The desperation to get into tertiary institutions in Nigeria is being exploited by fraudsters to the detriment of candidates.
It is common for miscreants to defraud candidates who sit for the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) yearly. They deceive them by pretending to either work for the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), the examining body, or know someone who works there, or introduce themselves openly as experts who can hack JAMB websites and upgrade their score.
After going undercover and pretending to be a candidate, who failed the recent and previous exams, this reporter discovered how they swindle candidates, especially those who have taken the examination repeatedly, by giving them false hopes of upgrading their UTME score.
Some swindlers have created pages and groups on Facebook and other social media platforms for this purpose— deceiving candidates who could not score the benchmark to be considered for admission or for their desired course – for a fee.
Victims share their stories
One of the victims who pleaded anonymity narrated how he was duped in 2016 by one scammer who promised to upgrade his UTME score. After the mass failure recorded that year, some candidates had 40 marks added to their scores. However, it was not so for the victim.
He thought the next solution for him was to find a way to claim his 40 marks that were added to the score of others, not knowing the person he called was a scammer who had nothing to do with JAMB.
“It was in 2016 that the incident happened and I scored 168, I thought they will also add 40marks to my score the way they added to some candidates’ results. But, unfortunately, nothing was added. I saw a number on Facebook and decided to call him for an upgrade. He said I should pay N6,000 for the upgrade but he later accepted N2,000. After the money was transferred, he blocked my account immediately.”
Sulyman Adam Opeyemi narrated how he ignorantly introduced his friend, Shafihi Muhammad, to one man he met on WhatsApp who claimed to be an expert at upgrading UTME results.
Shafihi scored 140 in the 2019 UTME – which was too low for admission into most universities. Sulyman was in a WhatsApp group for WAEC and NECO Expo when he saw a post from someone about the upgrade. That was when he introduced Shafihi to the JAMB upgrader.
“I innocently introduced my friend to a scammer. The guy told him that he would do it. We even used my bank account to send the money to his account which was N1,500. But he said we should wait for two days, but after two days, nothing changed in my friend’s portal till now and the number of this person is not going again,” he said.
Another victim, Agbaike Favour, who also wrote the examination last year, said she was threatened to pay N20,000 for an upgrade, which she rejected.
She said she called the man for him to re-upload her WASSCE result on JAMB portal. Then he told her to do the UTME upgrade. When she told him not to bother about her first request anymore, he began to threaten her.
“He told me that I should send N20,000 into his bank account or else he would make me not to gain admission. Unfortunately, I had sent my details to him which included my WAEC result, JAMB registration number and PIN before I realised he wanted to dupe me.” she lamented.
This reporter’s experience with scammers
Pretending to be a candidate, this reporter introduced himself as Abdulrasaq Adebanjo to the first fraudster, informing him he had written the examination without gaining admission after many years. He sought for an upgrade of his UTME score from 132 to 220.
The scammer asked the reporter to send his registration number and profile code and make payment to GTB 0150311182 account after which he would start work on the JAMB score.
When asked how he could be trusted after being paid, he replied: “I would have said I would do it for you before payment, but the thing is, I will need to buy a scratch card and internet charges, and that is the money I am collecting now. I have not even added my own money to it. A scratch card is N5,000 while Internet charges are N1,000. When we are done, you will pay N3,000 for the upgrade.
“And the other assurance is that, when I am done with the upgrade and you do not pay my money, I will reduce the score back,” he threatened.
The scammer, who introduced himself as Mr. Jude working in JAMB office, Abuja, also said he had more than 450 candidates’ details he was working on for upgrade.
However, he called incessantly for his fee until the reporter blocked his number.
Another scammer, who called himself Emma Amechi, told this reporter his fees varied based on how many marks was needed for the upgrade. His account number with FirstBank Plc was 3101491515.
“We can add additional 65 or 100 marks for you. Additional 65 marks will cost you N10,000 while additional 100 marks will cost you N15,000. If you make the payment today, your score will be upgraded in 24 hours, by this time of tomorrow, you will see your results,” he assured.
A third scammer provided a corporate front for his activities. After sending him the wrong registration number and profile code, the scammer sent this message on WhatsApp: “Thank you for contacting Barrister Festus James! Please let us know how we can help you. You are welcome to JAMB UPGRADE INTERNATIONAL”.
James promised to upgrade the reporter’s score from 132 to 230 for N10,000 within five minutes of working on the wrong details.
“That will be N10K to upgrade to 230 the highest score. I will upgrade it for you as I am talking to you and you will be checking it in the next five minutes. Once I am done with it and you confirm it you will balance me up upon seeing your JAMB score,” he said.
