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Yahoo boys with bankers’ help return in full force

In Lagos, many of the so-called yahoo boys now do their ‘yahoo yahoo’ activities in the comfort of their homes, courtesy of internet services being offered by the fixed telephone operators in the country. Others go into partnerships of a sort with dubious cyber cafe operators and bank officials to carry out their nefarious activities in the full glare of the EFCC’s bold message in its poster which reads:‘Stop Cyber Crime, EFCC is watching You.’

Malam Nuhu Ribadu, former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), may have been removed from the anti-graft agency, but his name and the emblem in the posters of the agency he once headed, still dot most of the cyber cafes in the city of Lagos, where unarguably cyber crimes are committed.

Even beggars in Lagos know that nefarious activities are carried out in most of the cyber cafes as young, able boys and girls loiter around the buildings where cyber cafes operate as early as 8:00am. Weekly Trust also observed that these yahoo-yahoo fingers may not leave till 10 pm! That is in those cafes, whose owners do not operate night browsing. Officially, according to the EFCC rule, overnight browsing has been banned. But, as soon as Ribadu was removed from the EFCC, most cafes in the city resumed nocturnal browsing. According to finding, the cyber crimes, have been reduced to the barest minimum when Ribadu held sway.

Weekly Trust investigations around the cafes in the city revealed that the so called yahoo yahoo boys have been joined by the operators of the cafes in the sharing of their ‘loot’. It was gathered that most operators signed agreement with the fraudsters to allow the yahoo boys free reign and not expose them to law enforcement agencies when carrying out their activities. The collaboration, our correspondent, gathered resurfaced as soon the former EFCC boss, Ribadu, left the commission. A cyber café owner, who has his business around Egbeda area of the Lagos metropolis, admitted that some café operators are now collaborating with some fraudsters to dupe unsuspecting members of the public and foreigners of their money.

The café owner, who pleaded for anonymity, said he began to notice the resurgence in the activities of the yahoo boys when the Federal Government replaced Ribadu. “Yes, it is true the yahoo boys activities are now increasing again after it had gone some three years ago. I began to notice the return of the yahoo boys when the government replaced Ribadu. You know the commission has not been very effective when Ribadu left. During the time of Ribadu, all cyber cafe owners or operators are forced to monitor all what their customers (those who browse) do. Some of us then even apprehended some bad boys and handed them over to the police. But now, it is different cyber crimes are on the increase again,” he said.

Apart from the return of overnight browsing, one other thing, which hitherto was not allowed in the cyber cafes but is now allowed is the use of personal laptop computers by the customers. Weekly Trust gathered that most cafes are now allowing individuals to use their laptops to browse in cafes. This the yahoo boys have also capitalized on to carry out their activities unhindered. With laptops, the boys would able to undertake whatever scam they want to send across without any interference from other café users whatsoever. It also afforded them the illegal opportunity to have their activities free of monitoring by any eagle eye.

One other thing the EFCC under Nuhu Ribadu mandated the cafe owners to do was to open a register of sort to get the details of all their customers or would-be customers. Weekly Trust also gathered that that has been dispensed with, as they say, ‘business has now been as usual.’ Our correspondent gathered that even the new cafes opening for business are ignorant or claiming to be ignorant of the regulations of the EFCC.

But apart from the café owners’ collaboration with the fraudsters, many of the cyber fraud perpetrators are also caring out illegal trade right from the comfort of their rooms at home or in hotels. Weekly Trust checks revealed that those who have stayed long in the business, especially those who were literarily chased away by the EFCC, are now operating unhindered, courtesy of the internet services being rendered by Starcomms, Zoom mobile, Visafone, Muiltlinks and other telephone operators in the business.

With laptops or desktops, all the yahoo boys need is to sign up with the internet service of one of the telephone operators and as Olu Maintain sang, it would be ‘dollar, dollar, Euro, Euro.’ At one of the offices of the telephone operators in Ikeja Wednesday, our correspondent met hundreds of youths, mostly boys of between 15 and 25 years lining up to have one thing or the other done on their computers. It was gathered that this has always been a daily affair.

But how do the fraudsters cash their loot since there is law which forbids transfer of huge funds either within the country, or from any country to Nigeria? Weekly Trust learnt that the so called yahoo boys get their loot with the help of some corrupt bank officials. A banker told Weekly Trust that some of the banks open special accounts for the boys. It is those accounts they use to get their loots with active collaboration of the bank officials. It also gathered they share the loot with the officials on percentage basis or as agreed by both parties.

