In 2017, Stephanie* met a guy on Twitter. Two months into their situationship, she realised she had fallen for a scammer. In a chat with PiggyVest, she discusses her initial encounter with this man and how she recovered her funds.
How did it begin?
It’s a long story. Let me start with a preamble. I did my undergrad studies in the UK, and in 2018, I had to retake a year because I had failed. All that made me a bit insecure and depressed; I put on a lot of weight. I went from a size 16 to a size 22.
At this point in my life, I was pretty open on Twitter. I tweeted about stuff happening in my life and my head. I guess I shared some things about being insecure about my body and downcast because of school. That was when this guy came into the picture. Let’s call him Ebuka*.
How did you meet him?
Ebuka DMed me on Twitter. He said he thought I was beautiful. He went on about how he liked girls like me. Big girls, to be precise. At first, I was suspicious, but given my vulnerability at the time, I felt comforted. I had also recently lost a friend to suicide, so you can imagine where my head was at.
We got close really quickly. We were on Facetime every minute, and by every minute, I mean every single minute. In the shower, everywhere. The only times we weren’t on FT were the rare occasions when he would go out, and his network would cut off. He’d call me back almost instantly.
I remember telling my friends that I was starting to like him, and they were sceptical: “You guys just started talking”. In my world, we knew everything about each other already.
Was anything strange at all?
Yeah. There was something I always found odd. I had returned for the summer holidays and was staying home in Magodo then. Anytime I complained about little things, like the noise I had to endure living in that part of Lagos, or other inconveniences, he would immediately start bragging about how he didn’t have that sort of problem in Parkview.
He always found ways to insert his “wealth” into the equation. I’d change the conversation. Once, he reminisced about a time he fought with his dad because he took the Rolls Royce out instead of the Lamborghini.
Yup. By this time, we had established that we liked each other, and I would always remind him that I liked him for him, not for whatever he claimed to have. I had never asked him for money, we never spoke about dates, and we were even long-distance because he was in the UK and I was in Lagos.
I told him several times, “I don’t know why you need to speak about money constantly. I’m just here for the person I’ve gotten to know over time.” He lied that his father was one wealthy Nigerian man, but I knew the man’s daughter, so I immediately called him out on his bullshit. He pivoted and said, “Oh, he’s my uncle, but I call him my father.”
I had difficulty believing him, but I just swept my suspicions under the carpet.
He was setting the stage.
Exactly. One day, we were on Facetime as usual and having a heartfelt conversation about school. He was sad about leaving school. His one-year master’s programme was ending. He was taking a walk, “trying to clear his head,” he said. He reached a bridge and was at the brink of tears, as he said, “I always come here to clear my head whenever I feel frustrated.”
I told him to take some time if he needed it, even though my mind kept saying, “Is it that deep?” It wasn’t like he had his undergrad there. But, again, I let it go. Moments later, he called back. At this point, he was inside a McDonald’s. He showed me to the employee at the counter and introduced me as his girlfriend. I jokingly hinted, “Ebuka, you’ve not asked me to be your girlfriend, so when did that enter the equation?” The employee said I was cute; I was blushing.
Then he said, “Babe, I’m trying to pay, but it’s not working.” It was ￡5, so I sent him ￡10 instead. Now that I think of it, he was setting things up to see if I was the type of person he could get money from.
Fits the scammer profile.
He played the game of manipulation very well. Another time, I sent him ￡20 for something about his contribution towards a “late uncle’s burial.” Recall that I was taking my resit exams, and my school only accepted cheques.
I looked high and low for someone to help me with a cheque, and eventually, I told Ebuka about the issue. And he said he had one I could use.
Interestingly, everything was fine. My school confirmed the transaction. That cleared all my doubts. But it was also when things started to take a funny turn.
What happened next?
He told me he wanted to apply for a PhD at my uni and would love for us to live together. So I started house hunting and sending him links to check out some places. It didn’t take long before he told me he had been invited for an interview.
He told me the interview was, let’s say, on a Friday, and then he went mid-sentence, “Damn. My flight to Nigeria is that same day.” I immediately sympathised with him, and we tried to find a solution. I told him he could round up the interview early, take the three-hour train to London, and meet his flight. Virgin Airways usually left at night, so we agreed it could work.
The day came, and I couldn’t reach him. I dropped texts checking his progress with the interview, but all I got in return was radio silence. At 9 pm, I finally heard from him. “You can’t believe the day I had,” he started. “I’m just getting on the train now.”
I asked him what happened. He told me the interview had gone so well, and they told him to start that day. They took him to Computer Services and gave him his login credentials. In fact, he claimed to have seen some of my data on the system, including my A-level results.
I hadn’t talked about these details on the internet, and I didn’t know it was information that anyone could easily access. So I was pretty convinced and excited for him. But I told him we should focus on getting him on his flight first and get into the nitty-gritty later.
Then what happened?
Ebuka’s “flight” was for 10:55 pm, so there was no way he was going to make it. Three hours had passed before he texted me again. He had obviously missed the flight; he was tired and wanted to rest.
He said he wanted to book the next flight, which would be in another 24 hours. However, he had been calling his dad’s PA to get on it, because he needed to book it in the next few hours, and the PA wasn’t picking up.
