BY UGWUALA, CHRISTIAN
Crime prevention is the anticipation, recognition and appraisal of a crime risk/vulnerability and the initiation of a positive action to remove or reduce the crime. The Christmas and the New Year is around the corner again. Christmas is a busy time of the year for almost everyone, including the criminal. Christmas and New Year appears to be peak periods were crime rate are always on the increase. This is a period most persons are vulnerable to criminal activities.
Most of these criminal activities can be prevented only if we pay careful attention and take some precaution. The problem comes when a citizen does nothing after being informed that there is a crime risk present within this period. Some prevalent crime risks during this period include: Advance fee fraud ( a.k.a 419), armed robbery, ritual killings, car theft, snatching of bags, abduction , the popular “one chance” etc. Some of the methods adopted by these criminals to effectuate these nefarious acts include but not limited to the following:
• Christmas Phishing Scams – Phishing is the act of tricking consumers into revealing information or performing actions they would not normally do online using fake email or social media posts. Cyberscammers know that most people are busy around the holidays so they tailor their emails and social messages with holiday themes in the hopes of tricking recipients into revealing personal information. A common holiday phishing scam is a false notice from a courier service, saying you have a package and need to fill out an attached form to get it delivered. The form may ask for personal or financial details that will go straight into the hands of the cyberscammer.
• Banking phishing scams- This continues to be popular and the holiday season means consumers will be spending more money—and checking bank balances more often. The banking phishing scams range from request for updating of financial information/ data online or that your account has been tampered with.
• Bonanza/ promotional phishing: Criminals send text messages telling a person that he/she has won a prize. This comes when people have not applied for or participated in any lottery. An example is such a message like: you have won =N=250,000.00(Two Hundred and fifty thousand Naira) or other sums and you are directed to call a particular number for redemption.
• Smishing –SMS phishing. This have rapidly over the years both in Nigeria and abroad. Scammers send their fake messages via a text alert to a phone, notifying an unsuspecting consumer that his/her bank account has been compromised. The cybercriminals then direct the consumer to call a phone number to get it re-activated—and collects the user’s personal information including address, phone numbers and account details. Note that these criminals can establish phony email names or text massage names e.g. NNPC, EFCC, MTN, GLO, ETISALAT, 180 to mention a few as if these messages are from the agencies or business organisations. When in doubt please visit any of referred organisation for confirmation or otherwise. I have received a text message from 180 that says “you have been rewarded with N50,000.00 airtime and you are to visit www.yellosim.org to be credited and your code is 3232”. You will be amazed at what you see in that site.
• Phone calls from fraudsters: Some of the fraudsters call up numbers and ask you whether you could provide a particular facility or product. Oftentimes these products are appear cheap and they offer that it would be sold at a great margin of profit. They oftentimes claim to be working for example: Power Holding Company (a.k.a NEPA) or Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC). Others call that they are from the States Security Services (SSS) or the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). They offer to help terminate a petition made against you. Get such numbers and forward them to the law enforcement agencies.
WHAT TO DO TO AVOID BEING A VICTIM AND GENERAL PRECAUTIONS
• Parents watch your children online behaviours. Most teens in Nigeria and oversees are continually finding ways to hide their online activity from their parents and are vulnerable to committing such acts as cheating, cyber bullying and disclosing of family details to preying fraudsters. Some even engage in online dating and sending their nude pictures to their purported friends.
• Personal safety is paramount. If you are going out, make sure someone knows where you are going and what time you will be back.
• If you have a reason to go out at night, then go with a family member, a trusted friend not “just a friend”.
• Take time to study every environment you find yourself; look out for unusual things and persons. Do not rush to the scene of crimes e.g. bombing to get pictures you will post to the social media. Note that another one may be on the way to explode.
• Avoid disclosing your identity and family details to strangers. This mostly occurs inadvertently by the information you may send or post on the internet. This is a place the fraudsters get some of your personal information.
• Minimize your commitment with the social media: yahoo, face book, twitter, etc. It takes most of your time and you are prone to revealing some information you can ordinarily not disclose.
• If you happen to be in a state or place where motor bikes (Okada) or Tricycles (Keke-Napep) are in use, be careful most of them are accomplices to these criminals. Take time to look at the plate number of every vehicle that is carrying you. Remember that any vehicle without plate number could be a signal that there is problem. Do not enter such a vehicle because there is nothing to identify them when anything happens.
• Be smart and hold your personal belonging tight whenever in a motor park or about to enter a bus.
• Do not show off with your electronic devices like blackberry, laptops, Ipad etc. They will attract criminals to you.
• If you go to an Automatic Teller Machine (ATM) for cash, check for people around and make sure it is well lit if at night and in a safe location. Advisably, only use ATMs during the day.
• Keep your wits about you – too much alcohol makes you vulnerable to become a victim to criminals. Criminals are always looking up for preys who will get drunk at a party.
• Before you leave your car, have a double-check on the doors, watch and identify people who are around there. If you are not comfortable with the people there, re-park.
• If you know that your environment is prone to car theft apply target hardening techniques e.g. by using pedal locks, alarms or get a tracker- global positioning system (GPS).
Avoid being a victim and act responsibly. The criminal can only succeed when you do nothing to prevent the crime from occurring.
Please NOTE that it is very difficult to get the criminal once the crime has been committed. If you perceive something out of the ordinary this festive season report to the nearest security or law enforcement agents immediately. Do not allow the criminal enjoy the Christmas and New Year at your expense.
Have a crime free Christmas and New Year in advance!
Ugwuala, Christian .O. a crime prevention practitioner writes from firstname.lastname@example.org