Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Thieves of Internet

Last week, I received an e-mail from one Mr. Avodoji Laro from Nigeria. I have never seen or even known this Mr. Laro. I normally assign such e-mails to my recycle bin. However, Mr. Laro's mail appeared to have been written exceptionally well and to the point, which really made me to read it. Acoording to this e-mail, Mr.Laro works in a well known and big bank in Nigeria. He had given detailed name and address of the bank and the branch. Mr.Laro, working in this bank as an 'Accounts relations manage' came into contact with an old account holder, who had a balance of few Million Dollars in his bank account. Since this old account holder had no near relatives to help him carry out his bank transactions, Mr.Laro was kind enough to help him, whenever he visited the bank and also visited his mansion couple of times, when requested by the old man.

About a month ago, this old man suddenly died. After few days Mr. Laro received a phone call, which was a big surprise for him. This old man had willed a large part of his wealth to Mr. Laro and he has suddenly become very rich. His intention now was to move his money out of Nigeria and move out to some other nation and settle there. Since Nigerian laws do not allow this kind of monetary transactions, Mr. Laro was soliciting my help and as a part of deal, was ready to pay me few thousand Dollars.I checked his address on Google maps. The Apartment complex, where Mr. Laro had claimed that he was staying, was clearly marked on the maps. Similarly his bank and the branch, which he had mentioned in his e-mail, was traceable from the official web site of that bank. All this appeared to be too Good to be true. The embedded principle in my head, over years and years of experience, that 'There are no free lunches' started ringing bells of caution in my head. Without any further thought, I just deleted the mail.

 Nigerian Financial Institutions are under clouds of suspicion because of scamsters

Few days ago I came across an article on the net, giving account of similar kind of experience of another person, who in the process, had lost his own thousand Dollars. I then realized that the mail, which I had received was an attempt to deceive and swindle me. The story which I was told, turned out to be one of the standard weapons of these internet swindlers or scamsters. The 'modus operandi' of these operators runs mostly along these lines.
  • These swindlers suddenly send an e-mail to some ordinary unsuspecting e-mail holder, who may not be aware about the evils of the internet.
  • The e-mail usually narrates a long winding and sad story. The ending of the story in most of the cases is that the e-mail writer, who has acquired suddenly huge wealth is unable to send money out of his country.
  • If the e-mail recipient is agreeable to help the e-mail writer, he is promised that he would be paid a sum usually up to a thousand Dollars so as not to raise suspicion about the e-mail.
  • Once the e-mail recipient is trapped into this tale of bogus narration and is enticed with making few fast bucks for nothing, the e-mail swindlers create an hypothetical situation, which off course appears real to the trapped e-mail recipient, and gets him more and more involved with imaginary obstacles and possibilities of more gains.
  • Finally a situation is shown to be created, where it becomes apparent to the e-mail recipient that to get his reward, he must spend a small amount of few hundred Dollars.
  • Once this amount is sent by the e-mail recipient, suddenly the e-mail sender disappears.

It has been realized now that many of the internet swindlers are based in Nigeria. This country has now acquired such a bad name for the internet swindling that the Nigerian Government has been forced to take some action. According to the Cyber crime cell of US Government, Nigeria is now ranked third for Cyber crimes after US and England. But when we consider the fact that only 7% Nigerians have an access to internet, we can appreciate the large number of Cyber crimes that are originating from Nigeria. 

An Internet Cafe in Festec, Nigeria
Festac is a small suburb of Nigeria's capital Lagos. In 1977, when the international oil prices had shot up all of a sudden, The Government in Nigeria had become super rich, over night. The Government came up with a bright idea of creating a permanent exposition of African arts near Lagos. Festec was planned and conceived in those days as the venue for this exposition with large parks and small housing complexes for the artists , who would come to Nigeria for the exposition. Initially this suburb was a very upmarket locality and many rich people had shifted their residences here. Slowly Festec became home for poor and in particular educated unemployed. As these people shifted to Festec, many internet cafe's opened up here to serve them. Most of the Cyber crimes in Nigeria are done through these internet cafe's.

Nigeria's Electronic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is now actively involved in controlling such criminal activity from Festec. Just in 2007 about 18000 Cyber crimes were detected by EFCC, out of which, most originated in Festec. Internet cafe owners claim that they can find t people who want to use the cafe's for criminal activity and boot out such persons. However the crimes continue and have even received some social status because Nigeria;s famous singer 'Olu' has come up with a hit song 'Yahoozee', which is about a cyber criminal. This song describes a person leading a life of comfort and luxury with money earned through Cyber crimes.

Aayo Olagunju is an economist and software expert based in Festec. He says with regret that Nigeria's Cyber crimes have become so extensive now, that even for genuine financial transactions, all Nigerian financial institutions like banks, have to go an extra mile to prove their genuineness and honesty.

Obviously the real culprit here for Nigeria's Cyber crimes, is the high percentage of unemployment in Nigeria's educated youth. Unless this social anomaly is removed or reduced to a large extent, it would be difficult to find a solution to Nigeria's Cyber Crimes.
Only thing we can do, as users of internet, is to remain on guard while using the net and not fall easy pray to temptations of easy money from the Internet.

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