By Fred Chukwuelobe
I wrote this a couple of years back and I find it necessary sharing it now because many people are still falling victims to Internet fraudsters and the dupers are unrelenting.
It is germane considering that Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) service providers is 20. It is celebrating its anniversary and 419ners are on the prowl, providing all manner of mouth watering offers to defraud undiscerning subscribers of the South African-based GSM giant.
Except you get such offers directly from MTN, please don’t click, don’t open, don’t input your numbers and passwords anywhere.
Watch out for fake websites.
Despite my vigilance, I fell once and have learnt from it. As you lay vigilant, they devise ways to beat you. But we must continue to remain vigilant.
I am taking the liberty of offering a free lecture to folks who fall, and could fall, victims of internet fraudsters. And I want you to know that one of the reasons why you fall victim or could fall victim is because you do not read, you are greedy and you are not vast in terms of the styles of these fraudsters and in many cases, you are not discerning enough.
My brother and friend, a well-known Facebook enthusiast, fell victim in the most annoying manner possible. He not only freely gave them his email and passwords, he also added his driver’s license. Why? Despite his presence on social media, he was ignorant of their antics. He got “mugued” big time and a couple of his friends fell victim before they realized it.
To avoid falling yourself, please note the following:
- NOBODY will ever ask you to update your details online unless on the same platform which you use in doing transactions. For example, if you use a particular banks online portal and they need you to change your login details, they will either ask you to go to the nearest branch or request you to do it as you log in. In addition, they will send a code to the cell number or email you used in creating the account and ask you to input it before proceeding. Even at that, once you open the portal where you are expected to input your details, watch out to see if the Uniformed Resource Locator (URL) has https://www. Once it does not have https:// – Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure, which protects the integrity and confidentiality of data between user’s computer and the site, flee.
If it is still that of the particular bank or site making the request, and it re-directs you to an unknown URL without the details of https://www., then it is from fraudsters. Run!
- It is difficult for a friend of yours to ask for a recharge card by sending you a message via social media. No matter how trapped your supposed friend is, he could still borrow a cell phone from somebody in that meeting and send you a text message, asking that you call him back. He would love to speak with you so that you would hear his voice and know he is the one in such need. Besides, nobody who is you friend starts any conversation by saying “hello, how are you? Can you do me a favour? I am in a meeting… bla bla bla. It is a 419 antic. Do not fall for it.
- Secure your accounts online by registering your email, cell number, your spouse’s number, as a means of recovering them should they be compromised. And never release them to a third party unless you are ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN they are not from fraudsters.
- Never respond to any text or email telling you Facebook, Yahoo mail or WhatsApp is about to “shut down” and that you should “update your accounts to avoid losing your details”. Such things do not exist. If they need you to change your details, assuming your account has been compromised, they will send you a mail and will have you go through series of processes through the email and phone numbers you provided. They will send a code to your cell phone and ask you to input that into the portal you logged into. Even at that, watch out for changes in the URL. For instance, if the URL that requested you to update or change your login details is http//www.yahoomail.com, and you open it and it redirects you to “yahoomac”, or anything different from the former, then run! And most times they use an URL that looks similar to the original ones and only the unperceptive does not notice it. Watch out for this.
- NEVER give out your account details easily online without being ABSOLUTELY sure it is from the appropriate source. As we say in journalism, “if in doubt, leave out”.
Always seek a second opinion if you’re not sure.
Call your account officers. Call your bank. If a friend sends such a request, ask him to borrow a phone and speak to you. Do not send recharge card PIN to him online or through text. Ask for his number “so that you can do direct credit”. Once he gives you the number, call it. If it is from your friend, he would pick. If he does not pick, RUN!
- Yahoo and many online stores will not allow you login to your account from a device that you do not use frequently. If I travel abroad, I usually do not have access to my accounts until I go through a process of checks. I am sure many of us can attest to this.
- If you use debit cards for online shopping, don’t leave plenty of money in it. Transfer money into it for your particular shopping and leave little on it. Never leave details of your cards even on trusted websites like amazon.com or Netflix.
- These fraudsters have templates. Once a person falls “mugu” to a particular template, they share it among themselves. That is why sometimes you get texts from banks you do not even have an account with and even from your bank asking you to send back a code sent to your phone; don’t send it. End the call.
There are several other ways to detect if any texts or emails are from fraudsters.
You can add yours. But most importantly, be a doubting Thomas. Ask questions. Be discerning. Mine is by no means exhaustive.
Thank you and please feel free to share to save somebody from being a dupe.
The truth of the matter is that many people fall victims out of greed, carelessness and emotions. You want to use your church mind to be nice, you’re defrauded. Be discerning even as you do good so that your good no go kill you, as we say in local parlance.
*Fred Chukwulobe, a journalist, public relations consultant and public affairs analyst, writes from Lagos