The advent of the cashless policy in Nigeria came as both a gift and a curse. On the plus side, one does not need to lug bags of cash around, especially for interstate transactions—just get depositors to transfer funds to your account, and you in turn, transfer to your business partners.
The policy has also made banks more innovative by creating various payment platforms that don’t need physical cash. Each bank has a robust mobile banking app where customers can transfer funds, subscribe for cable TV, book flights, buy airtime, etc., without entering a banking hall. For those without smart phones, the Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) option is there. Even ATM cards have been upgraded to do more than pay cash. What a time to be alive!
However, with these strides in innovation, come the downsides—robbers have adapted with the times by moving from the highway and taking their “trade” online. The various options open to customers for processing transactions can also be manipulated by thieves to defraud account holders of their hard-earned funds.
Hopefully, after reading this article, readers would be better armed to protect their funds from these “online robbers.”
1. Do not divulge sensitive account details to unknown callers
As surprising as it seems, many people still fall prey to this trick, despite several warnings. There have been many instances of people admitting that they received calls from unknown callers, who claim to be staff of various banks. They are told that their accounts require some form of upgrade\corrections, and to do this, information like ATM card PINs and PANs, and details of messages sent to the account owners’ phones are needed. The “bank staff” then creates mobile banking apps tied to the bank accounts of the unsuspecting owners, and from there, all funds are transferred to several unknown recipients.
2. Protect card details
As already stated, ATM cards are not just used for cash withdrawals now—they can also be used for funds transfers, bills payments, online transactions, etc. this means that one does not necessarily need the physical presence of their card to process some transactions. With knowledge of the card Primary Account Number (PAN), which are the 16 digits displayed on the card’s surface, the Personal Identification Number (PIN), and Card Verification Value (CVV) number, displayed on the back of the card, funds can be moved from one’s account.
It is therefore important to protect these details, especially when using the card in public places like ATM lobbies, and POS machines. You should be equally careful not to call out such details, if absolutely necessary, within earshot of people.
3. Always keep your phone safe
Imagine mourning the loss of your phone, then having the added heartache of losing the funds in your bank account(s).
The value of a phone goes beyond its price, these days. It contains private valued information of its owner, among which are bank account details; it also contains the SIM through which transaction alerts are received. The SIM makes it possible to process USSD transactions.
There have been instances where phones were given to repairmen, only for the owners to realise later that funds had been transferred from their accounts via USSD to unknown beneficiaries. Even relatives have been known to secretly steal funds from accounts, just by handling the owner’s phones.
Always keep your phone locked, and know where it is at all times.
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4. Pay attention to transaction alerts
It is very easy to assume that all is well with one’s account, and not bother with checking transaction alerts. After all, it is what you withdrew that must have left the account, right? Wrong!
As explained above, funds could have left your account without your authorisation. So pay attention to your transaction alerts, especially the balances, and quickly investigate any transaction that was not initiated with your permission—the earlier the better, for quick resolution with your bank.
Also note that the absence of alerts despite transactions could also be a red flag, as the SIM could have been swapped, giving fraudsters a free hand to run your account.
5. Know the USSD code for instant account deactivation
Imagine the horror of receiving alerts showing that your account is being continuously debited as you helplessly watch it happen, especially during over weekend when banks are closed.
This doesn’t need to happen. Right from the first debit, you should be able to take action and deactivate your account to prevent further debits. This is why it is important to know the emergency code of each bank where your funds are kept. For example, with Zenith Bank, any phone can be used to enter USSD code *966*911#, provide your account number, and the number used to receive alerts, and the account gets instantly deactivated. After this, you can take your time to investigate the stolen money, instead of frantically running around to stop further debits.
It is also important to know the various ways to reach your bank during emergencies—get their customer care lines from their websites, and if they have chatbots, engage them; also know their email addresses. Getting your account officer’s number too is useful.
Apparently, with the ability to carry out transactions from the comfort of your homes, comes the responsibility of safeguarding your money (to an extent). These tips should make it easier to do so.
However, in a case where the money has already been stolen, contact your bank as soon as possible for investigation and possible recovery.