PROMPTED by the desire to debunk the claim that Nigeria is the weakest link in the battle against cyber crime, Mr. Abraham Ogbodo, editor of The Guardian on Sunday, embarked on the chase of a scammer, (name withheld) who hacked into the email-box belonging to a Guardian correspondent and who wanted to swindle the editor through the following unedited email exchange:
Sent: Tuesday, April 23, 2013 5:17 AM
I’m in US presently, and unfortunately my niece had a nearly fatal accident yesterday night and needs to undergo surgery, which needs 187,000 naira to start the treatment on her.
Can you lend me some quick funds that I can give back as soon as I get in. Sorry for the inconvenience but I heard she is in a very bad condition and needs urgent attention as fast as possible.
I can forward you details on how to pay the funds directly to the doctor, since am not around so that her treatment would commence before I return. You can only reach me via my email for now.
I await your kind response.
Below is the reply to the editor’s request for the scammer to send the detail:
Sent: Tuesday, April 23, 2013 12:38 PM
Subject: Re: Urgent
Thanks a lot. Here is the doctors account details:
Account no: 0059984456
Account name: Amayo Ososa
Bank name: Accessbank
Please send me a scanned copy of the deposit slip when completed so I can forward to their accountant.
Satisfied that he had got enough evidence and information to nail the fraudster, the editor summoned an experienced reporter to track the thief.
First, the police were contacted and they advised that the bank should be informed immediately to place the suspect’s account on ‘fraud alert’, so that if the amount the suspect requested is paid into the account, he would be apprehended if he attempts to withdraw it.
They also directed that the bank should provide the town of domicile information of the account owner to enable the Police Area Commander in the zone be on the alert to apprehend the culprit at his next attempt to withdraw from his account either directly from a bank branch or an ATM machine.
In compliance with the advice, the bank was notified. But the corporate communication officials of the bank, after a long delay, directed The Guardian to do an official letter of complaint to the bank’s head of Investigation and Audit department.
This was done and submitted by hand to the department at Victoria Island, Lagos, the bank’s corporate headquarters. After submission, The Guardian reporter was tossed around because neither the audit or investigation sections of the bank were willing to process the complaint.
The audit section directed that the letter be taken to the investigation department. But the investigation unit referred the reporter back to the audit section, saying it was not their responsibility to handle such complaint.
At last, the audit section accepted to do the job on the following conditions: that the bank would place the account on fraud alert, but that the town of domicile of the customer would not be provided because the bank, by law, is not required to disclose customer’s information to anybody except the Inspector-General of Police, who must submit an official application to the bank’s Managing Director to that effect. The MD is the only authority to approve such request.
Faced with this frustrating challenge, the reporter notified the editor not to pay any money into the scammer’s account because it will not be possible to get the suspect apprehended even if the bank places the account on fraud alert.
When the Police was informed of this development, an officer, smiling wryly, said: “If you make a request for the Police I.G. to write an official letter to the bank, do you know how long it will take to get a reply? Do you think the bank will get quick response from the Police to apprehend the suspect if the bank gets the suspect? Who will be financially responsible for the expenses to be incurred when the suspect is arrested? Is your editor sure he will get the money he would pay into the account back immediately the suspect is apprehended? The bank will not refund the money except the scammer himself endorses the payment of the money back to your editor. This is why ‘yahoo yahoo’ crime cannot be tamed or fought in the country.”