A lot has been said about the risk of getting your BVN exposed to the wrong hands.
But is your BVN enough for scammers to gain entry into your bank account?
To clarify this, we first need to know what a BVN is and it’s importance in the Nigerian banking ecosystem.
What is a BVN?
A BVN (Bank Verification Number) is essentially a KYC-allied identification instituted by the Central Bank of Nigeria to help unify the bank accounts of individuals.
The most important use of a BVN is to help banks and other monetary institutions in Nigeria identify all the bank accounts that are maintained by individuals.
It’s importance is prevalent in fraud detection and financial evaluation of individuals.
Before now, individuals and corporations in Nigeria could maintain “ghost” or secret bank accounts used for perpetrating fraud and money laundering.
But with the BVN, all accounts held by any individual could be identified and scrutinized for compliance.
Is Your BVN a Private Document?
Most Nigerians would want to believe that their BVN is a private document and should be kept as a closely-guarded secret.
But that is usually not the case in practice.
Your BVN is like a banking ID Card used to identify you as the holder of a bank account.
In essence, if it is required by the bank or other institutions for financial verification purposes, you are supposed to provide it.
So, where is the privacy?
Why Are People Scared To Give Their BVN?
People are scared to give their BVN because of the orientation given by banks at the launch of the BVN in Nigeria.
“Don’t show it to anybody”
“Keep it safely away from public eye”
“It is your private information, guard it with jealousy”
And other mantras that were broadcasted at the launch of the BVN in Nigeria.
But in practice, you cannot keep your BVN safely away from the public eye.
The customer care attendant at the bank has access to it. The developer of a banking app you use has access to it. The owners and managers of a loan app or savings app that you use frequently, has access to it.
So, how are you able to keep your BVN away from the public eye? How can you guard it with jealousy? How can you keep it private when it is required for public transactions?
Why Do Scammers Need Your BVN?
In my experience, scammers cannot do anything with your BVN other than establishing formality and requesting for more information.
Recently, I input my BVN into a form on a particular website. Even though I knew my BVN wasn’t necessary to access the online service, I was required to input my BVN for a vague reason.
After inputting my BVN into the form, it returned an error saying that my BVN could not be verified.
I knew something was amiss and that I could have been a victim of online phishing.
However, I took solace in the fact that no harm could be done to the money in my bank account using my BVN.
Funny enough, the next day, the scammer called me on the phone saying that he was from my bank and that the details on my BVN and my NIN didn’t match.
Apparently, he needed more information to “help” me correct my bank details.
I quickly reprimanded him and told him in no minced words that if I had any issue with my bank, I would rather go to the banking hall or call my bank’s official phone number.
Before I could even finish, the scammer hung up the phone and never called back.
Can You Get Scammed With Your BVN?
I strongly believe that you cannot get scammed with your BVN alone. But your BVN could be the first touchpoint for getting you scammed.
Scammers mostly use your BVN to get your bank details so they could appear authentic when they call you to get more information.
They would call your full name and the bank you registered your BVN with, then they would bring up an issue with your account and try to use it to get more information about your bank account from you.
It is important to note that YOUR BANK WOULD NEVER CALL YOU AND ASK FOR INFORMATION THEY ALREADY HAVE.
Know this and know peace.
Any call from the bank would mean there is a critical issue and you will be asked to visit a branch near you.
Any call from the bank asking for banking details from you is probably A SCAM.
No matter if your BVN has been exposed and gotten into the wrong hands, as far as you do not give any more information to the scammers, there is nothing they can do with your BVN alone.
So when next you get a call from a supposed bank rep asking for personal or banking information, simply “cut the call”
Call their bluff and hang up. If they keep calling back, threaten to report them to the EFCC and make sure you flag their phone number on Truecaller and tag them as a scam.
This would help in keeping others safe and would go a long way in curtailing the activities of these scammers.
They would never rest until they end up in jail. But before then, let’s all do our best to put them where they belong.