Before the technological innovation that brought about the Internet, the financial fraudsters popularly known as 419-ners were in operation in Nigeria especially in the commercial city of Lagos. They were mainly grown-up, educated and illiterate men and women, who specialised in using fax machines to defraud unsuspected foreigners and Nigerians.
In the early 90’s, they were the big men and women in the society. They commanded respect because of the enormous wealth at their disposal. Unfortunately for some of them like Emmanuel Nwude and others, they were arrested by the anti-graft agency, tried and convicted. They lost some of their assets to the anti-graft agency and have since been struggling for survival.
In recent times and with the coming of the Internet system, Nigerian youths especially, the undergraduates, have taken to the illicit trade called Internet scam. Investigations reveal that this development is responsible for drastic reduction in cultism in the higher institutions, as it has been overshadowed by widespread cyber fraud.
Popularly dubbed Yahoo boys, to perpetrate the crime, these youths often use yahoo free e-mail account. The fraudulent business became prevalent in Nigeria in 2000 with the accessibility of the Internet. Youths who engage in the fraud scam became rich overnight, with or without their parents’ knowledge. They owned expensive cars, houses, jewellery and more. They are highly respected and often initiate their peers into the scam.
According to Nigerian police statistics, thousands of undergraduates dabble in the Web fraud. A rich yahoo boy is a role model for the youth, they fancy his lifestyle and want to be like him. The only thing that disturbs them is how to make easy and quick money.
On how to start internet scam, a web designer and computer engineer, Mr Simon Okwu told The Guardian that Yahoo boys must have a computer, good phone and a stable Internet connection.
“There are plenty of examples of how to start a yahoo boy career on the Web. Therefore, young people quickly study all the ground rules. The best trick to start with is titled “Web freestyle”. 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.
“A yahoo boy should learn how to send fake messages to both social networks. It is a little risk field of a yahoo boy specialisation, which can bring real money. 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.
“Yahoo boys also professionally master another deception technique, which is called phishing. This method allows acquiring any person’s private data (passwords, usernames, and credit card data). Yahoo boys also master the ATM fraud technique. Con artists usually walk around ATM spots. Their clients are various vulnerable users- aged people, pregnant women, illiterate people, etc. When a yahoo boy finds his victim, he usually changes credit cards to deceive people. They usually work on weekends when banks are closed. Thus, until Monday morning victims will be unable to stop any illegal transactions performed by them. To become a successful yahoo boy in Nigeria, they usually find reliable allies in banking staff. These people are young and crucially in need of money. They usually help yahoo boys to commit frauds. Becoming a yahoo boy, one must forget about any opportunity to find a legal job. All your strength should be directed to finding new schemes of taking money from people via the Internet,” Okwu said.
Despite several arrests and convictions over the scam, Nigerian youths have continued to ply the trade in droves both at home and abroad. In March 19, 2014, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC) arrested four undergraduates and three others for alleged involvement in Internet scam. They were arrested in two different locations in Ibadan, Oyo State. They were arrested together at the Iyana Adeoyo Branch of a first generation bank in Dugbe, Ibadan, while they were collecting proceeds of scam via Western Union.
The arrest of the seven suspects followed intense surveillance by operatives of the Commission who had been on their trail for some time. One of the suspects admitted conning a white American lady, Sarah Jorth, in a romance scam. He said he used a false name (Vincente Marco) to deceive her into believing that he would marry her and in the process raked in more than $450,000.
Breeding A Booming Generation Of Scammers
MANY Nigerian families are happy that their children are attending institutions of higher learning across the country, which is good for them and ultimately the country.
But few mind the company they are and the company they keep. And most of this few don’t care how they get by or find out.These days, a large number of Nigeria’s dropouts, unemployed youths and undergraduates studying in the country, especially in the southern part, are turning out to be a generation of scammers and Internet fraudsters, known and unknown to their parents.
Unfortunately, this has encouraged many more to join, as those who have ‘made it’ or ‘hit it’ through scam sort of serve as role models in a recessed economy and a society of declining moral latitude, not minding, or rather, realising the bleak future their boom portends.
