One would expect the rising tide of commercial activities on Instagram to ease the hurdles of physical businesses, but with many scammers disguised as sellers and vendors, trusting online businesses is at your own risk.
Among the scammers and opportunists bent on taking advantage of the eight million Nigerian Instagram population are women who masquerade as hair vendors and influencers in the hair industry.
By flaunting sleek hair and offering to sell it for ridiculously underpriced amounts, and sometimes offering investment plans with mouthwatering return prospects, these supposed influencers scam millions from Nigerian women.
Despite complaints from victims, these scammers continue to thrive as no punishment has been meted out.
Stella Okoye, an entrepreneur in Port Harcourt was scammed by Nwanneka Dorcas Nkumah, the owner of Mz Wanneka on Instagram. Stella’s first encounter with Wanneka was through an online advert for a hair that caught her fancy.
Wanneka had displayed a weave-on that caught Stella’s fancy. And then she placed an order hoping to sell to her own customers.
The more Stella viewed the weave-on on Instagram, the less she saw she was about to be fleeced, until twenty days after she had placed an order for 18 pieces of hair at N520, 800. Wanneka had promised that the goods would be delivered to her on October 20, 2020, but three months later, she still got nothing.
Each time Stella called while she awaited the delivery of her hair, the customer care service told her to be patient as her hair wasn’t available. During the period, Wanneka put out several other promos advertising the same pieces of hair.
When calls became incessant, Mz Wanneka’s customer care stopped taking them. Stella sent personal messages, commented on Wanneka’s posts, begging her to deliver the hair, and even contacted her friends, yet, no delivery was made.
Four months after numerous calls and messages, nine out of the 18 pieces of hair ordered were eventually delivered. On opening the packets of hair, however, Stella realised that not only were the goods incomplete but none of the pieces of the products matched what she had ordered.
She got a mail from Mz Wanneka in the third week of January this year telling her to pick new hair from the promo they were set to do in February to make up for her remaining eight packets of hair, as the weave-on she ordered was no longer available.
With over 800,000 followers on Instagram, despite defaulting on delivery several times, Wanneka continues to live as though she did nothing wrong.
Uduak Attah-Ochinke was scammed by another Instagram hair vendor, Tessy Akpu Oluchi. Oluchi had impressed Uduak and many others with her affiliations to different online celebrities, such as Wanneka (who Uduak didn’t know was a hair fraudster) and a slick website where things worked with ease. She invested a million naira in Oluchi’s gold distributorship plan.
Until Uduak invested her money in January 2021, she did not know that all she considered clues that the investment deals were legitimate were a carefully orchestrated trap to fleece unsuspecting people like her. Three months after she had invested with Oluchi, she realized she had made the wrong choice.
It is now seven months since Uduak invested in Oluchi’s hair ventures and she is yet to get either her investment profit or initial capital. Oluchi would also neither take her calls nor reply to her texts.
Another scammer in the hair industry is Ngozikachi Onyeluo, one of Ireti Doyle’s daughters. After advertising a hair business scheme that promised to make those who joined her wholesale distribution millionaires, she forgot them, leaving many people shattered.
Esezobor Mary-Ann was a 200 level student at the University of Calabar when she came across Kachi Hair Beauty’s advert on her Instagram feed. She worked during the holidays and after classes to pay for her tuition. She was also saving up for the surgery on her mother’s knee, which needed replacement. Kachi Hair Beauty seemed like a good business to invest in to cater to all the financial responsibilities that weighed on her.
Esezobor paid N303,000 for 30 strands of hair using money she had saved for her mother’s operation. She wanted to sell and make a profit. Apart from placing the purchase, Esezobor borrowed N1 million from a loan shark to enrol in Kachi’s Platinum Distribution programme, promising to pay by the end of the year.
The 30 pieces of hair she had previously purchased were scheduled to arrive in October 2020 while the wholesale hair from the subscription was scheduled to arrive one month later. However, the delivery was delayed, and each time she phoned to enquire, she was advised to wait a bit longer.
December arrived with no sign of a delivery. When her calls got too frequent, both Kachi and the customer service agent ceased to take them. Not only Esezobor, but even her family members were hounded by loan sharks. She was ultimately banned from Kachi’s Instagram page and her money was not returned.
While speaking with FIJ earlier this year, Esezobor said she was on the verge of giving up on everything. “As it is, my home rent will expire next month. When that occurs, we will all become homeless,” she said.
According to Kachi’s Facebook page, which has over 80,000 followers, she is ‘Africa’s largest wig maker’. She also refers to herself as “The New China in Africa”. Two disclaimers are included in the bio: “no refund” and “Abusive remarks will result in your account being banned.”
As the hair scam continues to thrive on Instagram, there are obvious ways to curtail the reoccurrence of such unfortunate events. Emmanuella Adeleye (not real name) told FIJ that the best thing to do when making a purchase online is to first visit the company’s physical outlets to verify the veracity of their posts. “And if their profile caption says ‘no refund’, please run for dear life. This is why you cannot see them on credible platforms like Jumia”.
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