How Not to Fall Prey to Cyber Criminals

Imagine checking your e-mail to find out if your friends, colleagues, business associates or any other person or organization that communicates with you, has gotten in touch. Your eyes ritualistically scan the name/subject in each box, and hey! a message in one of the subject lines gets your attention. Curiosity gets the better part of you and naturally you click on the subject matter and the contents are revealed. Well what do you know? someone is presenting a whooping sum of money to you, in exchange for a "seemingly harmless favour". It's an unbelievable offer, probably a once in a life time opportunity and you decide to play ball, and end up parting with some money. Congrats! you've just been duped of your hard earned money by some cyber criminals in sheep clothing.

A person who falls as a victim in the net of these day light robbers is referred to as a "Mugu" or "Maga", which simply means "a dummy, a fool" and in our National colloquial (vernacular) in Nigeria is called "Mumu". The reason why people constantly swallow the bait is ironically based on "Greed ". These lazy bones will always present you with a whooping sum that would make you whistle or cause your eyes to pop out of its sockets. Of course, since you want the money, you agree to play ball. They use the weapon of greed against you, tell you to bring a small amount of money, a little now, and a little again based on a thousand and one excuses. It's like leaving trails of bread crumbs for the bird to eat, which it does eat, hoping excitedly from one to the other, and since its guard has been let down...bam!, it finds itself trapped in a cage.

I have received e-mails telling me of a next of kin issue with millions that I could conveniently inherit, or that I'd won a whooping sum,(in pounds) organized by some Blue chip companies, lottery bodies. I was asked to send my personal details ( name, address, phone number, bank account number,) to claim my prize money. I didn't need any one to tell me that they were scammed mails, I sniffed it out instantly.

Those who perpetuate these crimes are referred to as "Yahoo Yahoo boys" in Nigeria (they illegally used the top notch site for criminal activities when the internet began to blossom in the country), and also "Advanced fee fraudsters".

Always bear in mind that the potential scammer might and might not know you. He might know you by reason of being your friend, relative, colleague who knows a lot about you such as your likes and dislikes, where you shop, your habits, what you do, they know a lot. Where they don't know you, they generate e-mails through the e-mail look up process on popular search engines and type in a person's name. Thousands of e- mails with the name pops up, then the search is narrowed down to city, town, address of the people. They then decide on whom to pick, and after carefully writing the letter to avoid suspicion, it's sent to your box, and then the game begins.

Death and Inheritance messages: Next of kin
The scammer introduces himself in the e-mail as "Mr X", (a false name) and probably tells you he'd tried mailing a letter (surface mail) to you, sent it but didn't get any response and so it must have been lost. He correctly states your name, address, and can even tell you some details about yourself (but not in all cases, he can go straight to the point after introducing himself). There are various versions of the next of kin story. One version is to inform you of how a rich man died (with his family) and left an incredible sum with no one to inherit the money. Then he began to conduct an investigation and suddenly finds out that you're his lost long next of kin. Of course he knows you'll doubt it and asks you in the letter to send an e-mail to his Attorney to verify. You're curious (on one hand you feel something's not right and on the other you begin to think of the possibility of being a made for life and even allow yourself to day dream in Fantasy Island). You send the e-mail, after all an Attorney (an officer of the law in the Temple of Justice) can't be engaged in nefarious activities.

The Attorney who unknown to you is still 'Mr X' replies and confirms its true, and with that assurance you eagerly write back to 'Mr X' telling him you've confirmed and your ready to claim the inheritance. He's happy, showers praises on you and tells you he'll get right to working on it. He waits a couple of more days (to heighten the suspense) and sends another e- mail to you stating that he'll need, say $500, to get the legal documents out based on "xyz reasons". What's $500 compared to hundreds of thousands/millions of dollars, so you send it. Then one excuse after the other comes rolling in and you're parting with more and more money, and before you know it "you're the Mugu"

Another version of the Next of Kin evil scheme, would be to receive an e-mail by 'Mr X' who is based in another country. He informs you about how a certain rich man ( a foreign business partner ) deposited a staggering amount in their bank for the expansion of some business deals in Africa, while he was and still is, say, the foreign operations manager. Unfortunately, the man, and his wife, died in an air crash and since they had no children, and no one had come forward to claim same, he was offering you the opportunity of doing that. He tells you to open a new bank account and forward the details to him, and to also include your name, address, phone number, age, occupation and other personal details that would be useful in withdrawing the amount. He tells you not to worry, he's got everything worked out and after the money transfer has been made, he'll resign, meet with you, and split the money 50/50. You decide to play ball, and he begins to bring up one excuse or the other to extort money from you, and hey he's got you "You're the Maga".

The trick is always aimed at those who want to 'date/marry' someone 'over the net' (that is not to say that all dating sites are illegal or don't give the desired results some crave for) but it's a strategy they effectively use. I particularly do not encourage people to date over the net or to be swept off their feet by love declarations and marriage proposals (my opinion) for the following reasons:

1) People are not really who they seem to be over the net
2) The net is a facade that hides their true identify/character
3) How do you know the picture of the person is his true self, you'd be surprised at how these idle minds put up fake pictures and impersonate people
4) Anybody can write any thing on the net to impress you, you can't tell if he truly likes/loves you, and you can't attest to his character
5) You could be chatting/dating an ex-con, a criminal, pervert, rapist, wife beater, murderer, psychotic, who just wants to play on your emotions
6) Most dating/love relationships, oftentimes than not, takes place in different geographical axis, the man in one country and the woman in another. It's safer for them that way, after all, you can't hop in to a plane just to go to his country and when you finally do, he's made all the necessary arrangements for you to believe in his tell tales.