‘Big Boys’ Moving To Lekki
IN Lagos, those who have hit it big enough are fast relocating to Lekki, where they have houses that offer them some security, just as the environment keeps prying eyes and genuine security agents off their backs.In Lekki, most residents mind their businesses and care less about these rowdy and emerging big boys, so long as they are not “criminals’ or thieves and robbers.
And for these boys, it has become a safe haven, unlike in the less developed areas of the city, where they are constantly harassed for cash by security agents.Once any of them buys a house, his clique virtually relocate with him, of course, for ease of business. Soon, the highbrow Lekki will turn to scammers den, not haven, if the tide is not arrested. But how can that be?Some have even graduated to ‘Yahoo Plus’ by adding the use of charms to their games to hypnotise their victims.To evade being caught, the big ones among them who can afford it go for iPhones rather than android phones.
There Are Apprentices
COME to think of it: these emerging ‘big boys’ are gradually having ‘smaller boys’ or ‘apprentices’ under them.Ohima (surname withheld) had completed his secondary education two years ago in Lagos. He had written entrance examinations into the higher institutions twice without securing admission.
He lives with his parents. His father is a ‘businessman,’ while his mother is a trader and shop owner.One morning, he was asked what he was doing now, since he was yet to secure admission into the university or polytechnic.
His answer was simply: “I am learning work.” Probed further what kind of trade he was learning, presumably before he is able to secure admission, he walk away, saying: “Bros, I dey come.”
Further enquiries from his former friends and schoolmates showed that he had joined the ‘trade,’ with the knowledge and tacit approval of his parents.Two months later, Ohima was not doing badly for himself: He looks better fed and cared for, ostensibly from the ‘pay’ from the trade. And, of course, his circle of friends have changed, with some of them cruising in cars, and he is being envied by some of his former friends.
Security Agents In The Know
SUPRISINGLY, the activities of these fraudsters are not unknown to security agents, especially the Police, who arrest them from time to time, but for a different reason.
It is not unusual to see policemen in unmarked vehicles occasionally raiding their locations and hideouts. When arrested, they are detained until their cliques come to bail them out for as much as N200, 000, depending on their worth. But those innocently arrested or unable to afford the bail stay longer in detention.
There were even reports of regular security agents escorting them from their detention to Automated teller machines (ATMs) to withdraw money to bail themselves out, for those who can afford it.
So, when arrested, the ‘big boys’ fear not, for they know they can bail themselves out or friends in the same trade would do so.Even in the banks, it is not uncommon to see some security officers in plain clothes in the banking halls, but close to the section in charge of (foreign) remittance.
It was gathered that they work in collaboration with some bank staff, who tip them off once there is a large remittance to be made.In one of the banks in a Lagos suburb, a young man was happily counting his remitted cash as soon as the cashier paid him. Midway, he realised that eyes were focused on him, and even the camera in the hall as he approached the exit.
He quietly turned back and sat at the hall, doing nothing, just watching, for over one hour until someone, obviously in his circle of friends, joined him and they climbed upstairs.Outside was a security agent from a nearby station, and another across the road, and it became obvious why the young man beat a hasty retreat into the banking hall.Unconfirmed reports say some of these ‘big boys’ are regular visitors to the stations, even without invitation or case to answer.
They Come In Different Categories
ALL scammers are not of the same category, as some are bigger than others and their categories determine their circle and growth.But certain features are characteristic of scammers; hence they are easily identifiable by security agents. Due to constant harassment by security agents, who stop and search youths with bags, especially backpacks, it has become out of place to move about in laptop bags.
But they are customers of multiple user high-speed Internet providers, especially 4G LTE modems, big or small. And due to irregular power supply, it is commonplace to see them run generators for long hours, in the day or night.
What Is SFU Doing And Can Do?
IN the midst of this booming ‘business,’ one wonders what the Special Fraud Unit (SFU) of the Nigeria Police is doing and can do to check the trend before it escalates further.