When this reporter appealed for a reduction, James said: “I thought you are ready now because I am already programming your result here.”
However, when he sent his account details, the name was different – Abdulrazak Abdullahi, 2282065551, Zenith Bank, instead of Festus James.
What the law says
Under the Criminal Code Act, which is applicable in the southern part of the country, forgery is a felony. The Act provides, in Chapter 44, two to three years jail term, with an option of fine, as punishment for forgery. The Penal Code Act which is applicable in the northern part also has similar provisions with a maximum of 14 years), where the guilt of the alleged offender is proven.
On the offence of forgery, the Criminal Code Act reads: “Any person, who forges any document, writing, or seal, is guilty of an offence which, unless otherwise stated, is a felony, and he is liable, if no other punishment is provided, to imprisonment for three years.”
Deputy Force Public Relations Officer, Federal Headquarters, Abuja, CSP Adeniran Aremu, said if Police got any such, the perpetrators would surely face the wrath of the law.
“If there is any report of such, we will definitely follow it up and when they are arrested, we will take it up. So many of them have been arrested; most of them have been prosecuted so that it can serve as deterrence to others who have the same intention,” he said.
Parents, experts react
A parent of one of the victims who pleaded anonymity said it was pressure from his son and wife that pushed him to pay N2,000 to scammers in 2016.
He said he knew they were scammers but did it to let his family know.
Another parent, Isiaq Rafiu, whose child scored 173 in this year’s UTME, said he could not pay for JAMB upgrade because he did not believe in scams.
“I cannot be a party to JAMB upgrade because everything is a scam,” he emphasised.
Abdulganeey Ayodeji Salahu, a professor of Guidance and Counselling, Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto said the implication of results forgery in the society was that it would corrupt its members – young and old — if not resolved. He faulted the candidates’ desperation to enter the university by all means.
“It is those who are desperate to get admission that gives scammers the opportunity to dupe them. If you don’t have what you need to enter into the university, why can’t you just take another option instead of paying somebody to help you upgrade your JAMB score?
“It is better to change to another institution and if you are not interested you can re-write JAMB another year,” he said.
Though Olowookere Sikiru, a graduate of Guidance and Counselling from the University of Ibadan, noted that Prof Ishaq Oloyede had brought sanity to JAMB as registrar, he, however, said digital skill sensitisation, counselling, good parenting, and governance were necessary to nip examination malpractices in the bud.
“Digital skill sensitisation is to ensure that the candidates are sensitised and to educate students on cyber security and safety from an early age. Information is power; having the knowledge to distinguish between fact and fiction is a more potent power.
“Guidance and Counselling is not considered as a vital discipline in the Nigerian education sector. But students will understand failure through their counselors because their counselor will not allow them to indulge in such acts. Schools should encourage the counselor in organising a career talk, give room for counseling relationships,” he said.
He added that good parental advice was crucial as some parents prompt their children to indulge in bad acts, while urging the government to punish perpetrators to deter others.
Speaking on scammers’claims to access JAMB website to upgrade scores, Abdulgafar Taoheed, an expert in white Hat Hackers said it had become difficult to hack the website in the last two years Oloyede has been in charge. He said a lot has been spent on the website making it difficult for hackers to access the account.
He said if he hacks the JAMB portal successfully, he could upgrade the candidates’ results but the act would create a security alert.
“If a person attempts to hack the JAMBwebsite, they will try to follow you and you will think the whole world is following you due to the fact that the security in JAMB website is more than the CBN Security.
“If I hack their portal and I put the upgraded result. I am going to hack their system to change it directly. I can enter the JAMB website and upgrade the JAMB result. I will enter their website to change the result from the source.
“If it is successful, no problem but if they catch someone there would be a problem.Even though, it is against the rule of white Hat Hackers to do such thing as against the Black Hat Hacking,” he said.
On his part, a specialist in tutoring UTME candidates, Enoch Olisa, said there was nothing like JAMB upgrade. He advised them to prepare well for the examination instead.
JAMB spokesman, Dr. Fabian Benjamin, said JAMB upgrade was not possible. He warned candidates to stop patronising scammers.
He said the scam should be clear to them through the kind of money the scammers request for.
“If upgrading of JAMB is possible, the result will be so useless that anybody can upgrade their score easily. JAMB upgrade is not possible.
“As the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of JAMB, my brother wrote UTME last year and he did not get what was required and he has written this year again. If it was possible I can talk to someone to upgrade it for me.
“Candidates should not patronise these swindlers. As I am telling you, we are arresting them, but we wondered why we should be running after them when the candidates are still patronising them. JAMB upgrade is not possible at all,” he said.