Why Internet Fraud Thrives

A Nigerian Perspective

A SCARS Insight

Why Nigerian Online Fraud Thrives

According to Blueprint (Nigeria) …

Why internet fraud thrives

Even though crimes have been with society for ages, the recent upsurge in internet crime is unparalleled. ELEOJO IDACHABA in this report examines the indices and the causes of what is now referred to as internet or simply yahoo yahoo fraud.

They live exotic lifestyle, drive the latest and most expensive cars, but with no identifiable means of income. Often times, their abodes are choice areas like Katampe Extension in Abuja, Lekki, Victoria Garden City and expensive districts. Their activities give them out as scammers, fraudsters and in recent times yahoo yahoo boys who give the country a bad image home and abroad.

In essence, they defraud their victims of millions and billions of naira through cyber fraud. In most cases, they hack into the accounts of banks and companies, although with the connivance of an insider and consequently divert monies into their personal accounts.

Blueprint Weekend’s investigation reveals that they have multiple bank accounts by which they carry out this act. According to Tony Orilade, the spokesperson of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), “Many Nigerians have been defrauded by these young men who do not believe in the dignity in labour.” He, however, said the menace got perpetuated in the past because efforts were geared at the so-called ‘big thieves’ at the expense of internet fraudsters who were perfecting their strategies daily. He said, “However, with the recent upsurge in the efforts of the commission at arresting and prosecuting the individuals involved, their end game is nearer.”

Some records of internet fraud

Records abound of fraudsters recently arrested by the anti-graft agencies, for instance, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) through its efforts have made series of arrests arising from internet-related frauds. For instance, not long ago, the Enugu zonal office of the commission secured five convictions involving Orji Uchenna, Chime Isaiah, Ogbu Obinnna, Dunu Franklyn Tochukwu and Victor Patrick at a Federal High Court, in Enugu, all bordering on internet fraud.

It was revealed that the convicts were in the habit of using fraudulent names and emails to defraud unsuspecting citizens of foreign countries.

Orji, for instance, was alleged to have posed as George Terry Williams, a British widower, on the internet and sent the identity to one Novelette Lothian.

Similarly, Dunu represented himself as Rafiek Rafiek, Dimitri Folly-Adjo and Philipe Williams Paul respectively on the Internet and sent same through his Facebook account, Philipe Williams Paul, to one Mrs Galina Kabarcekov.

Ogbu, on his part, posed as priest by the name Rev Fr Michael Donatus, and sent a message through his email to one Kris Mohanpersad while Chime also represented himself as Russell March, an American and knowingly sent a message through his email to several individuals.

The presiding judge, Justice N.I. Buba, found them guilty and sentenced them to one-month imprisonment respectively. He equally ordered that the iphones and laptops recovered from the convicts be forfeited to the federal government

Also, Justice I. M. Sani of the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt on July 4, 2019, convicted and sentenced one Louis Idehen Osahumen to 10 months in prison for internet-related offences.

He was arraigned by the EFCC in Port Harcourt’s zonal office on one-count charge bordering on impersonation, contrary to Section 22(3) (a) of the Cybercrimes Act 2015 under Section 22(4) of the same Act.

He pleaded guilty to the charge for which Justice Sani convicted him to 10-month imprisonment without an option of fine.

Investigation showed that the convict scammed some Chinese women in 2018 with his Samsung GalaxyJ5 and Airtel Simcard number 09021045826.

Also, the Lagos zonal office of the EFCC on July 3, 2019 arraigned one Olaide Olubiyo Mudashiru who posed as Karen E. Simmons, Michelle Lamal, Virgina Lewis, Catherin Hernandez, Chery Eguizabel and Maria Gonzales, before Justice Mojisola Dada of the Special Offences Court sitting in Ikeja, Lagos on a six -count charge bordering on possession of false documents containing false information.

The defendant, however, pleaded not guilty to the charge when it was read to him.

In view of his plea, the prosecution counsel, Spiff Owede, asked the court for a trial date and also prayed that the defendant be remanded in prison custody pending the commencement of trial.

The Judge ordered the defendant to be remanded in prison custody and adjourned to July 9, 2019 for commencement of trial.

