For at least a decade, the world has been pushing towards more instant commercial transactions both online and offline. Those who refused to flow with the trend were forced to embrace it during the Coronavirus lockdown in 2020 when no one could go out to buy or sell. Unfortunately, commercial transaction frauds also increased causing people to lose their money.

As the world pushes towards a more digital economy, so does the incidence of transaction fraud. In these times, Vahlid is trying to make online and offline transactions safer by playing the middleman.

Dayo Gbede, CEO of Vahlid was a guest on the Nairametrics Business Half Hour where he explained that the system is designed to restore trust which is becoming scarce as the fraud statistics increases.

“Fraud is becoming too common and that in itself is worrisome. We should not get to the point where people normalize being scammed and losing their money in what was supposed to be legitimate transactions. That is what Vahlid is here to do. By acting as the middlemen between buyers and sellers of both products and services, we reduce incidences of fraud in our little way and restore trust into transactions,” Gbede explained.

How Vahlid started

Vahlid was born out of the personal experiences of the founders who were themselves scammed. A random poll taken again showed them that almost 48% of the people around them had also been defrauded at some point or the other.

Troubled by this development, they decided to start Vahlid to play middleman in transactions and exchanges so that the parties can be protected by fraud.

“Our poll showed us that between 44 to 48% of the people we knew directly had been scammed. It is a pandemic that has been in the system for so long and people have been losing their money. A little sum here and there, and people are losing huge sums to scammers every year. That was what inspired Vahlid,” Gbede explained.

In the past, escrow services had been more associated with large-scale transactions and big banks playing middlemen. However, people are being defrauded of little amount of transactions, and how silly would it be asking a bank to come play middleman in a transaction worth N1,000 or even N5,000? But Vahlid has escrow services that cover transactions worth as little as N1,000 with charges as low as 1.5 to 2.5%.

Signing up on Vahlid is a simple one-minute procedure, and one needs not have a transaction before signing up to get his unique Vahlid ID. Once the buyer indicates interest in the product or service, the terms are defined, then both parties move on to Vahlid to initiate the transaction. The buyer makes the payment but it is held in trust, and the seller cannot withdraw it until delivery is done and the transaction has been completed. Once all is done, the transaction is cleared and payment is released.

“I think this is a something that those in the services sector, like creatives really need. Sometimes, you do a negotiation in good faith and then deliver the service only to be told that you can’t get the complete sum or sometimes, you don’t even get any payment at all. If you use Vahlid, once the service is delivered, your agreed sum is released to you.

“When you use Vahlid, the buyer makes the payment before you start work. But it is held in trust to protect the interest of both parties. When the seller delivers a satisfactory product or service, then it is released appropriately,” Gbede said.

At the moment, Vahlid is open to users outside Nigeria if one of the transacting parties is within Nigeria. However, Vahlid has plans to expand to other African countries soon.

What happens in the case of a dispute?

It may happen that a buyer is not satisfied with the product received, or with the services rendered. If this happens, there could be a dispute between the buyer and seller about releasing the due payment. To take care of such situations, Vahlid has a Dispute and Conflict resolution unit where trained mediators and arbitrators wade in to resolve the issues.

“This is why we recommend people to iron out the terms of their transactions, agree to all the terms, with shock absorbers and everything before creating it. If a dispute occurs, we have to refer back to the terms of the agreement, and all discussions both parties have had. Based on this, the issue is resolved and the money goes where it should.

“Common mistakes people make is to think that they cannot be scammed, because from what we have seen, anyone can be scammed. For some other people, they think that after using an escrow service for 3 to 5 transactions, they can now go ahead to deal directly with a vendor. But there have been people who got scammed by a vendor they have been doing business with for a year or more. Every transaction is unique to itself and should be protected,” Gbede said.