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 29-year-old professional who lost her japa savings to a fraudulent investment platform. She tells us about how it happened and the lessons she learnt from the experience.
Could you tell me about your money mistake?
A while back, I stumbled upon this investment firm on Facebook. It was being run by a popular person, and they helped people invest in farming by pooling funds together and sharing the profits.
The promised return was 3% interest every month for about six months. It seemed interesting enough, so many of us invested our funds. Six months later, however, we couldn’t get the interest or our funds.
Huh? What happened?
We weren’t sure. Whenever we called them, they’d come up with excuses for the delay, like their accountant not being around. It seemed believable because they were still responding to calls and other inquiries.
After a while, they even started paying out some people, including those I had introduced to the firm for a referral bonus.
How about your funds?
Well, they’d started a real estate investment arm around the payout period of the agricultural investment. I’m not sure what I was thinking, but when they called and asked if I wanted my funds reinvested in the real estate firm, I agreed.
I know how it sounds, but I just assumed the problem with the agric investment arm of the company was bad management, and I thought the real estate investment firm, being under new management, would do better. They also won some of us over by being caring and providing regular updates and information, so we believed this real estate arm could manage our funds and payments better.
The real estate investment was supposed to run for about nine months, and they assured us it was already in progress. At that time, I was in my first year of working, and fortunately, my workplace provided me with a free apartment for a year, so my rent was covered.
The prospect of earning even more dividends from the investment was attractive, especially since I was also considering japa. I had plans in place for how much I would get in returns from the investment and how much extra money I needed to reach my goal. What a joke!
That doesn’t sound good.
Haha, yeah, because it wasn’t. My brother also trusted me with his money, thinking I could hold onto it until he needed it. I figured instead of leaving it in my account, I could invest it with them and get the first payout in a few months. So, I added it to my investment and I had ₦700,000 with them in total with hopes to get ₦923,000 in return.
So, what happened?
After a few months, we started hearing stories again. As usual, they started out as believable stories, server issues and bank transfer downtime. We even made excuses for them and were patient because the firm’s owner had connections to high-profile individuals based on his social media pictures.
As time passed, it became clear that we had been scammed. It was also around that time we discovered the founder had a history of scamming others with investment platforms.
He’d also become unreachable, and investors who went to their office to demand their refunds were being arrested. Unfortunately, most of the office locations had already been sold to new owners.
What were you doing during all of this?
I was totally confused, and things turned messy really quickly. Some of us took the matter to the police station in Alagbon, and they arrested the founder. But he was released in hours, and we figured someone high up had come through for him.
Many of the investors also formed groups on telegram to raise money for legal fees to sue the investor, but they ended up using that to scam even more people. I didn’t contribute money to any of these because I didn’t even have the money to do so. So I just accepted my losses and kept it moving.
This whole ordeal was my first investment experience, so it hurt even more. I could’ve spent all that money on myself, and I would’ve known, at least, that I spent it on myself. Adding to the stress, it was time for me to move out from the free apartment, and I needed to refund my brother’s money, but I had invested all my money in the platform.
How did you manage that?
Well, I had to be honest with my brother. Thankfully, he came through for me and helped me secure a loan from his work cooperative. With that money, I was able to rent an apartment and start putting aside some money to pay it back monthly. Since then, I’ve been relying on loans and gifts from my brother to make ends meet.
By December, things should’ve stabilised because I should be done with the monthly payments for the cooperative society loan and the loans from my brother.
What lesson did you learn from this experience?
I learnt to be more careful with my money, especially with strangers.