The 15 suspected internet fraudsters paraded with their working tools in Ibadan, yesterday.
•Analyst: Those who fall have predisposition to crime
•Scammers’ flamboyant, reckless lifestyle
By Nnamdi Ojiego
Have you wondered why Yahoo Boys live a flamboyant reckless lifestyle? A psychiatrist, Dr. Julie Ogwunga, said the way of life of fraudsters is an enabler that helps them do more scamming.
“Scamming flourishes more in poverty and corrupt society. Young people may then see them as role models.
“society may hail them because they make donations once in a while. So people will then believe that the end justifies the means,” he told Sunday Vanguard.
Mode of Operation
A repentant Yahoo Boy, Elvis (not real name), said sending fraudulent messages to online dating websites and social network sites was low-risk but high-profit yielding.
Elvis, who started scamming when he was in the university, recalled that he used to act as an impostor via online dating to attract targets.
READ ALSO: FILTHY RICHES: The audacity of ‘Yahoo Boys’
He narrated: “I would look for the profile of people that live in developed countries. But if it is in Nigeria, I look for people who live in places like Port Harcourt, Abuja and Lagos.
“I always posed to them as a big man who needed a wife. Sometimes, I posed to them on how my wife disappointed me and took away my property and children.
“All this is polished in a pitiable way with some pictures to convince them when I’m chatting with them.
“However, I later migrated to mainly transmitting misleading information online for people to send their sensitive bank account details. I made some money from it, though it is not as easy as it seems. Anyway, I have stopped all that now.”
Informal networks are vital to the scammers’ success. These networks revolve around banks, security agencies, co-fraudsters and, sometimes, families.
The common means of collecting fraudulent money in Nigeria is through the banks, mostly through the Western Union money transfer.
Elvis disclosed that through compromised bank staff, fraudsters use fake identity to access funds. The reason for this is not far-fetched. Scammers mostly use foreign names and don’t have a recognized identity card in that name.
He went on, “For a successful execution of a ‘job’, an insider within the bank is important. The bank staff facilitates payment without attracting the attention of security agencies. They also get their share of the ‘runs’.”
Elvis’s revelation on the connivance of bank officials is not surprising. The instability in the Nigerian banking sector may have created an uncommitted workforce. Working in an insecure establishment makes workers vulnerable.
Large numbers of casual workers are deployed to man key positions in the banks. This makes way for criminal opportunities.
Therefore, the Yahoo Boys find easy allies in banking staff, who are mostly youths too, because of their socio-economic condition.
The fear of unemployment has been identified as a push factor for undergraduates’ involvement in internet fraud.
An internet fraudster who begged for anonymity agreed with this assertion. According to him, the fear of the unknown pushes many youths including students to Yahoo-Yahoo. He saw nothing wrong in the act.
“Most of us do this to be established before graduation rather than waiting for after-school unemployment. By the way, I don’t see anything wrong with it, it’s just a hustle,” he said.
It is no surprise that there is a proliferation of Yahoo Boys. The celebration of wealth, particularly among politicians, serves to motivate the involvement of youths in cybercrime. Because, as Ononugbo stated, Nigerian society celebrates wealth without questioning its source.
“So what do these young Nigerians do under these circumstances? They see a leadership that doesn’t care about their future.
“And they use their education to follow the example set by their elders that shows crime pays”, Ononugbo, a private crimes investigator, said.
“How does it affect us? Our policing system is lacking in the digital space. The technology and capabilities by the police and all the security agencies including EFCC are far below the speed of development.
“So, they can’t even effectively police the digital space and this has given criminals a haven for unsuspecting riches”.
Why do people fall for criminals, one may want to ask? Experts identified greed and ignorance as primary reasons.
However, Ononugbo explained that one could be ignorant and not greedy.
“Those who fall victims have a predisposition to crime because if you don’t want to steal from somebody, you will not be stolen from in the digital space.
“Most people who fall victim to internet scams do not tell the whole truth. Some of them are predisposed to the revenue they didn’t work for”, he said.
“The level of awareness by our various government agencies is also low. Seeing this kind of pandemic because it is no longer an epidemic, there should have been structures of aggressive public enlightenment campaigns to protect the people.
“That is the duty of the police. Police should have a vote for media adverts, billboards, and social media publications so that people are inundated with the information that can keep them conscious of certain things that they shouldn’t do”, he suggested.