Now the widower "Mr X" doesn't reveal his true identity through the picture, so he becomes an impostor, and takes the identity of someone else (having hacked into the person's profile over the net) from another country. He pastes the picture on a dating site he has created, and since he's good looking, "lonely Miss Y" from another country sees the picture and sends him a flattery e-mail, but the letter conveys a tone of disbelief. 'Mr X' quickly responds by sending pictures of himself to her box, his profile, and other vital information he senses would be of paramount interest to her. She's satisfied and begins a relationship with supposedly 'Mr X'. One day he cooks up a story about how he's stranded at the airport in "N country" and needs her to send $500 to help him out. He designs and sends her counterfeit flight tickets, hotel bills etc and instructs her to send it in the name of "Mr Z" (his accomplice). She'll do anything for the love of her life and sends same. It's one excuse or the other after that, and she keeps on sending money and never gets to meet him, until she realises she'd been tricked, but it's too late "She's the Mugu"

Credit/ATM Cards, Bank Accounts
"Mr X" through software generators, gets access to people's IDs and with their credit card information has access to their bank details. He logs on to the bank's website, types in the information, and transfers the money into his account. It was used mainly when internet facilities began to thrive in Nigeria. Currently, e-mails and even text messages via mobile phones, are sent by these lazy drones to people, especially bank and Telecoms customers, requesting them to send their ATM details, bank account details, PIN numbers, to redeem prizes or for some other unrealistic reasons. In a swift reaction, the Banks and Telecoms companies have alerted the public to disregard such e-mails and text messages, and not to divulge such vital information, as they would never tell customers to do that.

Lottery winnings
Imagine being sent an e- mail that you'd won "K million dollars/pounds", because your name popped up as the winner. They tell you to visit the lottery site (bear in mind that some don't ). You do and it looks authentic, and you're thrilled about being a Millionaire, imagine all the stuff you'd buy with the money... but hold on a second "It might not be real". There are authentic lottery sites no doubt, but you've got to be careful that you're not on the wrong track as 'Mr X" also uses lottery sites to perpetuate his illegal activities.

"Mr X" is aware of the ongoing lottery in "P country" he visits the site and designs a similar one, generates e-mail addresses, gets their information and sends it to various people, (not in his country, except to those he knows) and tells them they've won and should visit the site. You do and he has even placed the team's photos (fake) and the country it's being carried out in. You reply the message and you're informed of series of things that would be done in order for you to get the money. Again out of excitement you send "M dollars", and the excuses keep coming in, while you keep paying and then you soon realize "you're the Mugu"

Non-existent Business deals
Most oftentimes than not "Mr X" sends an e-mail to "H company" in another country filled with all sorts of business ideas, information, opportunities, projected financial yields 'H company' would have if they did business together (became partners). Of course, opportunity to expand the business and make tons of profit causes 'H company' to jump at the sweet package. One thing leads to another and 'H company' unaware of the legal processes to take in establishing a business/joint venture in 'X's country or unable to confirm the authenticity of the deal and about his company readily agrees to and gives into the various demands of 'Mr X'. He later finds out its all been a lie and oh! well the "contact man of H company was the Mugu".

Foreigners and indigenes alike should not be in the habit of jumping into partnership/business deals of any kind without verifying the legality of such proposed businesses initiated by an individual/company. One of the steps to take is to engage the services of a lawyer who will help in the verification process amongst other things.

Winning streak

Blue chip companies do not conduct promos without advertising same through the Media (electronic and print). They'll never tell you to send details of your bank account, address, or tell you to call them so that they can inform you of where to pick up your prize. Winners are always contacted or told to go to the Redemption centres to get them.

It's no longer news that some unpatriotic Nigerians are involved in internet scams and have tarnished the country's image abroad. Nigerians generally are viewed with suspicion and are seen as unreliable, untrustworthy, fraudulent people. This notion is however wrong as a few bad apples doesn't necessarily mean the others are rotten, but the country without blemish should first cast a stone!.

Nigeria's Minister of Information Prof. Dora Akunyili spurring on the Re -branding campaign, with the slogan, "Nigeria good people, great Nation" is ready to correct the wrong impression most foreigners have about Nigerians. The Economic and financial crimes commission (EFCC) has been haunting down Cyber criminals with the cyber raid approach and the latest electronic mechanism in partnership with Microsoft to monitor, detect, scam mails over the net which is generating a 100% success result. Illegal sites are being shut down, reducing by the day the number of millions of people who fall as victims. Mails perceived as scams based on reasons expounded herein or otherwise should be reported to the EFCC.

Nigerians are good, warm, hospitable, friendly people and the fertile soil gives investors (foreign and local) the opportunity of ploughing their financial/technical resources into it with mouth watering financial returns. It's a great place to be in and without mincing words "I'm proudly Nigerian".

So long...