He started to get in a mood, and I felt bad. Then he said he would book the flight himself, but he needed more funds for the taxi and train to Heathrow Airport. He only had ￡600 and needed some extra money. That’s when I offered to send him exactly ￡168, and he could refund me when he finally contacted this PA person. I asked my aunt in the UK; she sent him the money.
After I sent the money, he only replied to four other texts before he went offline. I didn’t hear from him for days after that. I knew Virgin didn’t do stopovers, so I wondered what happened to him.
Did he ghost you?
For a bit. But I started looking for a way to reach him. I registered everything Ebuka told me, and he had mentioned his sister’s name once, so I went to find her on IG. Then I texted her, “Hi, I’m Stephanie. Ebuka, and I are in a situation, and I want to confirm if he’s in Lagos.” Her reply was something along the lines of, “Huh? Ebuka is in London and hasn’t been in Lagos for a year.”
It stung. She also said something like, “Forget about Ebuka.” Days later, Ebuka finally reached out to me, claiming he had been in Lagos for a bit but didn’t have a sim, so he had to ask to use his cousin’s hotspot. I even spoke to this “cousin”. They went on to cook up one elaborate story about how they’d been trying to send my money to me. And I believed it because there was another person involved.
Ebuka then told me he would come to my house for the Sallah celebration in a few days. I told him my entire family was aware and expecting him. He gave a sob story about how he was trying to get my money before showing his face at my place. It made sense at the time, so I extended some grace.
On Whatsapp, he sent me a snap with that Lagos filter at the bottom. I asked him why WhatsApp and not Snap, but he gave me the network and sim excuse again. Our communication had dwindled at this point, and I still understood.
He kept complaining about getting lost on the day he was to show up. He even gave the “driver” the phone to speak to me. I even had to go out to the junction to wait for him; I called and called, but he didn’t pick up. I had to find my way back home. I was embarrassed and disappointed.
Sorry about that.
The next day, he sold me some story about the driver. At this point, I was starting to detach. So I said, “Ebuka, forget the money. I just need to see you.” I mean, he was my man. Or so I thought. He accepted. The day after that, I drove to MKO to see him, and we sat in the car.
He started apologising and saying he had kissed a girl the day before.
To rile you up?
Exactly. I was so pissed. You owe your babe and still dare to kiss another girl? I told him just to give me my money, and we could kill whatever we had. That was when he said he had already sent it, via Western Union. He showed me a receipt that looked legit. And he promised me that I would get it in 1 to 2 days.
I waited five days for my money before I asked him again. Ebuka said he didn’t know what was happening, so I went to Western Union to inquire. The cashier was so confused and couldn’t determine the cause of the hold-up.
At this point, my aunt had also told my mum, and it was starting to become a family issue. So she said she would go herself. When my mum came, she said the reference number wasn’t popping up. Someone told her it could be a scam.
This is bonkers.
Indeed. I went to Ebuka, and I asked him what was going on. He said he had no clue and would send it via GTBank instead. But instead of a credit alert, I received a credit of ₦50k and a debit alert of the same amount. To this day, I still don’t know how he did that.
I contacted him again, and as usual, he pretended to be bothered. This time, he gave me a blank cheque and asked me to fill in any amount. This cheque, as you may have already guessed, bounced.
At this point, I was losing it. Ebuka told me to come over, and he still sweet-talked me into kissing him. We went to the mall, and he gave me cash of ₦10k to pay for the stuff I bought. I was there blushing that my man was stepping up.
Then he said he would pay me in cash and bring it the next night. I slept in my parent’s room, where I could see the street. At 2 am, he called me, and I declined it so the call wouldn’t wake anyone up. I texted him all night and kept looking out the window, but there was no car. No response. Nothing.
At 11 am, he calls and starts going off on me. He kept insulting me o, saying he drove all the way to mine, and I ignored him. He was gaslighting me until I was sad and apologising. He said he would not pay me because I was not serious. I pleaded with him, but he ignored me.
This seems like a bad dream.
My cousin noticed my mood. She already knew the backstory, so she sat me down and said, “Stephanie, this guy is playing with you. You need to do something about it.” She was right.
The thing about liars is that sometimes they slip up. I remembered he had mentioned his mum once, so I found his mum on Facebook and bombarded her with messages and screenshots. I asked her to help me beg her son to pay me back.
In response, this woman replied, “Can you please call Ebuka and sort it out with him, as I wasn’t there when you both were doing your transaction.” You could just tell that it wasn’t her first rodeo. But the lack of empathy still fazed me.
I threatened to send the military to their house in MKO. That was when I learnt that it wasn’t even theirs. All of it was a lie. So I threatened to report to her job that she was a scammer, alongside her son. That got her scared, so she succumbed and sent my money. Seeing as it wasn’t a lot.
I know right. But I noticed the money was short ₦10k. When I asked Ebuka, he said he removed the ₦10k he gave me at the mall. But at least I got my money back. I asked around, and as it turned out, he was well-known in the streets for doing stuff like that.
What lessons did you learn from the unfortunate episode?
People see the posts you make online, and they all have different motives. So be careful what you put out there because it could be used to hurt you at any time. Another lesson I have had to learn the hard way is not to give out money you don’t have or cannot afford to lose.
The most important thing I took away from all of this is: Self-love is vital. Not loving yourself leaves you vulnerable. People will only treat you how you treat yourself.