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Beware, Facebook accounts posing as Nigeria Customs Service to advertise auctions are out to scam you

IN SHORT: Some Facebook accounts are promoting auction sales in the name of the Nigeria Customs Service. But the government agency told Africa Check these are impersonators and warned users and buyers to beware.

“The Nigeria Customs Service has announced the auction of impounded 3200 overtime Cargos, Bags of rice and Containers. Call us for Purchase 08160894831,” reads a post by the Facebook page Nigeria Customs Auction.

The post, published on 6 October 2023, includes a video showing the exterior and interior of a car, presumably as part of the seized cargo. The video also features the same phone number as in the caption.

The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) is responsible for collecting and accounting for revenue, preventing and suppressing smuggling of goods into and out of the country.

There have been reports of the agency auctioning items. In Sokoto, in the northwest of the country, the government agency auctioned 1,824 cartons of foreign bananas seized en route between Ghana and the Niger Republic in November. In Ogun state in southwestern Nigeria, the NCS auctioned vehicles in March. 

Similar posts, claiming to publicise customs auctions, can be found  here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

But are these auctions real?


Suspicious Facebook page

Africa Check noticed several suspicious signs. First, the page is called Nigeria Customs Auction and has just four followers. The verified Nigeria Customs Service handle has over 480,000 followers, showing a significant difference in terms of reach.

Second, the page in question was created on 6 October 2023, while the real page was created in September 2014. The NCS does not have a Facebook page dedicated to the auction of confiscated items.

Another red flag is the request in the posts to “call us for purchase”. An auction is a type of sale, usually open to the public, where the item goes to the highest bidder.

Lastly, the contact details found on the suspicious page are different from those listed on the official Facebook account. 

‘Scam alert,’ says customs agency

On the official NCS page, the government agency posted a video on 4 November 2023 to warn users that scammers were impersonating the agency to offer jobs and auction slots. In the video the NCS says that “the Nigeria Custom Service does not sell forms online, offer appointments or auction sales via social media platforms”.

The NCS also issued a press statement later in November about social media users falsely claiming to represent it. The customs agency emphasised that it followed a standard operating procedure for the disposal of all seized and overtime goods, in accordance with the Nigeria Customs Service Act of 2023.

The statement reads in part: “For accurate and updated details about the Nigeria Customs Service and its operations, we strongly encourage the public to verify information exclusively through the official NCS website.”

The NCS also posted the website used to auction items and its social media pages.

Africa Check spoke to a representative of the agency who confirmed the pages impersonating the NCS were fake. “Visit the official website for any information about our auctions,” the representative said.

To help protect yourself against online scams, read our guide to Facebook scams and how to spot them.

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