed up to the Contingent Reimbursement Model Code, which aims to reimburse people if they fall victim to an Authorised Push Payment (APP) scam and have acted appropriately”.
An APP scam is where a person is tricked into transferring money into an account operated by a fraudster.
But TSB says it reimburses people in 97% of all fraud cases it sees, and is campaigning for others to follow suit.
Rocio Concha, Director of Policy and Advocacy at consumer group, said the statistics “expose the worrying scale” of fraud on social media.
“The Online Safety Bill has been going through Parliament for more than a year and progress has been much too slow, with people still being scammed every day,” she said.
“The government must take a vital step in the fight against fraud by ensuring the bill includes the strongest possible protections for consumers and is passed into law without further delays.”