Although it was gathered that the activities of the unit have over the years reduced the menace, it is obvious that it has to up its actions and increase collaboration with banks, rather than leave the duty to the regular police officers, who are ill-equipped to curb the menace.If not, Nigeria is in for a generation of scammers and its effect on the future is better imagined.
Abeokuta As New Abode For Internet Scammers
EXCEPT something drastic is done the next generation of youths appear jinxed, as a large number of their population are engaged in cyber crimes and other vices.The number is growing at an alarming rate. There is no surprise that there is proliferation of Yahoo Boys everywhere.
Cases of internet scams have occurred in institutions like Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU), Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State, University of Lagos (UNILAG), Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba, (AAUA) Ondo State, Lagos State University (LASU), Lead City University, Ibadan and Federal University of Technology (FUTA), Akure, Ondo State, among others.
It is also common in areas like FESTAC town, Shomolu, Opebi, Ojodu, Oke-Ira, Akiode, Bariga, Akoka, Mushin and Ojodu, all in Lagos State, while Sagamu and Akute in Ogun State are also inclusive.
In Lagos alone, it is estimated that there are five million scammers with an impressive success rate.In January 2012, operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) arrested two undergraduate Internet scammers and six other fraudsters at the upscale 1004 Housing Estate, Victoria Island, Lagos.
One of them, Hope Olusegun, a 25 year-old indigene of Okene, Kogi State, claimed to be a student of Computer Science at the Kuala Lumpur Metropolitan University, Malaysia.A search conducted by EFCC operatives at Olusegun’ s apartment led to the recovery of several items such as laptops, iPad phones, travelling documents, cheque books, flash drives, internet modem, and three exotic cars – a Mercedes Benz Jeep, One 4Matic Mercedes Benz Car and a Range Rover Sport SUV.
The trend has, however, advanced beyond the ordinary cyber crime level to what is generally known as Yahoo Plus, Oracle Plus Plus or Yahoo Extra. This new trend is the latest fad among unscrupulous youths and an elevated form of the traditional modes of Internet fraud.
This advance fad is believed to have started in 2006, when the regular yahoo boys began to experience challenges of getting regular income.This trend involves performing various rituals using charmed ring in their right index fingers and a black powdery substance mixed with honey, which they lick before speaking with their maga (victims) on phone.
Some use small tortoise, which they keep under their feet whenever they are chatting on laptops with victims. Their fingertips also bear incisions and a charm-filled animal horn prepared by their spiritualists.
Some also go as far as sleeping in the cemetery and bathing in a river to brighten their chances of getting the maga hypnotised. Once this is done, the victim is guaranteed of remitting money to the swindler’s account regularly from any part of the world.
Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, is reportedly the new abode of these con men. The Guardian investigation reveals that majority of them live in Adigbe, Saraki, Obada-Oko, Elega, Oluwo and Onikoko areas of the town and around the campuses.
While some of them are alleged to be undergraduates of OOU, Moshood Abiola Polytechnic (MAPOLY), Tai Solarin University of Education (TASUED), a fraction are students of the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB) and Federal College of Education (FCE) Osiele. Others are drop- outs that have been either rusticated or dropped out of school, after they have become rich and only hang around campuses as students.
For the novice, it may not be difficult to recognise these fraudsters, as they have a common identity. From The Guardian findings, they are easily recognised by their mode of dressing and appearance. They are always very proud because of the financial resources at their disposal.
For those in school, they live big on campuses and attend lectures whenever they deem fit, considering that they have the money to buy over lecturers. They are dapper dressers and widely admired by youths. They are treated like kings, ride the best automobiles that cost millions of naira and always dating the most beautiful ladies in town.
A source in Abeokuta, who wants his name off-print, told The Guardian that fraudsters live together in the afore-mentioned areas in the town. They move together and flaunt their ill-gotten wealth to the admiration of people who celebrate them without questioning the source of their wealth.
An inside source, Adekunle Ahmed (not real name), confirmed too that the ‘business’ is now booming in the town and other areas like Sagamu, Ijebu-Ode and its environs because of the presence of spiritualists within the areas, who are readily willing to assist them in the trade.
