In March this year, Mr Emmanuel Benedict, went to the ATM to withdraw the sum of N30, 000 from his Zenith bank account. Customary to the ATM’s maximum withdrawal limit of N10, 000 per transaction, he decided to make 3 separate withdrawals of N10, 000.
While the first 2 were successful, the third transaction was not. The cash was not dispensed and the transaction was labelled an error. However, minutes later, Mr Emmanuel was debited with a N10,000 transaction that was earlier confirmed an error by the ATM.
Panicked and worried about his money, he sent an email to his bank (Zenith bank), informing it about the situation and to request for the transaction to be reversed.
He said, “The situation in this country is hard enough and N10,000 is a lot of money that can even feed a family.”
Thankfully, the bank replied to him and assured him of an action within 24 hours. However, 3 days later when he did not get a reply from the bank, he sent a follow up mail that was replied 2 days later. This time, the bank asked for his account number, and the details of the transaction and promised to look into the problem. Yet again, nothing was done days later and Mr Emmanuel, already vexed and anxious, contacted the bank via their Twitter page.
“I was already very worried and depressed at this juncture” he said, “I switched to sending a message via @Zenithbank official twitter handle.”
When Mr Emmanuel dropped his complaint on the official Twitter timeline of the bank, the response he got was immediate but it was from another Twitter handle:
(@zenlthbankllve) “Customer Care Unit a”. Desperate for answers, he believed it was Zenith bank finally showing some concerns. Mr Emmanuel was then given some instructions, which he enthusiastically followed, at the end, he gave them the digits on his ATM card, his ATM card pin, and the one-time password (OTP) in his possession.
However, just minutes later, after having given out his financial details and was expecting a solution, he received a debit alert of an undisclosed amount he knew nothing about. It was then that he realised that he had been defrauded and the Twitter page he thought was genuine was not, has just 0 followers, follows only 1 person, and was only created in April 2022.
“I unfortunately got defrauded while trying to recover money debited from my account in error on 26/03/2022. The most painful part of it is that the money has still not been reversed, despite my writing severally to Zenith Bank,” Mr Emmanuel told DUBAWA.
He added, “I emptied everything in the account. Transferred a huge sum to my wife’s account. I actually lost a contract because of it though. Currently, I’m not using that account for fear of being defrauded further. I think the account is compromised.”
But it was not just Mr Emmanuel that was defrauded by the same fraudsters posing as Zenith bank customer care unit. Ms Eunice Abhulimen also admitted that the same charlatans defrauded her.
“I was scammed by them too, please you all should be careful,” she tweeted DUBAWA, while promising to provide details of her experience.
Another Twitter user who was also defrauded by the similar scammers replied to DUBAWA’s tweet, adding,
“You guys are fraudsters. You think you can debit someone of 714k for account maintenance and you keep avoiding your DMS. Reverse that money before we sue.”
Apparently, the multiple replies and comments by customers on this fraudulent Twitter page posing as Zenith Bank, show a good number of Zenith Bank customers still regard the page as valid and legitimate .
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The science behind the scheme
Bank customers usually drop complaints on the official Twitter handles of their respective banks. It is on this premise that these fraudulent schemes are built. In this case, they pose as a Zenith bank customer unit and respond to the usually desperate and vulnerable customers with an additional warming message that redirects them to a WhatsApp chat.
“A Resolution Response Has Been Provided Through Our Live Customer Assistant WhatsApp Channel Via (09049298340) Or Follow The Link (https://wa.link/0hlgzc) To Start A Live Resolution Session With Online Representatives. Thank You.”
On the WhatsApp chat that is provided via the link or the provided phone number, customers are presented with options, and whichever they choose, they are asked to fill up a form via a link provided. The form is designed with Zenith bank’s logo and provides spaces for customers to fill up their account details, ATM card number, pin etc.
Afterwards, with customer financial details now in their grasp, they access the bank account, and carry out transactions. Nonetheless, because of the one-time password (OTP) policy, the unsuspecting customer needs to confirm the transaction by sending the received OTP to confirm the transaction.
Why is it hard to track scheme?
The fraudsters have a sophisticated chain of activity. First, their username on twitter is like that of Zenith bank but there is always an intentional alteration of the spelling. On a mild look, it looks like it is spelled as “ZenithBankplc” but on a closer look, the spelling is trickily altered (zelthbankplc), making it hard for Twitter’s algorithm to notice a duplication and flag it up.
Scammers also create multiple but similar pages and are constantly evolving. So even if Twitter blocks the other, another one is still functional. These pages are interchangeably affiliated.
Noticeably, the forms they use to collect customer data is called “my forms app,” an application that allows users to create free online forms.
These forms are authenticated, and every link is unique to each potential victim. The forms are immediately taken down once the victim’s financial data is collected.
Additionally, another reason that makes it hard to track this scheme is that the conversations with unsuspecting customers are not carried out on Twitter, but on WhatsApp, where victims are isolated, vulnerable and chats are encrypted.
On Twitter, Zenith bank has been warning users to be wary of schemes seeking financial details, but the bank is yet to announce a disclaimer about this particular page (Customer Care Unit a) that is posing as a part of its operations.
Although Twitter has also blocked some of the pages for violations, a good number of them are still functional, and are still defrauding unsuspecting members of the public.
Just 3 days ago, a user on Twitter shared how he was nearly defrauded by fraudsters:
When DUBAWA reached out to Zenith Bank on Twitter regarding the imposter page, the bank replied,
“Please disregard any message from unverified accounts (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) as you can now reach us on our newly launched and verified ZIVA ZENITH WHATSAPP PLATFORM on this line 07040004422. Neither do we engage our customers via the platform. Also note that you might ½.”