Tackling the Menace of Assistance Fraud

Fake or Fact

By Abdulkabir Olatunji

At some point in time, every individual will need some sort of assistance and because money is the primary means of giving and receiving value, financial assistance is something that people will often need – even the super rich for different reasons.

Now, as a socially conscious individual you might be inclined to provide financial assistance to people with varying needs be-it for health, feeding, education, shelter or even transportation. This is part of the moral code most people operate with. It is normal and expected to help others in need if and when you can. However, like many other concepts and institutions created by human beings, philanthropy or charity (if you like) is subject to abuse. In Nigeria, where a large and still growing part of the population is focused on making money from different kinds of fraud you can think-of like Internet scams, advanced fee fraud aka “419”, and contract scam, there is a widespread abuse of this human nature to be charitable.

You see these assistance fraudsters in different places – ATM galleries, eateries, shopping malls, offices, shops, highways and on public transport. Their stories usually carry some element of misfortune or urgency – “give them money or their child will die in the hospital”, “they need money to get home after being stranded” and of course, the almost ubiquitous “urgent N2k”. These fraudsters have become addicted to what they see as “free money” and won’t stop unless discovered and apprehended for prosecution.

The greatest problem this situation creates is a lack of trust and suspicion of people who genuinely need help because over time, individuals are skeptical about their stories. This means sometimes, people are left to their fate even when they or their loved ones genuinely need financial assistance. It is a sad reality and we as a society need to find ways to curb this trend. One practical way is to expose such people by reporting to security agencies using their public complaints media, using apps like Trucaller to identify phone numbers used by such fraudsters and reporting their accounts used for fraud to the administrators of the social media platforms they might be using. It is also important to conduct due diligence on requests for assistance especially those that can easily be verified in a hospital or educational institution depending on the claims of the potential beneficiary of assistance. The government through its different agencies should make it easier for people to report such fraudsters in an efficient and safe manner whereby the security of complainants is not compromised.

Charitable giving is part of what makes societies better. However, it should not become a means for widespread fraud. All attempts and efforts to prevent this are welcome and should be made a point of priority so that those who desperately need help can get it as at when due.