My Money Mistake is a weekly PiggyVest series that explores the worst money mistakes real Nigerians have made, and the lessons they learnt from it.
For this week’s episode of My Money Mistake, we spoke to a 41-year-old paint supplier who was defamed by a loan app. He shares his experience using loan apps and how the defamation affected his business.
Could you tell me about your money mistake?
In August 2022, I borrowed money from a loan app to resolve some personal issues while waiting for payment for some jobs. I couldn’t repay my debt within the deadline I was given, so they started spreading lies about me to my contacts.
How much did you loan from the app?
₦10,000. I had paid them ₦7,000 before the deadline, but I couldn’t pay the balance due to a delay in receiving the money I was expecting. They started threatening me a day before the deadline, and I requested an extension. They agreed on the condition that I pay ₦5,000 as the balance, and I agreed.
On the evening of the deadline, they still went ahead to send out defamatory messages to my contacts, even though I was still picking their calls and responding to their messages. They sent out messages claiming that my family was a criminal group, and I was the leader.
I’m sorry about this. How did this affect you?
The defamation had a significant impact on my family and my work. My dad called me all the way from Kwara State to ask about it. The incident even caused a rift between my sister and I; she thinks I tarnished the image of the family. Even my brother in the US called me about it. I tried to explain to them that I wasn’t in any major financial debt, and it was just an urgent need I thought I could solve on my own.
I also deal with a lot of clients, and they are on my contact list. When they received the defamatory messages, some of them called to question me about it, and many of them were hesitant to give me contracts. Some of them who had ongoing projects with me had to pause their projects. These are contracts that were worth about ₦900,000.
The suppliers who sell the materials I use in manufacturing my paint were also scared of dealing with me because they were worried about being associated with a criminal. I’m rarely at home because I’m always in the middle of jobs, but after it happened, I was jobless for almost two months. Even my pastor called me and preached about it in church.
How were you able to deal with everything?
After the messages started going round, I had to compose another message and send it around to warn my friends and clients of the dubious message being sent around about me.
I explained that I had mistakenly revealed my identity to scammers, and they had been reaching out to my contacts to spread false information about me.
Did it work?
It helped me recover some of my clients, but not a lot of them. If I had 50 clients, the process helped me recover only 6 of them back.
Has the loan app stopped reaching out?
Yes, but I had to threaten them too. I reached out to them and demanded legal proof of their operations and asked them to show me where their office is so we could settle the matter face to face. It was either that or they sent a rejoinder to let them know that the information they sent earlier was not true.
They eventually stopped calling and reaching out to people. If they want the balance now, I have it, but they will have to follow my policy.
Any improvement to business since then?
Unfortunately, my business has not been the same since then. I’m no longer the contractor I used to be. I used to be a contractor who could depend on regular contracts from people, but now my reputation has been tarnished.
Who wants to offer ₦1 million to someone they think is a criminal? I had to start taking lesser-paying jobs to keep income flowing. I even had to let go of some of my workers and started doing many things myself to manage my profit. It feels like I fell from level 90 to 40.
What did you learn from that experience?
When I started taking loans, I also introduced a lot of people to it. So when this thing happened, I immediately reached out to those people to apologise for introducing them to loan apps and encouraged them to stop. I also gave them tips on how to manage the threats if they come their way.
Since then, I have stopped using loan apps completely. I don’t go near them again. In fact, I know someone who took his own life because he was being defamed by loan apps, and he wasn’t even owing them up to ₦30,000. It’s a very serious issue. Now, I’m sharing my story to prevent more people from having the same experience as me.