Saturday, September 23, 2023


INSIGHT: How scammers impersonate real businesses — and make Ponzi versions — on social media

INSIGHT: How scammers impersonate real businesses — and make Ponzi versions — on social media
September 13
08:48 2023

Ponzi schemes are classic scams many Nigerians are still falling for despite the economic hardship. As the country’s economic realities bite harder, the allure of quick and easy money dangled as a frail slice of hope always seems like a good idea in the beginning. Oftentimes than not, the end is a repetition of the biblical scenario of weeping and gnashing of teeth.

According to the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Company (NDIC), in the last 23 years, no less than N911.45 billion has been lost to various Ponzi schemes and related frauds across the country.

To defraud victims, scammers are constantly upgrading their techniques to appear more authentic. A previous investigation by TheCable showed how fraudsters impersonated pages belonging to popular media outlets and swindled unsuspecting Nigerians through fake job offers and distribution of palliatives, purportedly by the government.

This time, the fraudsters are operating in the open, engaging in the use of different social media platforms and websites. A few of the Ponzi schemes have been highlighted for context in this report.



In the multilevel marketing business (MLM) space, the Norland Global Group stands out with an interesting history. Founded in 2008, the group says it specialises in selling health and beauty products and has built a “connected industry chain and ecological matrix”. The group also claims to be in over 48 countries and four continents, including Africa. 

In 2017, Norland Nigeria, an offshoot of The Norland Group, was officially launched. For many business enthusiasts, the arrival of the foreign company meant more opportunities to earn cash and grow an international network.


The multilevel marketing platform has been badly represented by imposters on social media especially Facebook to defraud many Nigerians. 

On a Facebook page claiming to belong to Norland Nigeria, an individual who had been scammed by imposters said: “I collect contact on this platform to join Norland only to be scammed”.



The comment was a reply to a post urging users to take on network marketing as an additional means of earning.

Checks revealed that several Facebook users fell victim to the imposters. 

An X user also shared how the investment group had duped an acquaintance.

“Norland investment platform is a scam!!! They just scammed my friend 20k!! People should beware of them,” the tweet said.


Esther Akuchukwu, another social media user, accused the Norland group of hacking her account and defrauding her.


Several other Nigerians have also laid complaints on social media on how the group has defrauded them. 



But despite multiple accusations of wrongdoings, the group remains active on social media, luring unsuspecting citizens through its promises of quick wealth.

A scan through the online platforms where the multi-level marketing business has been impersonated shows discrepancies in information about the business. 

For example, on this particular website, its address is listed as “Abuja rd  Jabbi Federal Capital Territory Nigeria – 0147”, while contact addresses are also unavailable. 

On another Facebook page linked to the Nigerian branch of the business, the company is said to be located at World Mart Mall. The mall, according to its Instagram page, is located at   Area 1 in Abuja. The same address according to an online directory points to the Old Federal Secretariat road in Durunmi, a different location entirely. 

One of the imposters’ websites shows asterisks in place of the contact address and an unknown office location

On another website, a man identified as Adeyemi promises to double a Norland investment within two hours, ranging from 10,000 to 500,000.


On January 7, 2022, through a statement, Norland said the platform is structured on multi-level marketing (MLM) and “is not an investment platform, neither “does it double money in 45 minutes” nor run a Ponzi scheme.

The platform operates on an MLM strategy through its five entry packages – senior, bronze, silver, gold, and diamond – where members are required to move up the package ranks and have a certain number of referrals to earn more. 

With regard to the risks associated with each business, the main idea behind the MLM strategy is to promote a maximum number of distributors for the product and exponentially increase the sales force. In a Ponzi scheme, there is no tangible product sold but rather a false investment. This is what scam pages and accounts have been doing to defraud unsuspecting Nigerians.


Barrick Gold is a mining company that produces gold and copper with 16 operating sites in 13 countries and is headquartered in Canada. The company not only engages in gold trading but also offers investment opportunities to prospective clients. 

However, impersonators on social media are threatening to ruin the company’s hard-earned reputation.

An X user laments over impostors defrauding Nigerians on social media

On August 25, another user of X raised an alarm as to how fraudsters running a Ponzi scheme, impersonated the gold mining company to defraud citizens of billions of naira.

“Nigeria government needs to figure a way to get these fraudsters using Ponzi to scam people. As the recession and poverty rate keeps increasing, Nigerias(sic) keep falling victims,” the tweet reads.

“Barrick-gold impersonated the real Barrick Gold. And lured about 300k victims. In just 4 months, they cashed out about 70-90 billion naira defrauded from victims.”

