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FACT CHECK: Did Nigerian hack US website to give family, friends citizenship?

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Nigeria’s social media space has been abuzz since the emergence of a report that claimed a Nigerian named Abaeze Atuche hacked into the website of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to grant himself, his family and friends American citizenship.

The report claimed that about 15 people were beneficiaries of Atuche’s cyberattack on the US government website.

According to the report, Atuche, a 29-year-old, entered the US using a fake American passport in 2013 and never left. And by 2016 his family and 15 of his Nigerian friends have become permanent US citizens.

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A screenshot of the report posted by a Nigerian Twitter user @postsubman has garnered about three thousand likes, almost two thousand retweets with different reactions trailing the ‘smartness’ of Atuche, the hacker.

Another Twitter user @tygaresss1 tweeted the report and has close to six thousand likes and over three thousand retweets and many comments.

But is it true?

The report, according to The Guardian’s verification,  was first published by ihlayanews.com, a parody and fictional news website. The report was shared more than 10 thousand times on its Facebook page.

The report has since been widely circulated by blogs and news websites on social media platforms- Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Ihlayanews said on its Facebook page that “we do all we can to make sure the articles are complete fiction.”

No official statement has been released by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services or the US Department of Justice to attest to Atuche’s deeds and eventual arrest as reported in the article.

A search of the supposed hacker’s name “Abaeze Atuche” on the US Justice Department and US Citizenship and Immigration Services website did not yield any result.

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A close look at different blogs and news websites that published the report showed that the article was being duplicated by other publishers. The websites all bared a picture of US Citizenship and Immigration Services logo munched beside a photograph of a black man held by an official of US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

A Google reverse image search showed that the picture was used inside reports of the 77 Nigerians that were indicted by FBI for fraud and money laundering in August. The report claimed Atuche was part of those arrested.

But a check by The Guardian showed that “Abaeze Atuche” was not in the full list of the 77 Nigerians indicted by the FBI.

The report has a statement attributed to none of American departments and agency.

“The US government online network is impregnable but this guy proved it otherwise. If he was not arrested I don’t think there was ever going to be an investigation on how his family members got their citizenship,” the statement without a source said.


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