Published October 15, 2016
Security Alert: Cyber Fraud on the Rampage
This month, we are proud to feature an article on cyber fraud submitted by an Alumnus of the RTC - Mr. Annan, from the Ghana Prisons Service Headquarters. Enjoy the read!
Mr. Annan (middle) receiving a certificate of participation during the Premier Alumni Network Event
Information and communications technology (ICT) is one of the most remarkable innovations in the 21st Century. In spite of the numerous benefits of ICT, the increasing trend of cyber fraud has now become a global challenge. It is estimated that cyber crime costs the global economy more than $400 billion each year. This situation poses a lot of threat to most nations. In 2013, for example, the activities of internet crime including cyber espionage and fraud are believed to have affected more than 800 million people worldwide.
The Case of Ghana
According to statistics, Ghana is ranked second to Nigeria in Africa and seventh in the world in terms of online-related crimes. Undoubtedly, this startling report does not project Ghana in a positive light and this is a clear indication that the spate of online crime leaves much to be desired.
Cyber fraud, popularly referred to as “sakawa” and sometimes tagged “419”, is a widespread practice which combines modern internet-based fraud with charms and other supernatural means to commit crime. The term “419”, usually pronounced as four-one-nine, was derived from a section of Nigerian law that talks about fraud.
Sakawa boys busted with their tools
The internet, as a modern tool of communication, plays a crucial role in both the professional and personal lives of many. With this technology, one can execute many tasks conveniently at the click of a computer mouse. In fact, almost everything is now available online. The Internet offers a variety of benefits in terms of communication, online education, information, research, financial transaction, online services, shopping, social networking, and many more. Like the saying goes, “There are two sides to every coin”.
Over the years, one of the greatest challenges bedeviling internet technology is the infiltration of scammers. This is because internet crime has negative impacts on trade between nations, competitiveness, innovation, and the global economy as a whole. According to security intelligence, most cyber fraudsters are young unemployed people who usually get themselves involved in activities such as online dating scam, business scam, lottery scam, impersonation, hacking, credit card / ATM theft, and many more.
My Experience with Scammers
Image of a cyber-fraudster
I quite remember how I narrowly escaped one of such scams when I created a yahoo account in 2005. I received an e-mail alert that I had won a whopping £1,000,000 online lottery. Amazingly, I almost believed the information received because I was naive and was new to the internet. After a few correspondences, I was instructed to remit an amount of £500 to an agent for my claims. I came to my right senses when a black-American whom I consulted, drew my attention to the activities of cyber fraud. Like most victims, I would have fallen prey to the snare of internet scams. Online fraudsters are cunning, witty, and smart criminals who “harvest” e-mail addresses from the internet using special programs designed to gather information from the various sites. Subsequently, they use foul means to extort huge sums of money from their innocent victims; mostly, citizens of US, UK, Germany, Australia, and other European countries. It is, therefore, not surprising that most US and Canadian merchants have resolved to block more than 70 per cent of online orders from Nigeria and Ghana due to high level of fraud in the two countries.
Some effects of cyber fraud
As a middle-income country, the prevalence of cyber crime can affect the socio-economic development of the nation in several ways, especially in terms of direct foreign investment, business transactions or trade, tourism, and security.
It is about time the government, in collaboration with security agencies, took pragmatic measures to reduce the rate of cyber crime to the barest minimum. This can be achieved by equipping the security units with modern security gadgets and relevant logistics for tracking online crimes.
Meanwhile, plans to establish the proposed National Cyber Security Strategy to fight cyber crime in Ghana is long overdue.
Tips to prevent cyber fraud
It is important for all to take precautionary measures, since most of us use the internet. Let us not hesitate to report suspicious fraudsters to the police. Besides, security is everybody’s business.
I hope readers will find the following tips useful:
In conclusion let us remember that the Internet is a public platform. As we visit Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, Tango and other social media networks, be wary of unscrupulous persons and “sakawa boys” who are scattered everywhere. The internet can be used for positive purposes, so be vigilant and discerning of users of this modern technology.
Post by Esther Afari. Esther is one of the Delegate/Alumni Coordinators at the West Africa Regional Training Center. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org