Rise of Cybercrime: Yahoo Boys And Their Mixed Bag of Tricks

The rising rate of cybercrime orchestrated by daring group of persons who deploy all mean schemes to outwit their victims is alarming. Our SothWest Correspondent Korede Abdullah critically examines the growing trend.

 

New Information Age

The advancement in information technology, especially the internet and social media, has given rise to the Yahoo Boys, a group of Nigerian cybercriminals, whose activities have continued to send shockwaves through the global digital landscape, exposing the dark underbelly of online fraud and deceit.

The Yahoo Boys activities in the country and their social and economic impacts on the country are shocking.

G-Boys

The secretive phenomenon of Yahoo Boys, also known as G-Boys, emerged in the shadows of Nigeria’s cyberworld. The Yahoo boys are a network of young men engaged in online fraud and cybercrime, leaving a trail of devastated victims and compromised identities in their wake.

 

They were mainly romance scammers when they started their activities in the early 2000s before they diversified to other forms of advanced fee fraud. They operate by using online platforms to deceive and manipulate victims into sending them money or revealing sensitive information that will facilitate their fraudulent activities.

3000 young Nigerians Arrested

In the first half of 2023 alone, more than 3000 young Nigerians have been either reportedly arrested or jailed for involvement in internet fraud. The growing concern to many Nigerians is that, despite the gale of arrests and convictions by various courts, the more they are arrested and jailed, the more the numbers of these wire scammers dominate the records of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the agency charged with tackling financial crimes.

EFCC Warns

Hardly a day passes without the EFCC issuing multiple statements giving details of how they have been able to bust their hideouts and confiscated assorted items, ranging from posh cars, expensive handsets, laptops, jewelries and other items that are obtained through their criminal activities.

Their Lifestyle

In major cities in the Southern part of Nigeria like Lagos, Port Harcourt, Owerri, Ibadan, Akure, Ado-Ekiti, Benin City, Awka and other towns, Yahoo boys are notorious for their lavish spending binge where they go about with weird hairstyles and earrings. They are also well-known in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory where they spend large sums on luxury items like cars, real estate, designer’s dresses like clothes and expensive shoes to show off their wealth.

Across different cities in the country, they frequently attend clubs, parties, and other social events where they flaunt their status. They register their presence with opulence and extravagance anywhere they go by ordering expensive and exotic drinks at clubs and lounges. Women of easy virtue whom they spoil with their ill-gotten money, mill around them like ants around sugar.

Africa Health Report investigations revealed that the Yahoo Boys often travel around in different locations, usually to lodge in expensive hotels. They do this in order to conceal their identity and to avoid being arrested by law enforcement agents. They mainly change locations to expand their operations so that they can establish connections with other scammers or criminal networks in different regions. Their travel is funded by illicit activities, and their lifestyle is built on deception and fraud.

Modus Operandi of Yahoo Boys

According to AHR findings, the first thing a potential Yahoo boy does is to create a bogus profile to hide their real identity known to the world. They create convincing online profiles, often using stolen photos and personal information, to pose as attractive or successful individuals.

They are adept at keeping a false website or sending a false e-mail with the intent of masquerading as a trustworthy entity in order to acquire sensitive information from their innocent victims, such as usernames, passwords and credit card details. They initiate contact with victims, typically through social media, dating sites, or email, and build a fake relationship, gaining trust and emotional connection.

They fabricate elaborate tales of wealth, inheritance, or business opportunities, claiming to need financial assistance or personal information. They spin the lies after they have gained trust and emotional connection with their victims.

Last week, An American woman told the Abuja High Court how her Nigerian lover, named, Chidozie Kingsley defrauded her of $370,000 after he had lied to her that he won a contract at the Federal Capital and that he wanted to finance the contract with the money. This is a classical case of fraud perpetrated by the online con men on a regular basis in the country.

The trial of Kingsley is still pending before Justice U.P Kekemeke. The EFCC is prosecuting Kingsley on a two-count charge bordering on stealing, obtaining by false pretence and criminal possession of fake documents, purported to be contract documents, to the tune of $370,000. The matter has been adjourned till November 7 for continuation of trial.

The newspaper learned that Yahoo Boys use psychological manipulation to  hoodwink their victims. They cleverly do this by asking them to send money for various reasons, such as travel expenses, medical bills, or investment opportunities. They exploit victims’ emotions, using guilt, sympathy, or promises of love and wealth to keep them engaged.

Why Their Activities Are on The Rise

Many of those who spoke with the newspaper were of the view that the Yahoo Boys activities are on the rise in the country due to some combined factors which they said, include the collapse of the value system and moral infrastructure in the society.

Mr Adeniyi Adeleye, a former school Principal said that many parents have failed in their efforts to inculcate morals into their children. He said: “Surprisingly, many of the internet fraudsters are young boys who are still supposed to be tied to their mothers’ apron strings, who need proper care and nurturing. When the parents fail in their duty to give their children solid home training and by leading by example themselves, the result is what we see in our society.”

Other responders like Mr Bashir Ibrahim, an accountant, believe that poverty and unemployment push many young people to do desperate things for financial stability. He said some of them are lured by the promise of quick wealth by their peers.”Some individuals may not have the necessary skills or education to secure legitimate employment, this makes them vulnerable to peer pressure to be engaged in fraudulent activities.” Ibrahim noted.

Another reason given is the corrupt environment where the fraudsters operate. It has been reported in many occasions where corrupt officials and other law enforcement officers turn a blind eye or even collaborate with fraudsters by taking bribes and other gratifications.

To Mr Stephen Owolabi, normalization of fraud and glorification of materialism is the reason the activities of Yahoo Boys are on the rise. “Unfortunately, some individuals view fraud as a normal way to make money, rather than recognizing it as a serious crime. In families, churchs, mosques and political circles, those with deep pockets are always recognized, irrespective of the source of their money. Who do you think the young ones will see as role models?” Owolabi asked rhetorically.

Economic and Social Impacts of Yahoo Boys on the Country

The activities of the internet fraudsters have done a lot of damage to Nigeria’s international reputation. For instance, many countries that were visa-free to Nigeria before have now placed visa restrictions on the country as a result of crime and other fraudulent acts of these categories of Nigerians. This has affected genuine people who want to travel for legitimate businesses and vacations.

Yahoo Boys are involved in Illegitimate business and fraudulent activities that are not taxed. This makes them spend money generated extravagantly. This has the potential to impact the economy negatively and contribute to inflation. Many Nigerians have complained that those boys are one of the reasons landlords in Lagos, Abuja, and some other major cities have increased their house rents because of the mouth-watering money they pay for house rents.

Their activities have normalized fraudulent behavior among young people who see them as role models. Many people in the society no longer see the younger generations perpetuating this cycle of fraud and dishonesty as criminals who should be denounced by all. Yahoo Boys’ activities have undermined traditional values of hard work, honesty, and integrity.

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