By Our Reporters
Nigerians are calling to question the red tape which telecommunication companies and regulatory authority like the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) make them to go through to register or reclaim Subscriber Identification Modules (SIM) cards.
They premised the query on the increasing number of fraudulent text messages they received everyday inviting them to call certain numbers to claim purported winnings in lotteries and promos they never participated in.
Victims of the phishing via text messages, some of whom have lost their hard-earned money to the fraudsters behind the scam – are wondering how the dupes perpetrating these crimes get the SIMs to initiate the fraudulent text messages, with some alleging insider connivance in the telecommunication companies as the phone numbers used to perpetrate these financial crimes are undetectable on caller identification software applications like Truecaller.
Although the fraudsters switch the numbers used to bait the public on the scam, The Dream Daily found that two numbers – 08087621788 and 08141940171, it is unclear to whom these numbers belong to among the GSM companies operating in Nigeria – are frequently used to send the fraudulent messages.
Typically, the 08087621788 is used to launch the scam with a message – which is edited into various formats depending on the whims of the fraudsters – informing the phone owner of a non-existent winning largess. One of such fraudulent messages seen by The Dream Daily from 08087621788 reads: “CONGRATULATIONS YOU HAVE BEEN GIFTED #95000,100 (sic) FROM COVID 19 FUNDS SUPPORT (CODE 0103) CALL HAJIYA HABIBA SANI (08141940171) TO CLAIM YOUR PAYMENT”.
However, when The Dream Daily put several calls to both lines, they were switched off.
But recipients of the fraudulent messages who spoke with The Dream Daily on condition of anonymity claimed that the fraudsters sometimes picked the number within some unpredictable window periods.
One of the recipients said: “I think they say that with SIM card registration and BVN (biometric verification number, applicable to all bank account holders in Nigeria) and the EFCC (the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, one of Nigerian’s anti-corruption agency) this annoying things would have stopped. I get these text messages almost every day o. But the telecommunication companies and NCC say that SIM cards cannot work without registration and finger-printing (biometric data collection, a requirement to secure a functional phone line in Nigeria). So who are those who registered these lines they are using to text me every day? Can the police not trace and arrest them?”
Other sources lamented alleged indifference of the telcos companies to clampdown on the festering criminal phenomenon, insisting that “the NCC needs to take up this worrisome development with the service providers and sanction erring ones.”
A source said: “The security and economic implication of this brazen act of fraud is big. Imagine a foreign investor new to the country receiving such fraudulent messages on his new phone number. What would he think of us, our country and our government?
“The issue also worries me considering the insecurity we are facing in this country. If yahoo yahoo boys can send these messages just like that and nothing happens to them, does that not promote criminality in the country? Sometimes I wonder why we can’t track kidnappers who call to demand big big ransom? Why do we go through hassles to do welcome back (official SIM reclamation after loss or damage in Nigeria) yet these criminals still have access to unregistered SIM cards?”
However, as part of the national strategy to curb criminal use of unregistered SIM cards, the NCC plans to cut off all SIM cards not linked to the National Identity Number (NIN) at some future dates in the country.
On a humorous note, tired of receiving these fraudulent messages, a phone subscriber told The Dream Daily that she sent a reply this reply to 08087621788: “You are a fool. Te’wo adura (stretch your palms out for this prayer): Ogun (Yoruba patron-saint of the forge, drivers, steel workers, etc) will use your blood and those of your family members to bath one after the other starting seven days from now. S’ami adua! (say, amen to the prayer!)”
She is yet to receive any replies from the fraudsters.
In a related development a fraudster who called himself Samuel and speaking in angelic voice used the phone number 09017635405 to call an editorial staff of The Dream Daily Newspaper with the cock-and-bull story that he sent a recharge card number to the editorial staff phone number.
According to Nigerians who have been called by this ‘Samuel’ and similar fraudsters, this is a brazing pick-up bait to suck innocent Nigerians into the scam nets of ‘Samuel’ and his ilks.
Investigations by The Dream Daily Newspaper reveal that Nigerians who fell for ‘Samuel’s’ trick were lured into purported a vortex ritualistic practices through which millions of naira are extorted from them. Female victims of this scammers are often sexually assaulted, which rape is recorded and used to further blackmail them to extort more money among the syndicate members.
The Dream Daily Newspaper also found out that some male victims, including a few prominent Nigerians who fell for the tricks of these fraudsters. were tricked into bringing their wives into the fake rituals by the “yahoo yahoo boys” who subsequently concoct ways to sleep with the wives of these prominent Nigerians, including high-ranking politicians, serving and retired military men, captain of industries, among others. These, essentially, rape sessions take place in ‘shrines’ located in deep forests, groves, etc, and are usually filmed to blackmail their victims into silence and bigger extortion.