I have a wonderful friend, Fawziyya who we call Ziyya, this girl is a full mood, and you can never get bored around her. All the times I worked with her were fun, interesting, educative and interactive. All the girls from Tamale I have met so far are adorable, not to talk of this lady from Tamale who has seen the world, trust me, she is everything you would love to associate with. Ziyya is humble, open minded and crazy. When I say crazy, I mean that girl who will break the ice in a tense meeting room. For a long time, we haven’t been in touch so I had mixed feelings the day I woke up to see a message from her. Mixed feeling because I haven’t heard from her in a while, and also because of the request she asked of me.
It was on Sunday 26th September, 2021, I woke up feeling lethargic, one of the days when you wake up and do not feel like doing anything at all. What I felt that day can be equated to Bruno Mars’ Lazy Song. I was lazying in bed till about 11:00am but at exactly 10:25am I had a message on my business number from a certain number +1(803) 236-1250. There is an automatic response that pops up when you send a message to my business whatsapp, so the message popped up and the sender started sending pleasantries and asked me to send money (GHC 274.00) to a certain Vodafone number 0208674692 registered with the name Gina Opoku and that they would pay back by 12 noon. It appeared I was not responding quickly so they placed a whatsapp call to me which I missed, I tried calling back but they declined the call and texted back that they were busy.
So I sent Ghc 275.00 to the number and took a screenshot for them,
then they made another request that the Gina said she wanted some more money so if I could top up to give them more money so that it totals to Ghc 700.00 but I told them I had only GHC 220.00 left and they said I should send that, they would get the rest from another person. I went back to bed, with hope that I would get my money back by 12 noon. I even forgot about it till Tuesday, 28th September when I needed to do some transactions, I went to text the number and realized that the last message I sent on the Sunday had ticked just once, then I sent a hi which ticked once too. Then I remembered that i could easily reach ‘Ziyya’ on Instagram and i quickly went to text her asking when shed pay back my money.
She immediately called on video and the first thing she said was ‘don’t tell me the scammer had you!’. I didn’t know whether to cry or to laugh but it was obvious that the scammer had scammed me. Yes, I had been scammed by someone pretending to be Fawziyya! Yes, the number that sent me the whatsapp had one of her photos as the display photo (dp) and name. We have not had a whatsapp chat in a very long time, I still had her Ghanaian number which is registered on whatsapp and she has my number too. But for some reason, I thought she had lost my number and probably needed to get in touch with me, the reason she found my business whatsapp which is on display on all social media platforms. I reported to Vodafone, the number has been reported, as for my money, I know I will never get it back (tear drop) but I just need to share this with everyone so that we are careful and not fall victims to this too.
She then told me how other people have called her when they had the same request from the same number, most of them were suspicious and drew her attention, she said she even posted on her Instagram story (instastory), Facebook and whatsapp warning her friends to report any account using her photo and name to request for money. I hadn’t looked at her instastory, facebook or whatsapp and that is how dearly I have to pay for it. Prior to this incident, I had always boasted that no one can ever scam me anytime I hear someone has been scammed. I shared the experience with a few friends and they told me it was the new trick being used by fraudsters to scam unsuspecting people. In as much as I was affected, I can only imagine the trauma she is going through too.
They will use a photo and name of someone you know to text you on whatsapp, and they are mostly contacting business people who have a link to their business number on social media. Or if you have your personal number on any of your social media accounts, then they can easily reach you too. In my case and the case of other people who were contacted using Ziyya’s name and photo, it was through business accounts.
Here are a few things I found out and thought would be useful for me to share
First of all, verify from your friends when you get such requests from a number you don’t know. If they are truly genuine, they will have all the patience to wait for you to do a crosscheck. You can do a video call, or even a voice call, in my case, I tried calling back but the call was declined and they said they were busy hence they couldn’t talk to me. That was a red flag which I ignored.
Secondly, it is very likely to be a scam if the figure they are requesting is not a round figure. First, they
asked me for GHC 274.00, most people I spoke to who have been victims to these fraudsters have confirmed that the figures the fraudsters request are usually not round figures. They also do not request a lot of money at a go. They would ask for a figure that is not so big, then make another request when you send the first figure.
Again, they will be very specific about the time they want to pay back. They do this to gain your trust and get you to believe that they are genuine. They will assure you that they will pay back at a particular time, watch that, of course everyone wants their money to be paid back to them when people borrow their money so once they are able to convince you that they will pay back, you are more likely to give them the money. They will also ask you what number they should pay to, just to convince you that they are genuine. They will also not want to engage you for long hence they will sound very urgent.
Never show your account balance to anyone, especially when you are unsure who they are. I made a big mistake by sharing a screenshot of the remaining balance in my account after sending the money to the number the first time. If not, I would have said I don’t have anymore money to send when the second request came. But of course, to me, I was chatting with Ziyya, so why hide from her.
That is my story, the story of how I was scammed. If there is anything I have learned from this experience, it is that never be too sure of something until you have been through it. I was so sure I would never be a victim of these fraudsters, but they beat my intelligence, just a text and I became gullible and ended up a victim. You never know what their next moves would be, just watch out and take care of your money (that is hard to come by lately).
I also read these few tips on Quora (https://qr.ae/pGJsOE) that If you meet someone online without meeting physically
—don’t send money for ANY REASON (even if the person claims he’s dying)
—don’t give out your bank details for any reason at all (even if they claim they want to send money to you. It’s fraudulent money)
—don’t give out your personal details (SSN, DOB) it can be used for fraudulent applications (loans, grants etc.) CHEERS!!!