In early July, the Uyo zonal office of the commission arraigned a suspected serial fraudster by the name Scales Ishola before Justice A. A. Okeke of the Federal High Court in Uyo on a 45-count charge bordering on impersonation, obtaining by false pretence, conspiracy and fraud. Scales, along with his accomplices who are currently at large, specialised in impersonating people and using their identity to defraud unsuspecting victims by sending various business emails with fake identities and duping them of several millions in various currencies. Counsel for the EFCC, Nwandu Ukoha, prayed the court to remand him in prison and fix a date for commencement of trial.

The false impression

In recent times and with the coming of the Internet system, the youth, especially the undergraduates, have taken to the illicit trade called Internet scam. Investigations revealed that this development is responsible for drastic reduction in cultism in the higher institutions, as it has been overshadowed by widespread cyber fraud. Whether this argument is plausible is however not clear as they appear to go side by side in modern times.

The trend, now popularly dubbed Yahoo boys, it is used to perpetrate crimes. Most often, the perpetrators use yahoo free e-mail account to carry out their acts. The fraudulent business became prevalent in Nigeria in 2000 when the internet was becoming popular. Youths who engage in the fraud scam become rich overnight, with or without their parents’ knowledge. They drive expensive cars, own houses, jewellery and more. They are highly respected and often initiate their peers into the scam. Their lifestyle is a sort of cynosure to those who appear to envy them.

According to police statistics, thousands of undergraduates dabble in the web fraud. Investigation also revealed that the false impression it creates is that a rich yahoo boy appears to be a role model for the youths because they fancy his lifestyle and want to be like him. The only thing that disturbs them is how to make easy and quick money.

According to Simon Okwu, a computer engineer, “There are plenty of examples of how to start a yahoo boy career on the web. He said young people quickly study all the ground rules and begin the scam without mindful of its consequences. According to him, almost 99 per cent of yahoo boys started their careers from this fraud. “You would register a private account on a popular dating website, fill in your profile, find an attractive photo and wait till somebody falls in love with you. Subsequently, she or he will begin paying your bills and sending dollars to you.

“Yahoo boys send fake messages to social networks to entice their unsuspecting, but gullible clients. It is, however, a risky field of specialisation which can bring real money at the beginning. Yahoo boys don’t have morality. They usually stop at nothing to deceive people and pocket their money. Therefore, if you want to become a successful yahoo boy, you should learn how to beg, cry online, call for help in the written form. You must do everything so that people will believe you.”

Why internet crime is on the rise

According to Pastor Jeremiah Ogah of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, greed and the worsening economic climate are the twin reasons for the upsurge in the level of fraud perpetuated by the youth. “Most of these online crimes have become so prevalent in recent times because youths have not found anything reasonable that can engage their minds. There are no jobs and many of them are old enough to step out of their father’s compounds. In as much as I do not encourage it, the society, I mean government policies tend to create an enabling atmosphere for the act to thrive. Create jobs to engage the youths, develop a skills acquisition centre where they can divert their youthful energy to work so that all these crimes can reduce. We try our best in the church but we don’t have what to give them other than the word of God. But these people need real liquid cash to live their lives,” he said.

Tunde Ajibike, a retired educationist, says cybercrimes like other criminal activities are highly motivated by certain conditions, one of which is urbanisation. “It is emphasised that urbanisation without crimes is really impossible. The influx of the youth to cybercrimes is thriving among urban areas because the elite find it lucrative to invest in cybercrime as it is a business that requires less capital.

“The prevalence of a high rate of unemployment, harsh economic conditions and poor educational systems also contribute immensely to the proliferation of cybercrimes in Nigeria. The youth are no longer facing the realities of canvassing vocational jobs where they find it difficult to get a white collar job. It is as bad as that. The situation is even getting messier daily because it is as the saying goes that, ‘if the hunter has learnt to shoot without missing, the birds have learnt to fly without perching.’ These young men have devised various ways of causing further havoc to the image of the country because they can see the level of corruption and financial impunity among the ruling class. Imagine the recent dimension of female pants now serving as essential commodities for money making. That is another dimension I am referring to. It’s a lesson for everyone,” she said.

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