I believe that in the dictionary of Information Technology, there is a reference to ‘Nigeria’ wherever the words ‘spam’ and ‘scam’ are located. While the national reputation is still at the mercy of millions of e-mail these email spammers and scammers sending phoney emails about money to be deposited into this-and-that bank accounts around the world, the latest nuisance is what I call ‘spam phone-calls – scam-calls’.
I was out working about 2-weeks ago, with an expatriate boss of mine, only for him to receive a call from someone, who quickly introduced himself as a staff of NNPC and started talking about a business proposition. My boss, thinking it was one of our customers, quickly replied, ‘sorry sir, i’m not in the office at the moment….. could you..” before the phone cut off.
Two-minutes later, a flash-call came in from the same number. Two-minutes again, another flash-call came in. He, thinking it was a genuine client decided to return the call. The next couple of replies went like this:
Boss: hello, good morning sir, you just called my phone
Boss: yeah, I was just telling you that i’m not in the office……
Boss: business?, what business? what is your customer ID sir?
Boss: Yes, you are a staff of NNPC, Abuja office, what is your good name sir?
Boss: Ok, Mr. Wale, good morning sir, how can I help you?
he looks at me, at his phone and asks ‘business?‘.
Boss: hold on sir, kindly talk to ……… (he gives me the phone) he can help you out.
By this time, I was half-smiling – kinda knew what was up, so I went:
shrek: hello, there, good morning
spam: hello morning, i’m calling from NNPC, Abuja.
shrek: may I know whom I’m speaking with, sir
spam: I’m, Dr. Wale Adegoke from NNPC Accounts department
shrek: how can I help you sir, i heard you speaking to my boss…..
spam: yeah, yeah, calling from NNPC Abuja and just wanted to let him know that i’m at the bank, Zenith Bank. The goods will be delivered tomorrow, so I wanted us to discuss how we would share the profit.
after hearing this: I put the phone on speaker, so that everyone could hear. Besides my boss and I, there were other 2-guys. I told all of them to ssshhhh. Meanwhile, my boss is still signalling to me to cut the phone and tell the caller to call the office for tech support – the guy genuinely thought it was a customer.
shrek: hold on sir, what payment is this, what goods are you talking about?
spam: yes, the cheque. Maybe if your boss doesn’t have time today, you could assist him to go to the bank and clear the cheque, but it must be today.
shrek: sorry sir, who do you want to speak to, I think you have gotten a wrong number
spam: hold on, is this not: 080……….(he spells out the phone number I was holding)
shrek: yes, you’re right, and what is the problem exactly.
spam: Is this not Mr.(he mentions my boss’ name) phone number?
I myself was surprised.
shrek: Yes, and what is the problem sir,
spam: and who are you
shrek: yeah, im Martins Watanabe, from Lebanon………………(shap shap, I don become Martins…I tried so much not to laugh.)
My boss then came near, a curious look on his face, wondering how the guy on the other end knew his name. My guy on the other end now changed his story. He was beckoning to me to cut the line for the sake of credit
spam: oh, Mr. Martins, how are you, long time no see. Do you remember me? Wale?
still trying not to laugh, I went
shrek: hhhmmmm, not really, but how come you know me. I thought you were telling me about some goods and money.
spam: yeah, yeah, maybe you do not remember me…we met in August in Lekki, Lagos. We exchanged calling cards.
shrek: I just arrived in Nigeria 2-weeks ago, I don’t think you have the right person.
and then the stupid guy continued:
spam: yeah, yeah, but you remember, you came to Nigeria in August. We met in Lekki, in Mr. Abraham’s house. Remember Mr. Abraham from London?
shrek: I think you have the wrong number sir. I dont know you, and I’ve never been to Lekki before. Anyway, about what you wanted to discuss with me, can we meet?
spam: oh I see, where are you at the moment
me too, I went:
shrek: im here at the ground floor of the NNPC in Abuja, can we meet? where did you say you are?
before he could reply, I went:
shrek: O boy, you be thief o. did you hear me, you be thief. Wey you dey? me i dey NNPC ground floor.
spam: hello, what did you say:
shrek: I said you be thief, yor mama, yor papa, all the people for ya family, all of you be thief. 419, ode, ole, agbero, oloshi, barawo, onyoshi, na God go punish you, See, the day I go catch you….
(I didn’t know I knew all the above abuses off-head o. Its my first time)
I cut the phone.
So there goes the problem:
the proposed solution is:
1. Telephone number registration scheme(TNRS) – the Nigerian Federal Goverment / Nigeria Communications Commission must implement/mandate every phone number(land/mobile etc.,) to be duly registered: phone-number, Owners name/details(complete information with 2×2 picture, front and side views). Each phone-number on each network must have complete owners information. A central database/search engine where must be available online for all mobile networks.
The best will be to put a deadline for registration on existing phone numbers and prevent activation of new-sims until their registration is complete. Now that sim-cards are just about 100NGN, a scammer could scam-call one person with a phone number and go buy another sim and scam-call another person. By the time you try calling back the first number, the reply is: the phone number you dialed is switched off.
example: if I receive such a phone-call, I could just get online and check where the call was made and who the phone is registered with.
2. The Federal Goverment, the Nigeria Communications Commission and Telcos must put together a commission/task-force to work with Telco logs and the affected individuals to track down these fraudsters?
– this ‘work with’ might include leading these scammers to a bait.
– the ‘task force’ is not, and must not be the Nigerian Police. They have since lost their reputation on issues of national concern. The ‘task force’ is to gather such information as to lead to the arrest of such scammers.
3. Telecommunication companies must be mandated to store phone-call information for a minimum of 96-hours(4-days) and provide such information to the phone number owner, the special task-force and other necessary authorities if required.
By the 5-members of this scam-group are caught and made a national example with serious jail-terms, perhaps the rest will go find something else to do.