Like the ever-changing chameleon, they come under different guises – Flipcash Investment, Binomo Investment, Helping Hands Investments, and so on. But their catchline is always the same:
“Invest now and get three times your money in 45 minutes.”
Findings revealed to Nairametrics the activities of these scammers. How do they operate? How to identify them? And how you can keep your money safe?
It is an insightful report with first-hand experiences of different individuals.
I received a message request on my Instagram handle. After accepting it, the stranger identified herself as Mrs Adebayo Jennifer (appears to be a false name). She claimed that she hailed from Ibadan and worked with United Capital Plc. I introduced myself as well, omitting my surname and place of work.
Then the toasting began.
“Have you benefited from United Capital Plc’s ongoing program?” she asked.
“What program?” I responded.
She told me about some online trading business platform, where my money could be tripled in the next 45 minutes.
When I asked what the money would be invested in, “Hard currency” was the response I got.
At this point, I knew something was off. I had seen several ads about United Capital Plc, and every single one carried the disclaimer, “United Capital Plc does not double your money in 45 minutes.”
She claimed that the company made a 400% return on investments, and gave three parts to the investor, while keeping the last part. It was almost 11:00 pm at the time so I told her that I would like to start the following morning, but she suggested I not waste any more time.
I sent her details for the registration (all false, except for the phone number). After she supposedly finished registering me, I opted for a 15k investment, even though it was not among the options. She agreed and sent account details for me to make the payments.
The next message I received was, “Are you making the payment now so I can start posting your chat on my page for people to see your testimony?”
Now, here’s the scam!
I did a quick skim through her Instagram posts, and noticed that she always reposted all of the images on the actual United Capital Plc handle. With this, the page could easily pass off as belonging to a staff of the company, at least to unsuspecting followers.
Four things I noticed from there
First, the testimonials, which made up over 180 posts, were from just three chats. Same names, same conversations, same alerts! Repeated multiple times, to seem like multiple clients.
Second, the name of the client testifying was the same as the name of a supposed “secretary” whose account details she sent to another person. The name was ‘Lawal Mutiu.’ Whether it belonged to a partner, or an unsuspecting mule, there was no way to confirm.
Third, some of the previous testimonials used different business names belonging to actual registered businesses, all of which were not involved in any kind of money doubling or tripling venture.
Lastly, care had been taken to cover the name of the supposed depositor, using other texts. The overlapping text was just thick enough to prevent one from reading it clearly, but also light enough to let one see that the supposed business had paid a beneficiary.
I pretended to make the payment but later told her that my bank had reversed my money into my account, so I insisted I was going to make a bank deposit instead. She continued to trouble me for the next 24 hours, and she even suggested I use Paga to make the payment.
Eventually, I told her I was not going to make payment into an individual’s account or any payment platform. If United Capital Plc was going to pay me at the end of the day, then I wanted to make payment directly into their account. She asked me to hold on so she could get the account number, then the chat went cold on the evening of Thursday, June 11, 2020.
It took her 4 days to get her “company’s” account number, but she eventually got back to me on Sunday with an account number which she claimed belonged to United Capital Plc.
As expected, it was not a genuine account number, so my Quickteller app could not verify the beneficiary details. It all came back to her asking me to just go ahead and make payment into her account number since the payment into the company’s account could not go through.
I refused, and at that point, we both realized it was a dead case or ‘bad market’ as they would call it.
Approaching victims through a trusted friend
Mrs. Jennifer Obinabo woke up on Monday, June 15, and could not log in to her Facebook account. the error report showed that her login details were wrong.
“I tried registering for training on Facebook the previous day. I dropped my number after which I got a call from someone telling me that they wanted to add me to the WhatsApp group.
“He asked me to send the confirmation code which I received to him so that he could confirm I was the right person, and I did.
“That happened sometime in the evening, and on Monday morning, I could not log in anymore,” she recounted.
Before the end of the day, she had received several calls from friends asking of the investment she had told them about on Facebook. As soon as they confirmed that the account had been hacked, one of them made a post about it, and this might just have been what saved others from falling victims.
She used the Facebook help page to try retrieving the account, but the phone number had been changed so she resorted to using her email address to receive the reset code.
This is an easy trap, but one you must be mindful of.
An actual scam
Onyinyechi got admitted to Nnamdi Azikiwe University in 2019, and her parents handed her the sum of N75,000 to cover her registration fees and some other costs. For some reason, she delayed going to school due to a warning strike action at the time. During this wait, she was added to a WhatsApp group by a strange number.
She recounts her experience thus:
“I was added to a WhatsApp group and after checking the contacts there, I saw that I did not know anyone on the group.
I remained on the group trying to observe what was going on, and they presented an investment opportunity called Helping hands investment.
You pay in money and you get matched with someone else who pays you double of what you had paid. I saw it as another kind of MMM, so I felt I could get out a little if I started with N5000.”
This was only the beginning of her problems. They claimed there was no plan for N5000, as the least investment she could make would be N20000 so she went ahead to make the payment. While waiting to receive her returns within the next hour, she was told that the person she was paired with had opted for a higher investment option of N80,000. To qualify to receive his payment, she had to up her investment to N40,000.
This trend continued until Onyinyechi exhausted the N70,000 in her account, hoping to get N140,000. Again, she was told to up the investment to N100,000, but at this point, there was nowhere else to get money from, and the supposed manager said that there was nothing he could do for her unless she added another N30,000.
“I kept calling till he stopped picking my call. When I called with my mum’s line, he would pick the call but as soon as he realized I was the one, he would end the call. My brother tried to involve the police, but we didn’t see any hope in it, so we gave up,” she said.
...and a failed scam
Mr. Anthony Agabue also shared his experience with Nairametrics. According to him, everything about the so-called investment was wrong, and he only played along to see where it was leading to. He claimed to be a fisherman, and so he received a baptism of promises–promises to make him rich.
There are several names used in these scams, mostly investment companies like United Capital Plc, or some other existing company which can be found during an online search. This research further showed that they even use the pictures of top executives and upcoming events in the company as their display pictures (DP).
Whatever the name, they only use it to lure victim into their nets. As soon as the actual discussions begin, they avoid mentioning the name again. This way, the victim may not even question it when he is given a personal account to make payments into.
Don’t be a mule
Often, the account details could belong to some unsuspecting online friend or lover who will later be convinced to send a bulk of the money to the scammers, in the claims that the sum had been transferred in error.
Picture this, an online friend claims that he is feeling generous and asks you to send your account details so he can pay in N10,000. Eventually, you receive an alert of N100,000 which he claims was sent in error and pleads with you to send back N90,000.
Do you get the picture?
Of the companies whose names were mentioned, we could only get to United Capital Plc via its verified social media handles. Interestingly, the company has repeatedly had its name used by fraudsters who try to ride on its integrity and public image to defraud victims.
We discovered that the company had taken steps to curtail such activities in the past, and has several posts where it warns people not to fall prey.
A source in United Capital, who preferred anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue, said:
“It is surprising that people still fall for these tricks despite all the campaigns to enlighten them. Most times, they only come to report to the company after they have invested and cannot get their money back.
“For those who follow the company’s social handles, they can also see the warning on every post that United Capital Plc does not double money.”
Nairametrics can confirm that the company has run several campaigns including publications in 2 national dailies, enlightening the public that it is not a money-doubling venture.
As long as people keep falling into their nets, these fraudsters will remain in business. Don’t be the next.
It is important to note that any individual or company that offers to triple your investment is not regulated by any agency, and is not even legal. After all, if money could be doubled in minutes, even beggars will have mansions by now.