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How bank worker, syndicate use stolen SIM cards to steal millions from customers’ account

Details have emerged of how an employee of a bank, one Christian Amechi, allegedly helped fraudsters to steal millions of naira from customers using a string of impersonators.

The bank worker, until his arrest, was serving at the ATM customers service unit, at the bank’s head office in Victoria Island, Lagos. He is currently being quizzed at the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), Lagos State Police Command.

He was arrested last week along with five other members of the syndicate following a report against their nefarious activities by the bank’s top management team. Together, the gang had allegedly removed over N20 million from accounts belonging to various customers.

Those arrested include Oyozoje Joseph, 30; Nelson Matthew Eugari; Henry Omogbemi, 31; and Ene Mona Gabriel.

Luck ran against the banker after the police team arrested the leader of a gang of pickpockets, Akeem Apejoye, in Lagos. In his confession, the street thief told the police how Christian and his gang encouraged him to continue to steal phones.

Akeem alleged that the gang’s interest was mainly the SIM cards of stolen phones. After his arrest, he led police to the homes of those who have been collecting SIM cards from him.

Although he alleged that he was not aware that Christian and his group used the SIM card to remove money from the accounts of customers, he said the group often bought him drinks at joints whenever he ran into them. I used the proceeds I made from pickpocket to open a boutique in Ajegunle. My shop is located along Ojo road,” Akeem told detectives.

Narrating how his gang removed several millions of naira from victims account, Christian said all that was needed for the illegal transfer to succeed is the customers SIM card, stressing that any account holder who does online transaction has his or her Bank Verification Number (BVN) number stored on his or her phone.

“I grew up in Ajegunle and I know almost all members of the gang. I know them on the street, but I was introduced into the business by one of my friends known as Ose boy and DJ. I attended the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, (UNN). I read banking and finance. Osey boy and DJ are referred to as the gang “shooters”. What it means is that they can remove bank secret code numbers, particularly BVN from phones.

“The moment any member of the gang lays his hand on stolen SIM cards, they would dial the USSD number to access the owner’s BVN. That is if the owner does online banking. Once this is done, they would send me the six last digits with which I can access the owner’s account. My job is to ascertain how much is in the account and at times, help transfer money to the person who provided me the information. The gang can then transfer at least N200,000 per transaction into their own account from where they would have easy access to the stolen funds.

“The gang pay me between N10,000 to N15,000 per transfer and I have lost count of how many of such transactions we have done in the past. In all, I have made at least N150,000 and I used part of it to upgrade my certificate.”

Chris, the banker, as he is addressed by members of the gang also revealed that, aside helping the gang to generate information of account holders, he also provided the gang with telephone numbers of victims.

He disclosed in his statement to the police that, some times, the gang would do a welcome back of some of the telephone numbers he generates.

He said: “What happens in this case is that the original owner of the line would not be able to make or receive calls. All calls or text messages on such numbers can only be accessed by the person who did the welcome back. The gang members are staff of telecommunication providers. These set of people are the ones who do the welcome back for the gang on any number to be profiled.”

Lagos State Police Public Relations Officer, Chike Oti, who confirmed the arrest said the gang, transferred money from a victim’s account and that the money was then laundered through a series of bogus names before being moved into their individual account to prevent it being recovered.

He said that one of the victims lost more than N2 million after the gang used a fake welcome back telephone number in the account holder’s name to set up two transfers over three days. A customer with N200 million in the bank only escaped becoming a victim when they were arrested.

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