Apart from the EFCC, the legislative arm has joined in combating this crime. Just on Tuesday, in Abuja, the Anti-Money Laundering and Cyber Crime Coalition at the National Assembly held a meeting with some EFCC and bank officials and some computer professionals on the need to intensify the fight against cyber crimes and money laundering in the country. The coordinator of the group, Mr. Bassey Etim, said the nation cannot continue to tolerate unscrupulous Nigerians engaging in economic sabotage. Etim said some Nigerians have continued to collaborate with commercial banks to embark on illegal transfer of funds in and outside the country at the expense of the dwindling economy.

He said: “The problem of economic and widespread internet fraud in the country was as result of the absence of enabling legislation to properly spell out punishment for offenders and as well ensure implementation.” He said bankers shall be working with security agencies backed by a legislative framework that will curtail money laundering and the illegal movement of funds within and outside the country, adding that “there must be a parameter to measure the success recorded in the new arrangement between the public and private sectors.”

The situation as regards cyber crime is too bad to be left un-attended to as said by Etim. In 2007 alone, $240 million was lost to fraudsters. The amount, according to a Lagos-based IT security firm, was a $40 million increase over reported losses in 2006.

Disclosing this in Lagos recently, the Managing Director of Global InfoSwift, Mr. Solomon Edun, said theft and other fraudulent practices being committed online is increasing by the day in Nigeria.

According to Edun, Nigeria is the third of the top 10 countries, which are highly susceptible to fraudulent attacks through electronic mails and webpages. He said the statistics from Internet Crime Complaint Center highlights an ever-increasing concern around the nature and dynamics the fraudulent attacks are taking place. He said the financial sector continues to be the most targeted sector as 91.7 per cent of all attacks recorded in December last year only, adding that this trend will continue if necessary steps are not urgently taken.

His words: “According to 2007 Internet Crime Report, Internet Crime resulted in nearly $240 million in reported losses in 2007, a $40 million increase over reported losses in 2006.

“As financial institutions in Nigeria are emerging, complex IT infrastructures and merging their products and services online, their vulnerability to theft, and intellectual property theft is increasing.

“The retrieval of consumers’ personal identity data and financial account credentials is often achieved by stealing credentials directly using key-logging mechanisms and phisher-controlled proxies or by misdirecting users to non-authentic websites.”

He advised banks to create information security awareness programs and campaigns on behalf of their customers. “The goal of awareness campaign is crucial to increase the level of security awareness of the banking customers and encourage electronic interactions amongst the banks in Nigeria “, he said.

He said this led Interswitch and some banks recently to hold a series of awareness campaigns to guard against internet and ATM-related fraud. Interswitch Nigeria Limited and banks on its network inaugurated an awareness campaign to protect ATM card holders against fraudsters and to educate the masses on the payment card in the country.

It would be recalled that over the last few months there have been various messages requesting cardholders to register their debit, credit or cash card details under the guise of participating in non-existent promotions or with the promise of winning bogus prizes.

These phony messages are circulated through internet and telephone. In some cases the messages claim a network upgrade by the bank or Interswitch has affected the performance of cards, and then requests the cardholders to re-register their cards and personal identification numbers (PINs) on a re-directed website or phone number.

In similar instances, cardholders have fallen victims to nefarious activities having divulged their PINs voluntarily to friends and family, not understanding the importance of keeping their PIN numbers secret.

Investigations into these isolated incidents reveal a lack of awareness about payment cards and the need to protect PIN at all times.

But inaugurating the cardholders’ awareness campaign in Lagos, the Managing Director of Interswitch, Mr. Mitchell Elegbe, explained that the main objective of the campaign scheduled to run on radio, newspapers, magazines and billboards is to protect cardholders from fraudsters, who temper with ATM cards’ PINs in order to have access to cardholders banks’ accounts.

According to Mr. Elegbe, the joint campaign between Interswitch and participating banks, has been designed to also create awareness on card usage without generating unnecessary panic in the minds of cardholders and to also enlighten them of channels on which their cards can be used other than just cash withdrawals at ATMs.

His words: “With the introduction of payment cards in the country, adoption of all forms of electronic payment channels ranging from the Automated Teller Machines (ATMs), point of Sales (POS) terminals, kiosk, voice, Internet Banking and Mobile Banking have been on a steady rise. The rapid growth in card adoption and usage only goes to indicate the potentials of well-orchestrated nefarious activities targeted at not only the unsuspecting cardholders but also the banks. Whilst instances where cardholders have fallen victims to these activities represent far less than one per cent of all transactions, they have raised fears amongst current and potential cardholders as to the security of the cardholder and payment done using cards. And that is why we are inaugurating a cardholder’s awareness campaign to protect them from fraudsters.”

He called on law enforcement agencies to turn their searchlight in the direction of card fraudsters in order to stop card fraud.

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September 6, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized

1 Comment »

  1. all my live I’ve dream of becoming a YAHOO BOY

    Comment by babagana | February 9, 2009 | Reply


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