The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has cracked down on a gang of fraudsters who specialise in exploiting personal data of foreign-based Nigerians to defraud their friends and relations back home.
Four of the gang-members – ‘Hon.’ Oladipupo Adebayo, Bimbo Bilewu, Ibrahim Odunayo and Oyeleye Oluwatosin – are currently in the EFCC custody. Others are still at large.
The Commission had launched a manhunt on the suspects after receiving a petition from one Prof Godwin Ekhaguere.
The professor of Mathematics, who retired from the University of Ibadan, alleged in the petition that the gang defrauded him of N565,500. He also alleged that the fraudsters made him to part with MTN recharge vouchers worth N36,000 in the deal.
According to him, he only realised that he had been scammed after he managed to reach his friends on the phone, who denied sending anyone to him. That prompted the petition.
It was in the course of investigating the allegations that the Commission arrested Bilewu at an ATM point where he went to cash the money sent to him by one Pastor Osuji.
Incidentally, Osuji was also a victim of a crime similar to that which the Commission was investigating.
419 gang’s modus operandi
The gang’s patterns of operation are similar in nature. One of them would call their would-be victim with the impression that he was an old-time friend, now based abroad. He would claim that he has a mouth-watering gift to be sent through someone who is allegedly coming home for an event.
The victim would then be handed over to the ‘home-bound’ member. He would be the one to make all sorts of requests ostensibly to clear some obstacles to delivering the consignments from the foreign-based ‘relation’ or ‘friend’, as the case may be.
Investigations into the gang’s operations revealed that they have a mobile application used in making a local number appear foreign to the call recipient.
They also use unregistered SIM cards to make their calls in order to blur out chances of tracing their real identities.
Another trick to evade arrest, according to investigations, was to open bank accounts in other people’s names and take over the ATM cards from them. They direct their victims to pay into such accounts and use the ATM cards to withdraw the cash.
The suspects have owned up to the allegations against them, and are now helping the Commission in further investigations into crimes of similar nature.