A keyword search on X showed that many other Nigerians had fallen victim to Barrick Gold impersonators.

Some individuals accused Opay, a digital financial service, of conniving with the imposters to defraud citizens. However, the financial company debunked the allegations.

Some accused Opay of connivance


OPay debunked allegations

Ayo Chelsea, a social media user, also took to Facebook to share how he was scammed of N50,000 through fraudsters pretending to be from the mining company.

“A friend introduced me to one Barrick gold, Ponzi scheme and with all conviction I gave in for a trial the first sight. It looked so real and I thought I was about to be vindicated from destitution. Little did I know that I was about to be siphoned,” Chelsea said.

“Just some days ago they launched a new option for mining. I got the last  50k from my savings and deposited it into their barrick broker app, guess what my money was seized, the next thing was that they are working on upgrade to make people’s accounts get credited automatically, once they make withdrawals.

“Till today the money was seized and nothing show forth. I just want to advise you all to do away with Ponzi scam investment.”

Like Norland, the page still remains active on social media where scammers are still trying to influence people to join the scheme.

Imposters are still trying to actively recruit members into the scheme.

Screenshot via Facebook.


Without any credible evidence, a social media user claims that the scheme is recognised by the federal government.


In a statement on its official page, Barrick Gold warned that certain individuals have used various tactics such as falsifying documents bearing the company’s logo and creating websites that contain content from Barrick’s authentic website that may even have URLs that contain the company’s name.

Among the countries where a surge in these scams was recorded, Nigeria was mentioned. The company said they “do not solicit investments from individuals” in the manner portrayed on social media, “either directly or through third parties”.


Peter Okoye, the singer popularly known as Mr P, one of the P-Square duo, owns Zoom Lifestyle, a lottery platform. Zoom gives away millions of naira in cash and prizes in the form of tickets to musical concerts, and business mentorship. 

According to the Zoom website, players can enter the lottery by using a particular code depending on the telecom provider or by registering on the website, after which the musician announces winners at a live draw. 

After the winners are announced, Okoye then makes a video call to congratulate them.

On June 11, a Facebook post by Zoom winners asked Nigerians to hurry up and purchase their Zoom tickets by clicking on a certain link for registration. The post included a video of Peter talking to one of the winners from the lottery platform and a WhatsApp link.

One of the fake Zoom lottery pages

The video has been viewed over 450 times. 

To further entice social media users, many other fake schemes made use of the comment section to lure more unsuspecting individuals.

In a similar post, social media users were asked to purchase tickets and get over 500% return on investments within 10 minutes. A video of Peter Okoye which accompanied the post was viewed 12k times and gathered 734 comments.

Most of the comments were filled with users praising the singer for his “good works”. 

Similar posts were found on several other Facebook accounts


As far back as 2021, the artist had debunked the Facebook pages. He said: “Fraudsters are now using giveaways to scam people with my name simply because they know how desperate people are!”.

He added that his lottery platform “is not doing any giveaway of pay 20k and receive 200k”, warning Nigerians to be aware of imposters. 

Peter Okoye was the face of the lottery platform until July 2022 after which he resigned from “anchoring or presenting” because of fraudsters. He added that the platform is still “up and alive”.

In November 2022, the official Facebook page for the platform, which has over 50,000 followers warned users against fraudsters using Okoye’s name and old videos to scam.

“Zoomlifestyle is not an investment company but a lottery company; we do not have any manager, and Zoomlifestyle is not on WhatsApp,” the official handle posted.

“All tickets are purchased directly from our website at and not by making payment into any personal account. @peterpsquare no longer calls winners via video calls as a result of the increase in the rate of scammers using his previous videos/pictures to deceive people.”

In 2023, in another round of disclaimers in April, Okoye emphasised that “Zoom Lifestyle is not an investment platform, but a lottery company”.

In the same month of April, some scammers who impersonated Okoye and defrauded a woman of 1.5 million naira were arrested in Lagos.

Police arrest scammers in Lagos

However, despite the several disclaimers made by Okoye, and arrests made by police, checks have shown that the scammers on Facebook are still actively using old videos of the singer to defraud many Nigerians who continue to fall prey to get-rich-quick schemes.

This article was produced with mentorship from the African Academy for Open Source Investigations (AAOSI) to tackle disinformation that undermines our democracies, as part of an initiative by the International Centre for Journalists (ICFJ) and Code for Africa (CfA). Visit for more information.


No Comments Yet!

There are no comments at the moment, do you want to add one?

Write a comment

Write a Comment

error: Content is protected from copying!