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 26-year-old who lost his money to a ponzi scheme. He tells us about how it happened, how he dealt with the consequences, and how that has influenced his approach to investment.
Could you tell me about your money mistake?
Some years ago, during my final year as an undergraduate student, I came across an “investment company” that promised incredibly high interest rates, ranging from 30% to 60%.
Red flag number one.
Seriously. After receiving my first payout, I got an opportunity to work with them on contract for data collection and management. I even met the founder physically.
I encouraged many other people to join, including my cousin and many of my colleagues in school. Unfortunately, the founder ran away with the funds and my cousin lost around ₦1.3 million. I lost ₦600k, a portion of which was supposed to be for my tuition fees.
That’s a lot of money.
Yeah, my cousin was saving towards travelling out of the country. I had also saved up some of my income from taking side gigs as a freelance developer.
I’m sorry about that. Did you suspect this would happen?
The investment company was presented in a way that made it difficult for anyone to doubt its legitimacy. They claimed to invest the funds in Nigerian industries like transportation and agriculture.
The founder was also easily accessible, and he would respond to inquiries on Whatsapp and have regular video calls with the users of the platform.
Do you remember how it crashed?
We usually receive our payouts every 30 days, but this time, after the 30-day timeline, we received a voice note on the group explaining that there was a delay with payouts and we needed to be patient.
This made many people begin to panic. Some of those who invested because of me began calling me, and I had to reassure them that everything was okay. I also reached out to the founder directly, and he mentioned that he travelled out of the country and had just returned, but he would ensure everything went smoothly.
Famous last words.
At the time, people who came in through me had invested over ₦14 million, and many of them invested in it simply because I gave them my word. So I kept trying to encourage them. We could see our earnings on the website, but we couldn’t withdraw it.
The founder kept pushing the timeline forward – 1 week, 2 weeks, 1 month – until the website completely shut down, and he was unreachable.
I wasn’t even thinking about my own money anymore, but about the money of the people I had invited. Most of them thought I had collaborated with the company to scam them, and it affected my reputation negatively. It got so bad that I couldn’t go to school for a while. Some of them even started threatening me.
How did you manage this?
I used some of my savings and borrowed money from a friend to refund those who were threatening me. Thankfully, most of those people were students, so it wasn’t a lot of money. Some of them still asked for their interest.
After I was done with school, I had to pay back a part of my cousin’s investment. So I didn’t just lose your money to the investment scheme, I also had to pay back some other people
Till today, some people still reach out to me to ask if those guys are back with their money.
What did you learn from that experience?
I learnt that companies that offer “investments” with ridiculously high interest rates have proven to be unsustainable. With time, they all collapse. So I no longer invest in companies that offer any excessively high interest rate.
I’ve taken a smarter approach to investment by using secure platforms with a decent interest rate, and one of them is PiggyVest.