He noted that the spiritualists are mainly based in Sagamu, Ijebu-Igbo and Ago-Iwoye, adding that some travel as far as Ilorin in Kwara State and Shaki in Oyo State to seek spiritual help.
But the State Police Command, which denied the claim that Abeokuta has become the hotbed of the fraudsters, said the Command is not aware, stressing that cyber crime is everywhere.
The State Police Public Relations (PPRO), Abimbola Oyeyemi told The Guardian they could only make arrests if there are complaints from scammed victims, but since there is none, there is no way the police would know the existence of the Yahoo Boys.
‘We Scam Nigerians Who Are Not Sharp’’
GBENGA (surname withheld) gained admission into the Lagos State Polytechnic some years ago, but has neither graduated from the school nor has anything to show for the years spent so far.
Squatting with an indefinite number of friends in a three-bedroom flat at an area called First Gate, opposite the campus, he tells The Guardian he has no intention of finishing his studies at LASPOTECH.
He and his group of friends are into Internet scam, popularly called yahoo yahoo.According to him, he got into the ‘G life’ (as he called it) by accident, after meeting some classmates who seemed to be doing well, independent of their parents.
After moving with them for a while and cultivating their friendship, he was introduced into the ‘business.’“The business is tough. Sometimes, you might not hit for a long while even after setting things in place, but sometimes, you are lucky and get like three to five hits in one month,” he said.
He disclosed that they use various methods to scam people, with the most common being the tale about coming into a huge inheritance and needing money to clear the said inheritance, where the ‘helper’ gets a share of the ‘inheritance.’
When it was discovered that people had caught onto this, the fraudsters moved into the love scam, promising love and marriage to women online. After people became wiser, they moved on to the ‘military scam,’ wherein they posed as military veterans to defraud people online.
According to him, when all these failed, they tried what he called gba lowo e, ko mo lo (phishing), where they acquired sensitive information, such as usernames, passwords and credit card details and cleared the victims’ accounts.Gbenga said he belongs to several groups and members assist one another by sharing information and techniques, but just among themselves and not to rival groups.
According to him, the scammers have a usual bank where they go to collect Western Union, as the cashier assists them by facilitating the process, but alerts them to stay away and come back whenever the Police come around to raid.
Asked if he uses mystical powers to commit the act, he said: “Of course, now. There is hardly any working boy or girl that does not use something.“Things are hard and there are too many people in the business and everybody wants to hit.
“Here, we use ase and a ring, oruka ere. The ring helps us to connect to the magas, while we use ase to speak with them to send money.“About two years ago, one customer paid good money and we all bought cars and rented this place, but it has not been rosy since then.”
What about the cars and Gbenga said most of them (scammers) have sold theirs to make ends meet.He said he knows some other groups are into yahoo plus, but he is afraid to get into it just yet.
“One of the ‘G boys’ across (pointing) used one girl recently, Cynthia. The girl was buried last month. She was just getting leaner and leaner and her parents thought she had HIV/AIDS or something, not knowing boys had gotten her.
“But I know her mother knows what happened, because she didn’t cry too much and told them to bury the girl quickly. “She wanted to enjoy money, but was just unlucky to fall into wrong hands.”
Gbenga added that last year was quite tough, as business was no longer like before and had made some boys to venture into other get-rich-quick schemes, including kidney-for-money, which involves traveling to a foreign country and selling one’s kidney for monetary gains.
Gbenga said he was considering this, but afraid of the several drawbacks.First, it is no longer as lucrative as before, as it has become widespread, forcing the price of kidneys down.
“Before, if you go like that, you can sell one kidney between N15million and N20million, but it is no more like that again. “Another thing is that you need a sure agent, as a lot of these agents are fake. They will promise you heaven on earth before traveling, but change the tune when you get there and if you are not careful, they will leave you stranded and the Police will arrest you.
“Also, some of them will plan with girls to trap you. The girls will take you out for either drinks or dinner and put something in your food/drink. By the time you wake up, you will discover you have been operated upon and your kidney is gone for free.
“Go to Malaysia, you will see many boys stranded there with no money to return home. This was what happened to them. “One of our boys, Sola, is still there, but we are raising money to bring him back home.”
