Six men who specialised in stealing phones/sim cards and using them to hack the owners’ bank accounts yesterday narrated their mode of operation.
Nwanze Ifeanyi, 27, Martin Achi, 27, Solomon Dike, 31, Muritala Mohammed alias Swallow, Ali Hassan, 27, and Shamson Mustapha, 25, were paraded at the Lagos State Police Command Headquarters in Ikeja,.
They said three of them were responsible for stealing phones and sim cards, which they handed over to Swallow, the gang leader.
In an interview with reporters, Mohammed said he normally sent short codes to the service providers through the stolen sim cards to generate the Bank Verification Number (BVN) and account number of the owners.
He said: “Once it is the number registered with the bank, the details will appear on the phone and we would use it to hack into the person’s account. We generate PIN (Personal Identification Number) and do instant transfers from the person’s bank to our accounts. I have been doing this for over eight months now and I have made money from it.
“I have made over N300,000. It’s not true that we have made over a million. It’s not up to that. I used to give the guys who steal the phones and sim cards small change. I used to tell them the thing did not click. I paid the motorcyclist (Dike) N3,000 each time he took them out to steal phones.
“But I usually gave 30 percent of the amount transferred to those who provide their account numbers for that purpose. Everyone knew what was going on except Mustapha. He was not part of the deal. He’s just friend with Hassan.”
Ifeanyi said poverty and joblessness pushed him to join the gang, claiming that most companies in his neighbourhood prefer to employ women.
He said: “I got tired and when Swallow (Mohammed) told us about it, I agreed to it. We don’t use to rob in our area. We live in Okokomaiko but we usually go to Egbeda and Igando axis to steal phones. We hand the sim cards to Mohammed and he’s the one who brings out the bank details and withdraws the money.
“I have been working for him for about three months now and he has never given me a kobo. He always told us that the sim cards were not regisered with the bank and that the deal did not work. I am surprised to hear now that he has been stealing millions from people’s accounts.”
Police Commissioner Imohimi Edgal said the suspects were arrested following reports by Kemi Benson, who lives in Egbeda, that her sister’s phone was stolen on January 20 at their home.
Edgal said: “The victim, in her account, said she went to her service provider for sim card replacement and that immediately she inserted the new sim to her new phone, she started receiving debit alerts.
“She said a total of N1,153,000 was withdrawn from her First City Monument Bank (FCMB) account. There were transfers of money from her account to Ikechukwu Anyaike 1888032010 (FCMB); Oyinuro Victor 00706675464 (Diamond Bank) and Joseph Blessing Benita 2096578968 (UBA).
“Other withdrawals were equally made by VTU. Investigation by Rapid Response Squad (RRS) undercover operatives revealed a syndicate of six young men divided into three groups.
“The first group specialised in robbing residents of their mobile phones and escaping on motorcycle. The second group work on the sim cards using computer applications. They generate the names, account number and BVN of the sim card owner. The retrieved details are used to determine the victim’s account balance and money in the account is transferred into different bank accounts of the third group.
“Two laptops, 10 sim cards, Infinix Hot, a bag and two chargers were recovered from them. They have confessed to the crime and further investigation revealed that the gang transferred N120,000 from Diamond Bank account number 2000050986 belonging to Chima Mbakwe of Iba New Site, Lagos.
“The command uses this opportunity to call on Lagosians, particularly those whose phones were stolen in Okokomaiko, Alaba Rago, Ojo, Iba and Iyana-Iba axis and money illegitimately moved from their accounts to come forward.
“Information at our disposal revealed that a lot of people were robbed at the aforementioned areas”, the Police added.