Internet fraudsters have intensified their means of operation by adding some diabolical features to their game. The perpetrators, who are mainly youths, now adopt all manner of conjurations to keep the cash coming their way.
The development has become disturbing to all concerned Nigerians. Many pundits believe that the trend, popularly known as ‘Yahoo,’ is creating a lazy and purposeless generation that is desperate to get rich overnight without minding the inherent long or short-term consequence.
It is indisputable that this get-rich-quick syndrome is already denting the image of not just Nigerian citizens but the country as well. Many have expressed concern over the negative impacts the illicit activities are having on Nigeria.
Gone are the days when the major means of getting funds by these yahoo boys was to hijack email accounts or email servers to intercept business transactions and redirect payments, or to spoof email addresses from external accounts pretending to be a company and authorising irregular payment transactions. Some of the fraudsters also used their victims’ credit cards to buy anything they wanted.
But it appears those tricks are no longer in vogue as their targets are in full grasp of virtually all the old gimmicks. Before their tactics were exposed, they had exploited many unsuspecting people, within and outside Nigeria. Their victims were fleeced of billions of naira and foreign currencies, as well as prized personal belongings.
An undergraduate of the Federal Polytechnic, Auchi, Edo State, told the reporter that two of his schoolmates were involved in ‘Yahoo-Plus,’ meaning using diabolical means to make wealth, usually involving the use of human blood.
“People should no longer be deceived over Internet fraud. What the boys do now is killing and using human parts for rituals. Many of them also use charms to manipulate the minds and thoughts of their victims. Honestly, if you have experienced the use of juju, you will understand that it works on many people. The victims would lose control of their thoughts or actions. They would become puppets in the hands of their manipulators. It may not last for long, but for the short period it is in effect, the victims might give all they have to the fraudsters.
“Recently, a student I know very well, who was in National Diploma 2, bought a car worth over N7 million. Everybody knew him as a yahoo boy. But something mysterious happened to his mother the last time he travelled to his hometown in Delta State. The news went round the campus of how his mother bled to death as soon as the boy stepped into their family house.
“Some of his siblings quickly raised the alarm and out of the fear of being mobbed by his own people, he fled and has not returned till date. He didn’t also come back to the campus. He abandoned his studies and his property at the apartment that he rented,” he said.
The source said the news did not come to most of the students as a surprise because the student in question had always boasted that he was making his money through the Internet. He stated that the student, who is now on the run, lived a flamboyant life and spent money as if it was going out of fashion.
“There is also another student who allegedly used his younger sister for money rituals. But something seemed to have gone wrong along the line that resulted in the young man running mad. Some said that he confessed to have killed his sister to get rich. Meanwhile, everyone knew him in school as an Internet fraudster.
“There are many others who are driving exotic cars on campus but they can’t take such vehicles home so that they won’t be questioned by their parents on their source of wealth. We know these people very well and many of them don’t hide their identities. They also belong to a clique and they don’t fail to intimidate others with their ill-gotten wealth.
“Yahoo-Plus is the reigning thing now. Some would travel to as far as Ghana only to return within a few months and begin to spend millions of naira. They call it ‘Ghana connection.’ They organise parties now and then for no tangible reason. Any lady they want is at their beck and call, because money is there to throw around. They would disturb their neighbourhoods by blasting music,” he said.
Different security agencies are now waging war against these breed of criminals, but they keep devising different techniques and coming out strong. It was learnt that most youths who are into this ignoble act are ready to take their chances of being caught rather than to remain poor.
But some observers have opined that the fight against them should be intensified, urging all stakeholders, including parents and guardians, to contribute their quota to correcting societal ills.
Investigations also revealed that some of the youth who engage in these nefarious activities are as young as 15 years. Immediately they finish their secondary education, they begin to explore the world of quick wealth. At the moment, one significant thread runs through the operations of these fraudsters: almost all of them are believed to have one form of spiritual backing that enables them to entice their victims.
Some of these fraudsters have vowed that they would not mind dying for a chance to get rich quickly through any available scheme.
“If you don’t belong to the new system, you cannot make a huge amount of money. Everybody is now into the ritual aspect because the old techniques have been exposed,” a vehicle mechanic, Eric Udoh, said in Lagos.
A Benin-based trader, who is in her 60s, Mrs. Eunice Efewedo, told the correspondent that the rate at which young boys were embracing Internet fraud and other illegitimate means of making money was alarming.
She expressed worry that, with the way things were going, only a few youths would be enthusiastic to pursue a degree at higher institutions or learn a legitimate trade.
Said she: “The other day, one of them, who could not be more than 20 years old, bought a car for his mother. But his father quickly condemned the move by questioning his son’s source of money. The youngster just secured admission to the University of Benin that same year.
“The father insisted on getting to the root of the matter and threatened to summon an extended family meeting to discuss the issue. But before anyone knew what was happening, the boy bought a house in Government Reservation Area and relocated his mother there.
“Sadly, the mother died two weeks after moving into the new house. The boy refused to attend her burial but he gave the family five million naira for funeral. He lied that he had an international competition to attend. Everybody became afraid of entering the well-furnished house that he built for his mother.”
She added that some of the fraudsters who have soiled their hands in diabolical ways of making money would never give out physical cash to anyone. She said those categories of people would prefer to make an online transfer or buy whatever gift using the credit card.
“The new yahoo boys in town won’t give you money by hand but they can buy any expensive gift for you. They are doing all sorts of charms but feigning to be Internet fraudsters. Unfortunately, some parents are not rebuking their children to desist from such evil ways,” she said.
Many have argued that the expansive spread of Internet fraud could be attributed to multiple factors, such as weak moral values among youths, peer pressure and youth unemployment, among others. But some others have countered such assertions, insisting that such crimes have no justification, as there were many acceptable ways youths could make ends meet in Nigeria, irrespective of harsh economic conditions.
A pastor at the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Province 27, Lagos, Mr. Albert Wilson, told Daily Sun that the home and society have failed in raising children with high morals.
“The quest to possess material things by all means at the expense of contentment has caused us a lot of damage. Except we begin to have a reorientation and set our priorities right, there will continue to be a moral decay. What we preach on the pulpit, act as films, sing and discuss in politics go a long way to shape us.
“If you shield your child or relative, it means that you are part of the societal problem. We need useful information from the general public about people who engage in such acts and can be relayed to the law enforcement agencies for prompt action to be taken”, he said.