POS Of Trouble: How Operators Fall Victims Of Yahoo Boys By Femi Ogunlana

Point of Sale (POS) terminal recently became popular in Nigeria, starting from about 2013 as a terminal where transactions can be made with the use of one’s debit or credit card without having to physically go to a bank. Investopedia defines a Point of Sale (POS) terminal as “a hardware system for processing card payments at retail locations.” Embedded in the hardware is software to read magnetic strips of credit and debit card. The advent of POS terminal is a big relief to bank customers especially in areas far from banks or without physical banks at all, as transactions can now be carried out near their residents or business outlets. Money transfers, deposits, withdrawals and payment of bills (like electricity bills) are some of the services provided at POS terminals, which have become ubiquitous. It has also provided avenue for many to get gainfully engaged either as a main business or as a side hustle. With about N30, 000 to N100, 000 one can acquire a POS machine and register with a service provider.


The business though is faced with certain challenges such as insecurity as the agents are vulnerable to armed robbery attacks; bad network from service providers, which can be frustrating and constitute loss; frauds and so on, it is a lucrative business as agents can make up to N20, 000 a day depending on location and some other factors. Charges made on transactions by customers and commissions by service providers form streams of income to a POS terminal agent.



Vulnerability to yahoo boys and fraudsters


One major risk factor a POS terminal agent can however face is fraud. Not a few of the agents have fallen victims of fraudsters who exploit loopholes in the business to perpetrate their criminal activities. Many of the agents lack prerequisite knowledge of the business and would not seek tips from those who know to guard them against being vulnerable to scammers or yahoo boys.


Kehinde Adejumo, not real name, had a bitter taste of cyber fraud the very day he rolled out the business. He got a shop at Oja’gbo near Terminus Hotel in Ogbomoso. He was enthusiastic that his dream to have a source of extra income has become a reality unknown to him that lurking in a corner was a fraudulent transaction the very first day.


In the evening (it happened last Wednesday), hot exchange of words attracted neighbours to his shop. He had been cleverly duped. According to him, a popular drummer in the neighbourhood had dashed precipitately into his shop to transact business at his POS terminal. He felt a tingle of joy. But it turned out to be a “business” schemed by a con master. The “customer” had approached the agent telling him that someone, “his in-law” wanted to transfer a certain amount of money to him


He thus requested the POS agent to furnish his “creditor” with his bank details; so, he handed over his mobile phone to the agent to speak with his would-be money sender. The operator took the phone and spoke with the person on the other side of the phone, who however “yearned” another story that the “customer” was to transfer a sum of N81, 500 to him that he had the cash in his hand. The fraudster consequently sent his account details to the POS agent, who like a hypnotized person, transferred the amount to the fraudster, without reconfirming. Mission accomplished! He thrust his hand to the “customer’ for the collection of his N81, 500 in addition to the amount of cost of transaction, which is usually N100 on N5, 000 and so, expected charges of N1, 630 on the transaction


It now dawned on the two they had fallen for a well schemed gimmick. The “customer” was expecting to be assisted by the man on the other side of the phone whom he thought was an acquaintance. He had a daughter who is sick in a hospital and so, was seeking financial aid. The fraudster probably knew him or got information about his predicament and so called him asking after his sick daughter with a promise to send him money to help in offsetting hospital bills. It was him who now instructed he find a POS terminal for him to promptly transfer the money into the agent’s account.


That made the Baba to rush to the POS terminal agent, explained to him, and handed over the phone to speak with the would-be “benefactor.” The bait in, the benefactor was able to tell another story that it was the Baba who was to transfer N81, 500 to him, and so pim, transferred the money. Upon demanding for his N81, 500 cash, the customer retorted, “What N81, 500? The man you spoke with is to transfer money to me, I should rather ask for cash from you!” A fast one played on them, arguments ensued and the matter landed in Owode Police Station


The police intervened. After listening to the two parties, they were advised to share the liability 50-50 percent. The police reportedly told them that if they were adamant the alternative is taking the matter to court that would inevitably see the two spending more. “The two are blameworthy,” the police reportedly posited. “If you did not go to him to transact business, the POS agent won’t be in the mess while the agent if he had been more circumspect would not have easily fallen a victim,” it was argued.


A police source confirmed the incident lamenting that there has been an upsurge in cases of duping of POS agents in recent time, “similar cases brought to the station this week are up to ten. But we always advise them to settle it amicably to avoid the rigours and expenses of going to court,” the source disclosed.


The account used by the conman upon inquiries from the bank (names withheld) was discovered it was a non-existent account, the bank allegedly claimed


In another incident, another POS agent at Omosin area, Ogbomoso, narrates her ordeal to ogbomosoinsightonline.com: “It was in the evening when this ‘customer’ strolled to my container to transact business. He said he needed N95, 000 cash. This is good business I thought. So, he ‘transferred’ the N95, 000 with my charges to my account and I received the alert immediately. I handed him the cash. He now said he wanted to buy an item at a nearby market keeping a polythene bag containing an item I did not bother to check with me. I checked my balance as he left to get what he said he wanted to get but my account was not credited. I tried and tried the balance remained unchanged. I became worried but took solace in the fact that he would return to pick his luggage but he never returned. I raised alarm and we checked the luggage he left and we discovered it was sachet water he put inside, which he covered with clothe.” The conman had disappeared into thin air.



Are banks culpable


The question now being asked is: “How can a bank account be opened without BVN?” The much-vaunted Bank Verification Number (BVN) is to forestall frauds like these. Many bank customers faced a lot of rigours to have their BVN created in banks and many are still undergoing stressful processes to have or perfect their BVN or link it with their various bank accounts. Wrong names spellings, wrong arrangement of names, errors in dates of birth and so on are other issues with the BVN. But how does one justify this cumbersome process in the face of persistent cyber frauds perpetrated with bank accounts? BVN meant “to uniquely verify the identity of each bank’s customer for ‘know your customer’ (KYC) purposes,” has woefully failed in this regard, “what it has achieved rather is frustrating bank customers,” a financial expert, Ayodeji Sangodele, noted. “Over one flimsy excuse in respect of BVN, many bank customers are denied access to their money in banks, they are made to publish classified adverts (change of name, confirmation and correction of names etc) in newspapers which come at a cost. Before that is accomplished they are denied access to their funds kept in the bank,” Sangodele stated


Heists like these especially when banks now claim they can’t trace fraudsters even with BVN and NIN (National Identification Number) make nonsense of the importance of these codes and make people think there are unscrupulous bank staff who connive with fraudsters to pull these various cybercrimes off.


A bank official ogbomosoinisghtonline.com spoke with on the matter, who however pleaded anonymity, maintained that a bank account could not be opened without a BVN. Told of the untraceable bank account with which the above fraud was pulled off, he asserted it’s strange promising to look into it.


So, many believe the frauds cannot come off without the connivance of bank officials. People also wonder why kidnappers continue to succeed in their nefarious activities when they rely solely on GSM for demanding ransom from families of victims and instructing them of the payment mode despite the existence of BVN and NIN. “Nigeria is a joke!” Sangodele submitted.


In the meantime, agents of Point of Sale terminals should be armed with tips on how to avoid falling easy preys of cyber fraudsters.


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