Fraudsters are everywhere, and no one can precisely say on which online medium they’re predominantly domiciled. But there are personal security measures nairalanders and users of other online forums can take in order to avoid fraud.
We’ve heard about how unemployed people got job on nairaland and other forums. Yet, some others have been swindled of their hard-earned money by 419ners via the same forums that serve as goldmine for job opportunities.
Just of recent The Punch reports how a web designer Ikechukwu Iwezor defrauded a blogger, Ola Akinlayo, to the tune of N1.7m. Iwezor and Akinlayo met on Nigeria’s popular online forum, Nairaland.
Nairaland is the most popular forum in Nigeria, and Africa with three major categories (Nairaland/General, Entertainment, and Science/Technology) which are subdivided into 40 sections where registered users can post threads and comments. Nairaland has become a household name in Nigeria and Africa because of its “democratic” nature.
There are rules like, “Don’t post false information on Nairaland; don’t use nairaland for illegal acts e.g scams, plagiarism, hacking, gay meetings, incitement, promoting secession.”
But fraudsters have tricks of beating nairaland rules.
Some of the personal security measures to take while using nairaland and other online forums are:
1.Think twice before you jump at free offers on nairaland
Free offers are rampant on nairaland. Most often you’re told to drop your email address to either get free e-books or benefit from seemingly fraudulent package. If the person behind such package can’t publicly post such information on the forum for everyone to benefit, then you’ve to think twice before you post your email address for public use.
Some of the nairaland users have good intentions, but there are also bad eggs lurking around to negatively use your e-mail address for unsolicited messages, fraudulent messages, and offers that are far beyond truth.
2. Steer clear of nairaland offers that look too good
If an offer looks too good, do a thorough search on it. One of the best ways to do this is to type the company’s name or product (the person is promoting) on your favourite search engine. You can use search strings like “review,” “complaints.”
If it’s free e-books it means the person who is directing you to drop your email address must have got it from somewhere too; that means you too can get the same source without the need of dropping your personal email address on public forum.
For instance, if the ebook is “how to design a blog” head straight to your search engine and type something like “free download how to design a blog” I’m sure hundreds of results would be spitted out by your search engine.
3. Don’t pay upfront for a business deal on nairaland
Someone you met on nairaland might ask you to pay upfront for services like web designing, how to make money online, ebook on how to start your business, and other stuffs. They might even say you’re sure of making #10,000 within 24hours. If you pay for things like these, they’re likely to disappear, or delete their nairaland account after payment is made.
Fraud-related cases like these are common on nairaland during Federal Government job vacancies, Military recruitments, Para-military recruitments. That’s when you see threads like “3 slots for Nigeria Police are available, “4 slots for Nigeria Navy Short Service are available” etc. You might be told that each slot cost #200,000, but you’ll have to pay 25% of the said amount, that translates to #25,000 right? That’s one of the tricks of the online fraudsters on nairaland and other online forums worldwide. Online fraud isn’t limited to Nigeria alone, but cases of online fraud are higher here.
Some fraudulent users of nairaland have multiple nairaland accounts. Nairaland rules do not allow that, but we can’t help it, they’ve their ways of doing it with different email addresses.
Nairaland founder Seun Osewa reacted to the case of the web designer vs the blogger with this advice, “Let’s be careful and smart when conducting business with people we met online. Don’t pay huge amounts of money for services you have not received.”
4. Create a thread about seemingly fraud offer on nairaland
Another security measure you can take on nairaland is to create a thread (topics) about an offer someone promised you. If you do this someone might have advice for you on the same issue, you could be lucky to get someone who had tried the same offer before.
5. Talk to someone about the deal sealed on nairaland
Closely related to “create a thread about seemingly offer” is talk to someone you trust about the business you’re transacting with someone you met on nairaland.
Most of the fraudsters want you to make decision in a hurry; they want you take action without second thought.
What you need do is to slow down, according to Federal Trade Commission, “check out the story, do an online search, consult an expert-or just tell a friend.”
My message is: don’t take quick decision as the fraudster wants you to.
6. Don’t trust anyone on nairaland
Fraudsters have a way of implementing their evils: by pretending to be someone you trust, like a government official, a charity organisation, or an agent of recruitment firm. If you meet people like this on online forums don’t give out your personal details like financial information (BVN, email address, phone numbers etc).
7. Don’t rely on your caller ID
If you’ve dropped your email address or phone number on job/vacancies section of nairaland, it’s likely you start receiving calls from “international numbers” please don’t be deceived by Saudi Arabia prefix, or United States numbers because technology has made it easy to fake caller ID information. The international number you’re seen on your phone might just be the 419 in the next street to you. If such number is asking for money or your personal info, hang up.
8. Consider your mode of payment
In Nigeria, fraudsters conveniently use bank account to defraud fellow poor Nigerians, but such account is mostly with fake name, fake home address, fake phone number (which is bought mostly to carry out fraud).
However, sophisticated 419ners use wiring money as another mode of payment. Wiring services like Western Union, MoneyGram is risky because it’s 99.9% impossible to get your money back. Honest companies won’t instruct you to pay through hidden means.
9. Don’t sign up for free offers on links you got on nairaland
Fraudster has a way of doing this. He writes an interesting or money making tactics on nairaland then insert a third party links. A click on the third party website might give you different story entirely. At the end you might be directed to sign up for free offer.
Trying out new ideas or business opportunities isn’t a bad idea, but embarking on a thorough research about the company that’s giving you free offer will be precautionary. If you have to sign up for free trial, read the cancellation policy. And always review your monthly statements for charges you don’t recognise.
10. Report to section moderators
If an offer is suspicious, report to the section moderator. All the sections on nairaland have moderators; they’re the custodians of nairaland rules and use policies.
11. Speak out if you’ve been defrauded
Above all, don’t keep quiet if you’ve been defrauded, don’t be ashamed to write about it. Writing about it will teach others who might want to toe the same path a great lesson.
It’s your turn!
What other ways do you think one can take to stay safe when using online forums?