If you have been in contact with some supposed officials of the Nigeria Customs Service who claim to be auctioning impounded vehicles on Facebook, then you are a potential victim of Internet scam.
Investigations by our correspondent reveal that some Internet fraudsters have created some 35 Facebook pages on which they offer choice cars to members of the public at ridiculous prices.
Some of the fake Facebook accounts opened in the name of the NCS usually carry the emblem of the service, while others bear the photograph of its Comptroller-General, Dikko Abdullahi. Also, the pictures of different brands of vehicles purported to be up for auction are put on the pages to attract buyers.
On one of the fake pages, the scammer(s) posted pictures of the different sides, interiors as well as bonnets of the vehicles said to be up for auctions.
On the timeline of one of the scam Facebook accounts, a second hand Toyota Sienna mini-bus, which sells for over N1m, is being offered to buyers at N300,000, while a Toyota Camry (pencil light), which has a market value of about N850,000, was offered for between N200,000 and N250,000.
The accounts give users no indication that they are fake, as scammers operating them have perfected their scheme by asking people to come along with valid documents such as passport, driving licence and passport photographs.
In their various status updates, telephone numbers, e-mail addresses and other contact information of supposed officials of the agency are displayed on the pages to give some credibility to this illicit trade.
A message on one of the fake accounts reads, “Your life time opportunity is here again. The NCS is currently giving out impounded vehicles at a cheaper rate, at affordable auction prices. First hand Tokunbo cars, which have never been used in Nigeria.
“These cars were seized as a result of illegal importation into the country. They are readily available in give-away prices. If you are interested in buying a first-hand cars(sic) at a very cheaper rate, contact officer Bayomi Sanusi on 07061874***.’’
When a search was conducted on the website of the NCS, www.customs.gov.ng, it was observed that there were no links or indications that it was operating any social media accounts.
But in a telephone chat with our correspondent, the spokesperson of the NCS, Mr. Wale Adeniyi, confirmed to our correspondent that the agency has yet to have any presence on social media.
Adeniyi also explained that the agency is aware that some fraudsters were using the identity of the NCS as well as that of its boss to fleece unsuspecting buyers.
He said though the agency conducts auction sales of impounded vehicles regularly, it does not do so on Facebook or any other social network sites.
He added, “We are aware of the activities of these fraudsters who use the name of the NCS on Facebook to defraud members of the public. For the avoidance of doubt, the NCS does not conduct any auctions on Facebook or on any other social media platform.
“We have been doing a lot of campaign and sensitisation and we are also trying to employ more effective ways to scuttle the activities of these fraudsters.’’
Adeniyi, who lamented that the development was assuming a worrisome dimension, said the agency would do everything possible to arrest and bring those behind the Facebook scams to book.
“We are monitoring the situation and so far we have been able to apprehend 11 of such Facebook scammers through our sting operations and we are on the lookout for those who are on their heels.
“Those arrested will be prosecuted. However, such arrests have not deterred these fraudsters from carrying on with their criminal activities and that is why we are advising members of the public to be wary of their antics,’’ Adeniyi added.
When quizzed on why the NCS had yet to have a presence on any of the popular social network sites, which could, at least, serve as a defensive mechanism to curtail the activities of the fraudsters, Adeniyi said the process was underway.
He said, “The NCS High Command is currently drawing up a social media policy that will define the modus operandi of our new media engagement as well as define the gatekeepers, so as to prevent its misuse. As soon as we come up with those policy guidelines, we will register our presence on social media.’’