Computer Village, Ikeja, Lagos, is Nigeria’s largest Information and Communications Technology (ICT) accessories market but the easiest place to get scammed. We had planned a listicle on how to buy credible second-hand gadgets in Computer Village but changed midway and during conversations with the traders to a story on how people get scammed at the famous gadget market in Lagos.
Indeed, after speaking to people who have worked all their professional lives in the popular village, one thing became clear: there is only one way to buy gadgets in Computer Village and not be scammed.
Based on conversations, there is a seven-day warranty on the gadgets. That is a standard in the market – sort of like an unspoken rule. So, if you notice any glitches in that window you can return the gadget.
Now that that is out of the way, let me tell you three common ways that you could get scammed.
Buying from ghosts.
There is the basic standard was people get scammed in Computer Village. Buy a gadget from the mostly young men that hang on the roadside trying to convince you to buy whatever it is you want from them.
Here is a typical scenario:
You are offered a ‘used’ gadget at a price that is ridiculously cheaper than the market price. You will be given the gadget to feel and test. Then, they will lead you off the road to a crowded walkway around a building and ask you to pay while they package the gadget. Once, you make a payment, you will be handed a packed device and told to hide it nicely. They will warn you about urchins that may snatch it from you if they know how cheap you got.
So, you will protect the package with all your life until maybe you get into quiet away to safety or when you reach your house. Then, you will realise that what is in the package is a plastic phone case stuffed with white bar soap or fufu (a cassava Nigerian staple).
They’ll say they own a shop in the market. But, they are walking red flags with no official addresses. There is no return ticket to being scammed.
People whom I spoke to for this story said that 10 out of 10 times they do not own any stores. “Because they don’t have a specific place where they stay, they can do anything. They know that if you come back there, you won’t find them there,” Sunday, who has been in the business for 5 years said.
What is more? There is no central command unit you can report to and get redress. Everyone is an invisible individual that has come to hustle. Yet, they have a strong community of players. If you happened to find your robber, you will be surprised how fast they can change the narrative and you may end up being the guilty one.
It is a very nasty game!
The latest in town
The second popular scam type, based on what store owners told me, is quite jarring, to say the least.
Christian who has owned a shop in Computer Village for five years, minus the years he spent as an apprentice told me the most fascinating story. So here is what they do:
They go on Instagram, open an account or buy an account with followers or buy followers or steal someone’s account. So the account looks credible. Then, they start posting images of gadgets. They will put an address in the location.
Like a regular gadget seller on Instagram, they update prices based on market standards. Their prices are not cheaper or more expensive. Make the mistake of sliding into their DMS and it’s over almost immediately.
Christain told me how he got a call that someone wanted to buy a phone and pay-on-delivery. So he had one of his sales personnel make the delivery and not a dispatch rider. He said he found it odd that the buyer kept insisting that a dispatch rider brings the phone. So, his sales personnel gets to the location and the buyer tells him he isn’t home, but his brother is home and will pay for the phone.
He meets the man not saying much and hands him the phone to test, to be sure it’s working. It’s working. And so the man he meets decides to make a transfer to pay for the phone. All this is standard practice.
Now Christian’s staff is waiting for the confirmation of payment which the buyer thinks he has paid, except there is no confirmation. The money doesn’t come in. They both realise what has happened. Someone has been scammed. Who it is, will depend on the more head-strong person.
First Christian has been in communication with someone that doesn’t exist. The person who bought the phone has also been in communicating with someone who doesn’t exist.
The man who made the transfer won’t get a phone. The person who told him he sells phones, the scammer had warned him not to pay the dispatch rider. He was told to test the phone and then make a transfer to the account number sent to him.
They had both been in communication with what could be the same person, a woman.
Christian said that this trick is what you can call the latest in town. “That was how he was scammed,” Christain said. These scammers spend time posting Google targetted ads, unboxing gadget videos, and testimonials from happy customers.
But more often than not it is all lies.
If a price is too good to be true, then it’s too good to be true.
You walk to one of the show glass stores. These are not really stores but they are close to it. The prices of the phones are displayed, but they are dead cheap. You could say too cheap. You buy the phone and then you notice something is off. But you can’t quite place it because the phone seems to be working perfectly fine.
But then, the display is off, and the phone doesn’t look like your friend’s who has the same phone. You probably have been scammed. What you’re holding is a China-made copy; what people like to call “refurbished” but aren’t and weren’t ever originals.
You might have seen those Apple ads promoting refurbished iPhones. That’s not what this is. Though many people erroneously call them refurbished phones, they aren’t.
They are copies of the phones, shipped to Nigeria to be sold cheap.
Remember I said there is a 7-day warranty that is an unspoken rule in computer village? These phones also have such warranties, sort of.
You bought it from a show-glass store and now you’ve found out that it’s not the real thing and you need to return it. The thing is in Ikeja, you don’t get your money back. What you get is another working version of the phone.
If you buy an iPhone 11 from a store and you get home and it’s not working perfectly and you need to return it, you don’t get a refund. What you’ll get is another iPhone 11 that works perfectly.
Just like I said at the start of this article, the only way to not be scammed in Ikeja’s Computer Village is to walk into a store, I mean a shop and buy what you want.