But for Mrs. Ogwunga, who is the Acting Director, Department of Health Services, Alvan Ikoku Federal College of Education, Owerri, sensation seekers or impulsive people are at the risk of being defrauded.
She said: “The elderly and the very young people are also at risk. Those who have intellectual disabilities or have a low level of intelligence or have problems with the frontal lobes of their brain can easily fall victims. Very honest people tend to fall victim because they trust everyone.
“Also, those who do not take time and care to look into details and do not consider the consequences of the things they do, as well as people, who like moving with the crowd, are highly at risk.”
On tackling the vice, Ononugbo stated: “If we want to fight cybercrime, one, we must regulate and be able to identify people’s source of income.
“We must have a credible system to detect these things. What is wrong is that the system is deficient and there’s no moral courage and political will to implement the right policies
“The law cannot be adequately enforced because most of those entrusted with the responsibilities of arresting and prosecuting scammers are complicit.
“So the police and other law enforcement agents have been collaborating to encourage Yahoo-Yahoo. They collect money to release criminals who should be in jail thereby emboldening them to go ahead committing crimes.
“Again, some people in government bend and adjust the system to let those committing crimes out instead of punishing them and they will be celebrated”.
Elvis corroborated this by saying, “We, (Yahoo Boys) know that most of the security agents want to be rich also, so whenever they arrest us, we would give them part of the money as ‘settlement’ and they will release us.”
On the special skill or tools to operate by scammers, the security experts said there is software online that could allow one to hack into private accounts, retrieve their information and trick people into parting with their money.
Meanwhile, Ogwunga narrated how the mind of a scammer works.
She said, “Most scammers have a Personality Disorder (PD). They could either have a Narcissistic PD or an Antisocial PD, or the extreme form, which is psychopath.
“Sometimes people who are pathological gamblers, that is, those addicted to gambling, and those who abuse substances such as alcohol, cannabis, cocaine, etc. can engage in scamming to get the money to fund their addictions.
“Those with Narcissistic PD are grandiose, with inflated self-worth. They also have the feeling of entitlement and they lack empathy, that is, they cannot understand or care about how another person feels.
“Those that have Antisocial PD and Psychopaths are deceitful and cunning. They too lack empathy and like risk-taking.
Some people that suffer from Bipolar Disorder i.e. the Mania aspect can occasionally indulge in scamming. But this is usually on rare occasions.
“These people go into scamming for many reasons. The majority of the time, it is done for material gains such as financial, information and physical gains. But at other times, it can be done just for the pleasure of seeing their victims deceived.
“And the majority of the time, the scammer believes that he or she is more entitled to the bootie than the victim.
“They can also rationalize their behaviours by blaming them on their victims. This removes the guilt of their actions and motivates them to do more scamming.”
Continuing, she added: “Other driving factors include poverty, combined with high societal corruption. These contribute to the motivation to deceive others.
“Though, accessibility to the victim or the tools used for the scamming, makes scamming easy.
“You must be intelligent and be an expert in the tools used. The scammer must be intelligent because fraud requires planning.
“The person also should be able to formulate methods of getting the victims to fall for the trick. This includes using different strategies.
“Those who engage in internet fraud must have access to computers and the technology that operates them.
“They must be vast in how to operate emails, SMS, network sites, and how to hack these. Being charming and fluent in using convincing words are added advantages.
“Most scammers are young people between the ages of 26 and 50 years. There are older scammers but they are fewer in number.
“They use different tricks to get their victims. However, one major attribute of Yahoo boys is patience. They are patient and can spend time studying their victims before they strike.
“If the scammer believes the victim he wants is gullible for love and marriage, he may engage the victim through online romance scam or dating scam.
“Via this process, the victim will, in the end, give cash to foster the fake romantic relationship.
“Again, some people easily endear themselves to strangers that they believe know much about them or resemble them in behaviour.
“So a scammer can take time to study the victim’s personality, likes and dislikes, etc. before meeting with the victim.
“Scammers can make use of the method called Force Indebtedness to get their victims. They make their victims believe that one good turn deserves another.
“He engages the victim in a simple money-making venture, and the victim will get a little reward for the little money invested.
“This gets the victim hooked and in turn, will feel indebted to the scammer and continue to listen to the scammer.
“The scammer will then get the victim to invest huge sums of money, which will be the scam.”