Ostentatious lifestyles of internet fraudsters at campuses of higher institutions in Nigeria have forced their classmates to embrace internet scamming as a full-time profession
| By Vincent Nzemeke | Apr. 29, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
ON a first meeting, Temisan Edoge, an undergraduate of the University of Benin, would pass for a young executive in a blue chip company. He drives a posh Honda Accord car, adorns his body with the latest designers’ clothes and lives in a cozy apartment in a government residential area in Benin, where his classmates cannot afford.
Like Edoge, Michael Eboh is a big boy within and outside the campus of Delta State University, Abraka. He drives a Toyota Camry, wears designers’ clothes and can afford the latest phones and technological gadgets in town. Tunde Fasasi is another undergraduate at the University of Lagos who lives like a king on campus. Popularly known as ‘young money’, he is a regular face at clubs and other spots in Lagos. Although very young, he fraternises with the ‘big boys’ because of his deep pocket.
Although, they live miles apart and have never met each other, the threesome have a lot of things in common. They live on the fast lane, spend hours on the computer and make a living by fleecing unsuspecting citizens in America, Europe and other parts of the world of their hard earned money. They are the much-talked about yahoo- yahoo boys who have made Nigeria infamous as a result of cyber crimes.
Although the crime first began in Lagos, it has become popular in other parts of the country. In a bid to get rich, desperate youths and undergraduates of various institutions have embraced it as a full time profession.
On many campuses, students who should be in class and libraries studying, spend hours in cyber cafés chatting with foreigners in order to defraud them. Eboh, a sophomore student of Delta State University said yahoo- yahoo is not just a fast way of making money but also a sure way of securing a future for himself. “The government in this country has no plans for the youth; you have to use what you have to get what you want. This is the only way to make money for myself. I don’t want to end up like the other graduates who beg for jobs that are not forthcoming after graduation”.
At Olabisi Onabajo University, OOU, Ago-Iwoye, where the illicit trade is said to be booming, students throng public cyber cafes where they spend a large part of the day sending scam mails and searching for a potential maga (victim). Due to the varying time zones, some of them have to pass the night at cafés where they would stay awake for chats with unsuspecting foreigners.
A student of the institution who identified himself as Spicy Joe, said “This business is demanding. If you want to ‘hammer’ like the other guys, you have to keep a close relationship with your maga. The time zones are different so you must stay awake by drinking coffee and chewing kola nuts to talk with them; it is the only way to get anything from them”.
At the Delta State University, ‘runs’ as internet fraud is popularly referred to, is becoming popular by the day. With wireless internet connections and a personal computer at their disposal, the big boys work in the comfort of their homes. Those who are waiting to hit jackpots like their colleagues in the other campuses spend a chunk of their allowances buying internet time to send e-mails containing some fake documents and poignant love notes to their new friends.
Justin Idoko a 200-level Mass Communication undergraduate, told Realnews how he learnt the trade. “I learnt from my cousin who is also a student at the University of Benin. I used to accompany him to cyber café then, but as time went on, I started to do my own thing”. He added that being a con-man offers him a rare opportunity of acquiring some of the things his mates can only dream of. “Most of the big boys on campus are professionals in this business. They are the ones who drive the latest cars and date the most beautiful girls. I have made over $5,000 since I started the business”.
Another student in OOU, who wishes anonymity, affirmed that getting a foreigner to part with their money is a difficult business which requires a lot of ingenuity from the scammer. “What we do is harder than the way people describe it. To catch a big fish, you have to spend a lot of money. Most of the letters and other documents we use are very expensive to get. Sometimes, after investing so much time and money, they (maga) discovers you are a scammer and back off. In this business, you lose some and win some.”
While some of the scammers regret being in the trade, a few of them like Babatunde Ogunmola, a former graduate of the University of Lagos, UNILAG, feels otherwise. “These people are as guilty as we are. It takes a greedy person to make a maga. How can someone who didn’t apply for any lottery be interested in claiming the money just because I sent him an e-mail? That means you have to be a greedy person to buy the idea.”
Further investigations reveal that the most vulnerable victims are found at dating and other social networking sites. The relationship begins on a friendly note but turns sour when the unassuming foreigner is duped of his money. “These things are giving Nigeria a bad image, said Jefrey Omoni, a lecturer in one of the institutions mentioned. The government has to do something about it. If our youths who are the leaders of tomorrow are trick-sters, I wonder what the future of this country will be.”