Clement Adeyi, Osogbo
Since the liberalisation of the telecommunication industry brought about unprecedented increase in the usage of and dependence on internet-based solutions and services in Nigeria, cyber crimes have been on the increase. Dishonest individuals, especially the “Yahoo Yahoo” boys, hackers and other cyber criminals are always on the prowl, deploying sophisticated systems to intrude into consumers’ telecoms devices to exploit them.
Several consumers of telecoms products have fallen victims of the perpetrators of diverse crimes via different telecoms platforms, especially the internet. Cybercrime involves a computer and internet network. It is an illegality that primarily takes place online.
Cyber criminals often commit the crimes via computer networks and devices.
Perpetrators also use the internet to steal information from legitimate users for sinister motives. Cyber criminals attack telecoms consumers on social media and websites where they carry out online financial transactions by using their credit or debit cards among others.
In most cases, the crimes have to do with fraud and identity theft such as impersonation by perpetrators to defraud gullible or unsuspecting victims. A lot of people have been swindled of huge sums of money through online scams, while many more have lost fortunes to the antics of cyber criminals.
There is a rising trend of cyber crimes across the globe. The African continent including is not an exception. Cases of cyber crimes abound not only in urban but also in rural areas, leaving many victims on their trail.
To mitigate the effects of the rising wave of the menace with a view to curbing and or curtailing it and make the cyber space save for private and corporate users, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the Federal Government agency that regulates the activities of the telecoms industry, recently organised the 48th edition of consumer town hall meeting in Ile-Ife, Osun State. It brought together telecoms consumers in the rural and semi-urban areas with the service providers as well as the regulator, the NCC, for a face-to-face interactions on issues affecting the consumers, especially cyber crimes as well as poor service delivery.
The meeting was used to enlighten consumers with a view to sensitising them on the rising wave of cybercrimes, the dangers as well as their roles in reducing the impacts of the crimes. Hundreds of consumers of telecoms products and devices, including computers, tablets, telephones, internet among other smart devices participated.
Director, Consumer Affairs Bureau, NCC, Mrs Felicia Onwuegbuchulam, said the interaction was aimed at identifying, discussing and proferring solutions to different issues affecting telecom consumers not only in Osun State but also the entire country. She assured the participants of the NCC’s readiness to, on regular basis, educate, inform and empower them with relevant information on the need to know their rights as telecom consumers and to be able to safeguard such rights when violated by the service providers. She promised that the commission would continue to show commitment to regulatory interventions for utmost benefits of the consumers.
Deputy Director, Ismail Adedigba, disclosed that the theme of the event: Mitigating Effects of Cybercrimes: The Roles of Telecom Consumers, advised that after the awareness programmes, the consumers should endeavour to play their parts in the NCC’s on-going efforts to sanitise the cyberspace against crimes.
The leader of Consumer Advocacy Group, Mr Jide Azeez, who presented the lead paper on the theme, drew participants’ attention to various ways cyber criminals operate and gave them safety tips. He cited phishing scams which refers to attempts by scammers to trick consumers into giving out personal information such as bank account numbers, passwords and credit card numbers via e-mail, text message, phone call or social media.
He also mentioned identity theft, child soliciting and abuse, malware (contraction of malicious software onto consumers’ system to harm data) as cyber criminals’ operation strategies. On the roles that consumers need to play in mitigating cyber crimes, he said:
“Delete unsolicited cyber messages, don’t open messages if you don’t need them, don’t download free internet contents, keep your soft wares such as smart phones, tablets, iPads etc updated. Don’t expose personal information to internet platform, don’t use unregistered or borrowed sim cards in your telecoms devices, if you fall victim, alert security agencies.”
He called on parents and guardians to caution their children and wards against misuse of internet for pornography and other immoral activities.
A couple of telecom users, particularly cell phone users, told Daily Sun that the programme was a blessing to them because of the quality of enlightenment they received. While some of them shared their cyber crime experiences with scammers, others complained of diverse poor service delivery by the providers.
A retired civil servant, Adebayo Olapade said: “I thank God for what NCC is doing to expose the cyber criminals’ activities. Just yesterday, somebody sent a message to my phone and said that my ATM debit card had been blocked due to maintenance in the bank.
“The person included a phone number in the SMS and asked me to call the number. I thought the message was from my bank. But with this awareness by the NCC, I have realised that it is a scam and I have learnt a lesson.”
Mrs Juliana Olawale, a business woman said: “Recently, somebody who claimed to be my daughter’s school mate sent me a text message, telling me that my daughter in one of the universities in the South-South was travelling home for the Easter break but lost her money and mobile phone and was stranded somewhere.
“The person forwarded an account number and asked me to send money to it to pass it to my daughter. Initially, I wanted to do that because I was actually expecting her, but when I put a call through to her, I was able to reach her. Surprisingly, she was almost close by. So, I did not fall for the scammer because I had participated in the NCC cyber crime awareness programmes in the past.
Ayobami Abayomi, an artisan: “If I recharge my phone, they will be sending different messages on bonuses that I didn’t ask for. Through that, they cut my money. If I borrow credit and recharge my phone, they will keep on deducting my money even more than the amount I borrowed. If I load data, before I know it, it is gone. Most of the times, the network is poor and I lose business because my customers can’t reach me. But I thank God for this programme by the NCC who invited service providers to solve all these problems.”
The representatives of the service providers, however, promised to proffer solutions to the challenges being faced by the consumers in order to make their services consumer-friendly for them to get the right values.