Sadly, the lure of easy wealth and laziness is driving a lot of these youths into crime in droves, as they look at these yahoo boys living large, spending money lavishly without a visible source of income, thereby making hard work unattractive and pointless.
A few days ago, on social media, there was a video circulating of a young boy that said he wanted to be an Internet fraudster when he gets older. Even on Facebook, they have several networking sites, such as, Yahoo Boys, Girls and Guys Association of Money Making Machine, Yahoo Boyz, Yahoo Guys Forum, G Boyz and so on, where they share information and tips, swap war stories, connect and generally glorify criminality.
Sadly, in the comments section, you see youths begging these criminals to ‘show them the way,’ ‘take me to Malaysia, I want to sell my kidney,’ and so on.
Some have even published books, manuals and tapes on tips to start the yahoo business, tools needed and where to go, and these are selling like hot cake among the country’s youth.
Gbenga said it would be almost impossible to deter them from the lifestyle and act when he was told that the Police have a unit responsible for tracking them.
He boasted that the yahoo boys work hand in hand with some policemen and those that are caught or regularly raided are the ones that don’t “settle” them.
He added: “We usually settle the Police, so we don’t have any problem. If their demands are getting too much or they want to open shop on our heads, we simply relocate and continue business.
“No matter the level of enlightenment, you will still see customers that will fall.”Asked if Nigerians are also scammed, he said: “Yes. We scam Nigerians that are not sharp or get greedy.“We use ATM format on them or other techniques, which I will not reveal, so that people wouldn’t stop falling victims.”
Bankers Have Been Compromised
To 28-year-old Demola in Isolo area of Lagos, what people used to know as yahoo yahoo has gone beyond mere conversation and emotional chat.According to him, most yahoo boys have upped the ante with what is today known as yahoo plus, a trend where yahoo boys now use fetish means to hypnotise their victims to get what they want from them.
“Ordinary yahoo yahoo is old fashioned; it no longer yields the desired result.“The real thing now is yahoo plus. Magas are getting wiser and no longer falling mugu,” he said.Demola said he turned a new leaf when he noticed that he was no longer making any headway in the trade and decided to inquire from some friends in same business, but were better off.
“I was startled when I discovered that human parts are required to prepare the concoction that would be used to hypnotise victims,” he stated.He also said some yahoo boys have taken their scam off the Internet, as they now lay siege at ATM points to feign assistance to vulnerable users, such as illiterates, the old and the physically challenged, and later swap cards to defraud them.
This is done mostly on weekends, when normal banking operations are non-functional, and outside the state where the account is domiciled.With over 2,000 bankers losing their jobs due to the economic recession, a large number of them are now casual workers in the banks and deployed to man same key positions they manned before as staff at far less pay, and in a bid to augment their take home, some of them are compromised by the fraudsters.
Lack Of Employment Forces Youths Into Cyber Crime
MANY had thought that the rate of Internet fraud would decrease with the federal government’s introduction of Bank Verification Number (BVN) in the country, which requires customers’ biometric information, such as photograph and fingerprints.Unfortunately, these scammers have become more evasive in their approach, hiding where they cannot be easily traced.
They sit comfortably at home, making millions of naira by setting up various websites malware with fake names and identity.In Ijegun, Alimosho Council of Lagos State, they move in groups, purchasing houses and other assets and going to clubs and also flirting.
They work in multiple ways, such as sending mails to victims, local or international, purportedly from banks, persuading them to enroll on an offer that would ultimately grant the fraudsters access to hack into the victim’s accounts.
At this stage, the victim receives a link purportedly from the bank that automatically redirects to the Internet banking portal, where the fraudsters clone the webpage, despite the fact that banks are not supposed to have access to a customer’s Internet banking password.
The fraudster is aware whenever the link is opened and every information entered is seen and watched backend. The scammer then opens the victim’s bank authentic Internet banking platform and keys in the username and password entered to login, initiate an Internet banking transfer and waits for the OTP (one time password) to complete it.
