By Cosmas Okoli
When I received a call on Thursday, from a friend, a Belgian citizen who just left Nigeria a few days back to Iceland where she has a business, I thought she called to inform me that she had arrived safely.
Unfortunately, she called to tell me that some fraudsters had hacked into my e-mail account and had sent a mail purported to be from me, asking for a loan to get me out of trouble in Europe. I was flabbergasted, not because I have never heard of such incidence, but because I never thought I would be a victim.
I decided to open my mail to see what was going on but could not log in. I then realized that my password had been changed. I tried frantically to recover my mail box and eventually succeeded.
I then tried to access the level of damage done and how to arrest the situation, only to find out that the hackers had wiped out all my contacts, obviously to stop me from sending a disclaimer.
The hackers also deleted over 2000 mails from my mail box. As I was still logged on, a message flashed on my screen, informing me that I had been disconnected from chatting as someone else had logged into my account from another computer.
I initially did not take this message seriously and continued to work. When I logged out and tried to log in again and could not log in, it dawned on me that the fraudster may have hacked into my mail again. I recovered my mail account again and continued to work.
The hacker or hackers also used my facebook to contact my friends, to solicit for recharge cards, claiming that I was in a meeting and not in a position to get someone to help me buy recharge card. When I got the information, I got my facebook suspended, but latter in the day, I got another call that they were still using my facebook, which made me suspect that they may have cloned my facebook.
I invited an IT expert to come and help me to recover my contacts; he agreed to come on Saturday.
So on Saturday while I was working with the consultant, to get messages across to all my contacts who received the scam mail, the message flashed again and I asked the IT expert what was the implication of the message, he confirmed that the hacker or hackers are still hacking into my mail account.
I was very eager to get my message across to all that received the scam mail to prevent the fraudster or fraudsters from duping anyone. I eventually succeeded and heaved a sigh of relief.
The cyber criminals in their effort to frustrate people who would want to confirm the authenticity of the mail they received, made a slight alteration to my mail signature, for instance, our phone numbers were slightly altered, also to ensure that the fraudster alone would be communicating with their target, the fraudster created a new account (firstname.lastname@example.org) and altered my mail setting using the fraudulent new mail address as reply to address.
It never ceases to amaze me that a person would devote his/her time trying to reap where he/she did not sow, when that valuable time could be used positively to sow seeds that would bear fruits… against trying to dupe others with the associated anxiety and risk of being caught and consequent destruction of the image of our country which invariably makes things more difficult for everyone, including the fraudsters.
May I implore all my relatives, friends, business associates, colleagues and all the good people out there, to always confirm the authenticity of any suspicious mail or text message before taking action.
Note that the fraudsters are highly sophisticated and can set booby traps for you which you might fall for, while trying to confirm the authenticity of suspicious mails. So in trying to verify the suspicious mail, do not use any contacts contained in the suspicious mail, you should rely only on the contacts or information you already have.
May I call on our law enforcement agencies and the government to move quickly to stem the tide of cyber crime in our country.
There are cyber criminals all over the world, but what makes the difference is the effectiveness of various governments and law enforcement agencies to stem the tide and make cyber crime less attractive by ensuring that there are strong laws, and that the law enforcement agencies are equipped to fight the crime.
When the tendency to apprehend perpetrators and punished them is high, it will serve as a deterrent.