No one ever appreciates a weighty lump of loan weighing down their heart, but this seems to be far from what Teniola Omolola can wish away at the moment, and this would not have been her lot if an impostor of UBA Bank’s customer chatbot known as Leo had not caused it.
It all started in March, when a cash crunch was biting hard in the country. Omolola desired to renew her DSTV subscription. She did the transaction using the UBA app, but it didn’t go through immediately.
As would anybody, she sought to know why, and so she mailed DSTV, who responded almost immediately. She was told the transaction had not gone through, even though she had received an alert.
Omolola sent a mail to UBA, but five days after, there was no response.
“I got frustrated,” Omolola said.
She “needed to know where the money was”. But it was the period of a cash crunch, so she could not physically go to the UBA to lodge a complaint; hence, she resorted to using the bank’s virtual platform. She sent a mail again.
Two weeks after Omolola exhausted patience waiting for a response to her mails, her worry led her to surfing the bank’s website, and that was where she met Leo.
According to the UBA, Leo is its FinTech chatbot service specially designed to give customers an exciting banking experience. “Banking doesn’t need to be boring,” the bank’s website reads.
Through chatting, Leo helps customers “send money to any bank account, prepaid cards, and any financial institution,” UBA states on its website. However, it appears the bank failed in the sensitisation of its customers on how to identify the company’s licensed Leo.
None of what UBA says of Leo was Omolola’s experience. To the level 12* civil servant, UBA’s Leo is a conduit pipe for fraudulent activities aimed at syphoning life savings of unsuspecting customers.
“I started chatting the number, and the number was chatting with me. It was coming with responses like it was a bank,” Omolola told FIJ.
“But at some point, it said I needed to register with it for me to use its service. Why I did not dispute it was that even to use UBA’s USSD code for the first time, it would ask you to register on it.”
However, even when the chatbot responded that “the details requested will help it to be sure of the person chatting as the true owner of the account,” Omolola became worried over this request for her personal bank details. The suspicion led her to seek assurance.
She contacted the bank again, now through its verified social media platforms. “”Two days after, no response, still.”
On March 27, Omolola then resumed her chat with Leo. But against her thought, that marked the beginning of her ordeal. She provided the details requested, and what followed was shocking.
At about 11:57 pm on Sunday, April 9, 2023, a debit alert to the tune of N200,054 rudely woke Omolola from her sleep. She had done no transaction to warrant such a delayed debit alert. But as she contended with what she could make of the situation over the night, she woke up in the morning to another debit alert of the same amount.
“I logged in to my app to check. Lo and behold, N400,000 was gone. I knew I didn’t do any transaction. Not even late at night or early in the money as such,” she said.
Omolola looked for the bank’s fraud unit contact. This time she got a prompt response.
“The person that spoke to me confirmed that the money had been removed from my account. They said they would lock certain things in my account, and that they would send a mail to First Bank to flag an account. They told me to give them 10 days to investigate the issue,” said Omolola.
However, UBA did not get back to Omolola on the issue for nine weeks.
“Last week, they responded to my call. I asked what the state of the issue was, but the response was very shocking to me,” she said.
According to the mother of three, UBA stated that her money was transferred by a fraudster to a First Bank account, and then moved to a POS.”
FIJ emailed Ramon Nasir, UBA’s Group Head, Media and External Relations, but as of press time on Friday, there was no word from him.
“I was supposed to use the money to pay off a loan and start my business, but none could be done now,” Omolola told FIJ.