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My Money Mistake: I Was Scammed By Someone Pretending To Be My Uncle

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 product manager who got scammed by an impersonator pretending to be his uncle. He tells us about how he was scammed by an impersonator and how he realised was being scammed.

Could you tell me about your money mistake?

A while ago, I received a call from a U.S. phone number claiming to be my uncle. He told me he had sent some items to Nigeria through his friend, and that the shipment included an envelope containing $2,000. He then asked me to reach out to his contact person in Nigeria to arrange for the delivery of the package to me.

This feels very familiar.

To be fair, I took him seriously because he introduced himself as my uncle and made a believable impression. Also, I didn’t have my uncle’s direct phone number because we’d only spoken on the phone about three times in my lifetime. I only knew him because my mum often mentioned his name, and he would usually send us items from the U.S.

What happened next?

I contacted the person my supposed uncle had told me to reach out to, but he informed me that he had left Lagos for Benue. He gave me a code to call a transport company in Lagos, who had the package. They said it was urgent and would cost ₦‎70k to deliver. I quickly sent the money, and he confirmed he was on his way to the airport to ship it to me.

A while after, he called me to say he ran into issues at the airport with customs officials, who were requesting papers for the package. He advised me to speak to the supposed customs officer as he was becoming hostile. 

The customs officer told me he could help me solve the issue with ₦‎200k. I called my uncle, who apologised and recommended I send the money since the $2,000 in the package could cover the expenses.

Of course.

I wasn’t in urgent need of the $2,000 or shoes or whatever else could’ve been in the package, so I was going to have them just deliver it to a family member in Lagos

So I called the customs officer again, and he started yelling, insisting that the least he could do was ₦‎90k. But it didn’t make sense to me that he was asking for custom duties on passenger luggage that had been retrieved from the plane and customs has no business with domestic cargo. 

We argued about it a bit, then he got angry and threatened to take it back to ₦‎100k if I continued to question him. That was when I decided to accept my L, and I knew I’d been scammed.

Damn. Sorry, man.

You wouldn’t believe that the ‘uncle’ still calls me every now and then since it happened.

To do what?

I don’t know. I don’t pick the calls.

How did you feel after discovering you’d been scammed?

I’ve received random calls like that before, and I could smell the scam right on the call, but this one was a little too close to home, I guess. Still, I feel like I should’ve been quicker to think through what was going on.

What made you realise this was a scam?

I think it was the threats that tipped me off. A supposed customs officer was threatening me, which didn’t make sense. When that realisation hit, I just started rethinking the whole thing. 

I knew that necessary documentation would have been required for it to depart from where it came from, and since it was brought in as passenger luggage, it would still have the airport tag. That just stopped me in my tracks. Otherwise, I would’ve made the payment. 

Did you try to do anything?

Yes, I immediately contacted my bank, but they informed me that the money had already been withdrawn from my account. I pleaded with them to escalate the matter and they promised to investigate, but suggested that I should also contact EFCC for a quicker resolution. Unfortunately, I have not received any update from them till date.

You tried contacting EFCC?

I sent them an email, but they didn’t respond. I was actually sad that nobody was willing to help. 

Would you say you learnt anything from the experience?

I’m more sceptical now, I think. Anytime money is involved now, I’m more calculated, even when nothing is being done to me. 

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