How Fraudsters Open Accounts With Stolen Utility Bills

There are strong indications that some Nigerian banks do not follow due process when approving the opening of accounts for customers and have therefore unwittingly provided a free platform for fraudsters to transact their business undetected.

This has been traced to bankers’ desperation to attract deposits to retain their jobs or move up the ladder.

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Investigations by The Point revealed that a lawmaker in Kwara State, name withheld, lost N4m to fraudsters, who received the payment through an account in one of the top three Nigerian banks, but could not be traced due to fake account opening documents.

A source close to the ongoing investigations by the Police disclosed that the money was collected in the name of one Komolafe Oladele Samuel, through the account number 0150370966, opened in the said bank.

The Point gathered that the fraudsters also used another account in the name of Olakunle Esther Funmilayo (0035474422), opened in the same bank.

Detectives attached to the State Intelligence Bureau, Kwara State Police Command, it was learnt, unmasked the identity of the suspects through the bank’s records.

Further investigations, however, revealed that the fraudsters had used the electricity bill of one Amaocha Obinna Peter, of Plot 26, Candos Road, Ipaja Lagos, to open the accounts.

A police officer, who pleaded anonymity said, “Obinna was picked up by detectives attached to Ipaja Police Station, who methodically questioned him over the scam. The suspect was detained for days before he was taken to Ilorin, Kwara State Police Command for questioning.

“He (Amaocha) denied any knowledge of the fraud, saying that his ‘NEPA’ bill with which the fraudsters opened the said accounts must have been stolen from his house by the fleeing suspects. He told detectives that he had since reported the loss of the NEPA/IKEDC Bill for the month of March, 2014, to the Police.”

Amaocha was reported to have also writ- ten a letter of concern to the Managing Director of the bank in question, informing him of the fraudulent account, which was being used for criminal activities, without appropriate action by the bank.

“I have, since the development, lodged the matter with the Police. My house address was formerly 6, Tokunbo Junction, Candos, Alimosho. It was with this address that the fraudsters stole my NEPA Bill to purport that they live in my house. I do not have any tenant,” Amaocha was quoted as saying.

Amaocha, if found innocent, is not the only one in this situation as another case of missing utility bill occurred just last week.

Mrs. Ifeoma Arinze, a hairdresser, based in the Iyana-Ipaja area of Lagos State, told The Point that she found out that her electricity bill for the month of July 2015 was missing when she wanted to open an account for her daughter.

“I was alarmed because it had never happened before. Someone just removed the last sheet from the bunch under the meter. I have been advised to report the incident immediately to the Police because this is the latest means adopted by fraudsters to dupe without being traced,” she said.

Experts have, however, faulted the bank in the N4m case, saying that it took the important ‘Know Your Customer’ due diligence for granted.

“The worrying thing is that a simple Know Your Customer fact-finding would have revealed that the fraudsters do not live in the house or address stated in the utility bill,” a letter from the chambers of Imperial Legal stated.

An official of the corporate affairs department of the bank in question told The Point that the development would be professionally investigated. The official pleaded for more time for official response.

“For now, we have forwarded our findings to the office of the Directorate of Public Prosecution for legal advice,” a detective investigating the matter at the Kwara State Police Command told The Point.

Meanwhile, experts have described the trend as a wake-up call to all individuals to be more careful with their utility bills or other identification documents.