At the point when the victim types in his or her OTP on the cloned website, the fraudster completes the first transfer immediately.If the victim doesn’t get an alert of the debit, the scammer initiates another transfer and waits for the victim to enter another OTP and then completes the second transfer.
Another popular method used by fraudsters is the Phishing scam, which is based on communication made via email or on social networks. The criminal sends a message to victim and tries to trick him or her into giving him his or her personal and confidential information, such as bank account, social network, work account or any other personal data that could prove to be valuable for him.
To do that, the phishing emails usually come from what looks like an official source, which could be bank authorities or other financial institutes, but also delivery companies or social networks business representatives.
This way, the scammer would persuade the victim to click on the link contained in the message and access a website that looks legitimate and like the real one, but actually controlled by the scammer.
A fake login access page that is similar to the real website would be sent to the victim.For his or her success rate to grow, the scammer creates a sense of urgency, telling the victim a frightening story of how his or her bank account was under threat and how he or she really needs to access it as soon as possible and gives a web page where he or she must insert his or her credentials to confirm his or her identity or account.
The laundering scam typically starts with an emotional email message, which can be from a government official, businessman or member of a very wealthy family (usually a woman), asks the victim to provide help in retrieving a large sum of money from a bank, by paying initially small fees for documents and legal matters.
In exchange for the victim’s help, the scammer promises him or her a very large sum of money.Of course, afterwards, he or she asks the victim to pay more and more for additional services, such as transactions or transfer costs.
The victim even receives documents that are supposed to make him or her believe that it is all for real. In the end, the victim is left broke and without any of the promised money.
Lifestyle Of A Yahoo Boy
Yahoo Yahoo, Yahoo Plus, Wire Wire and Alibaba are the multimillionaire illicit businesses that yield money for undergraduates these days. The Guardian investigation shows that 90 per cent of students who own exotic cars and live large within and outside campuses are involved in the internet scam.
They are also known as Gee Nigga, a Gee Nigga after his hit only thinks of how to squander money, and celebrate, afterward do shopping get clothes and jeans they can wear for three months without exchanging previous one, get a two-bedroom apartment and a car, mostly Toyota Camry.
However, these guys are students or do apprentice jobs like barbing to cover-up for their dirty jobs. Any barber’s shop with a semi-boutique is surely owned by the Gee Nigga.
Most times they flock together on the campuses with their car. The lifestyle of a typical Yahoo boy is to spend morning time going to work or school and closing early to visit exotic bars in the evening to spend lavishly. At night, he faces his fraudulent trade since Nigeria’s night is almost morning time abroad.
Internet scam has different styles, grade and procedures.
A learner starts with yahoo yahoo, which consist of freestyle or merchant style.This procedure is just to get a celebrity account on the Internet, act like them and post their latest updates to make them real, and toasters are their prey.
While the merchant style always looks for people online who are in need of apartments, exterior and interior equipment in large volumes or cars or anyone in need of any commodity on a large scale. He proposes to them and shows them fake documents online to convince them.
Over time, greed leads them to the upper grade, which pays more, and needs more attention and this drives them to the fetish part of it. Once you accept to upgrade you have to join a pack. That means you have to upgrade your friends and become a learner again before someone among the bigger boys introduces you to the godfather, a local herbalist.
Wire wire and Alibaba seem to be the hardest and the smartest of all and it is a bigger boys game. This stage of the game prompt any gee nigger who is interested to learn computing so as to be able to understand how to do hacking. It is mostly common among those studying computer science in polytechnics and universities.
Wire wire is hacking into international banks websites to make use of the code on their cheques and take the codes to do withdrawal through their picker. This enables them to get rich faster because they withdraw codes with huge sums of money that can sustain them for years.
Alibaba is just to get information of a particular wealthy foreigner, get their credit card details to make another credit card and use them to order for containers of goods from abroad. So they get their cash from anything that comes from the container when sold.
Slangs common among them include Thugger, a general nickname with a specific handshake, Eke or PAPA AJASCO means police or SARS officers, Hit means they’ve just been paid, Gbenusi means to go paint the club red.