According to a report by journalist Olakunle Olafioye,
Mrs. Olajumoke Adewole, a nursing mother, was relaxing with her baby on Saturday, September 3, 2016 when her housemaid, Esther informed her she was set for her next assignment of the day. The 22-year-old went straight for her mistress’s bag to pick the ATM card. Esther needed not to be reminded of the card’s Personal Identification Number (PIN). Her mistress sometimes had to rely on her (Esther) to recall the PIN whenever she forgot the code.
Esther was to withdraw the sum of N30,000 for her mistress at a branch of one of the banks around Kollington Bus Stop (bank’s name withheld) in Alagbado area of Lagos State from their Ilapo residence, a distance of about 10 minutes.
Moments later, Mrs. Adewole received two separate debit alerts indicating that Esther had withdrawn the sum of N30,000 from her bank account as she was instructed.
But confusion and trepidation would later set in for the mother of three. More than an hour after she received the debit alerts, her maid failed to return home.
“My fear was compounded when repeated calls to her mobile line indicated that it had been switched off,” she recalled.
According to her, a few people who heard the news insinuated the young lady might have escaped with the money. “But I was convinced that Esther wouldn’t do such a thing. In fact, she was literally in charge of the account: at my instructions she would withdraw money with my ATM card to buy things we needed at home ranging from foodstuffs to paying my children’s school fees. So I didn’t believe Esther would run away because of N30,000,” she said.
Amid her confusion, Mrs. Adewole received a call from a stranger who told her Esther was found around Ifo. “I couldn’t fathom what she could have gone to do at Ifo after withdrawing the money at Kola. My husband had returned home when the call came so we drove straight to Ilepa, where we eventually found her,” she said.
Esther’s account on how she found herself at Ilepa in Ifo, Ogun State was confounding. “I remember I met a few people who came to use the ATM on queue and after a few minutes it was my turn to use the machine. I made two withdrawals – the first, a N20,000 withdrawal, and the second, N10,000. That’s everything I can remember except that I later found myself in a strange place without the money and the ATM card as well as my phone,” she recalled.
Esther was just one of the recent victims of voodoo fraudsters who lurk around banks to defraud unsuspecting bank customers without attracting the attention of security personnel. Although their modes of operation differ, findings by Sunday Sun clearly show that the perpetrators of this crime employ juju in their operations.
A drama of similar spectacle played out at Oshodi Bus Stop on Friday May 6, 2016 when a woman lost the money she was taking to the bank, in a mysterious circumstance.
The woman, who simply identified herself as Comfort, Sunday Sun gathered, was heading to the branch of a new generation bank (name withheld) in the area when a woman curiously touched the paper bag containing the money she was meant to deposit in the bank.
The woman, who claimed to be a staff of Groveg Security Company located within the premises of the Nigeria Armed Forces Resettlement Centre, NAFRC, Oshodi, said the money, a sum of N30,000, was given to her by the manager of the company, to deposit in the company’s account.
Sunday Sun’s correspondent, who was at the scene of the incident, saw the lady being chased away by a team of policemen from Akinpelu Police Station, when she approached them for help.
Narrating her ordeal to passersby, who gathered round her, the woman said amid tears: “The money was given to me by my boss to deposit in a bank. But when I got to that point, one fat woman approached me and touched me. Immediately she did that she went into the bank.
Moments later, I checked the paper bag containing the money only to discover that everything in the bag had turned to pieces of papers.”
But a trader, who claimed to have witnessed the scene when the woman touched the victim, said the woman made a u-turn after she discovered that her victim had gone and then boarded a bus immediately.
Men are not immune from this new trend of crime as a couple of them claimed to have fallen victims in the recent past. One of them is Mr. Adeniyi Aremu, a civil servant who recounted his ordeal in the hand of a fraudster who pretended to be a bank customer in need of N500 notes in exchange for the N1000 notes he had on him. “I can’t correctly recall the actual date now but I still remember that it was in the build up to last year’s general election,” he began.
“It happened at a branch of (bank name withheld) at Adealu, Iyana-Ipaja. I was at the bank to make a withdrawal of N50, 000 across the counter and I was paid with N500 notes. So I begged the lady who attended to me to change the money to N1000 notes because I felt it would make my pocket to be bulky but she declined on the grounds that she only had N500 notes to pay out to customers.
“As I made to move out of the bank, a middle-aged man who, possibly had overheard my conversation with the lady, approached me and requested me to give him the N500 notes in exchange for N1000, which I gladly obliged.
“He handed the N1000 notes, which he brought from his pocket to me but after counting the money, I discovered it was 46 pieces instead of 50 pieces. I told him the money wasn’t complete but he insisted it was complete. So I had to recount money which was still short of N4000.
“At that point I became angry and handed the money back to him but after recounting he discovered it was short of N4000. He later dipped his hand into his pocket and added the remaining four pieces of N1,000 notes. I felt there was no need recounting the money so I gave him the N500 notes I had.
“Surprisingly, the money was short of N20,000 when I got home and recounted it. I couldn’t really explain how it happened, I still find it difficult to explain,” he said.
Many Nigerians who had lost their money in such mysterious circumstance have often had to complain over the seeming helplessness of the banks, which are quick to absolve themselves of any blame in their customers’ misfortune. But Mr. Ori Adeyemo, a forensic accountant insists that the banks cannot be completely exonerated from this new trend of crime.
“The banks owe their customers the duty of ridding banking premises off idle individuals lurking around their premises with the intention of defrauding people. Banks are equipped with CCTV so they should be able to monitor and flush out people with suspicious moves pretending to be customers,” he said.
Adeyemo while admitting the relative difficulty banks may face in tackling this dimension of fraudulent practice advised bank customers on the need to be vigilant within and outside banking hall and avoid people who may be trying to be unnecessarily friendly while they are in the bank for financial transactions.
A risk manager, Mr. Samuel Ogbeide said while it may be difficult to prevent all manners of frauds within and outside banking premises, bank customers can mitigate their losses by desisting from the temptation of having to carry huge cash.
“Bank customers should take advantage of cashless policy. Rather than carry huge cash, customers can resort to fund transfer or make use of POS.
In addition to this, when transacting business in banks that are close to main roads, one should be careful about the vehicle one boards. It is advisable to avoid taking vehicles or motorcycles that are parked around banks’ vicinities as some of them may be occupied by criminals,” Ogbeide warned.
He added, “It is also important that customers avoid going to the bank with big bags as these may attract the prying eyes of people of questionable intentions.”