Internet fraud: One price of modernity
Modernity encompasses improved, innovative, and recent changes that occur in society, as opposed to technological atrophy. Not to be confused with the word is the art movement known as modernism, which falls outside the range of this article. Internet register such as cyber, server, hacking, phishing, spoofing, DNS, yahoo, spyware, and even malware were rarely heard of in Nigeria in the early seventies. However, as time goes on, changes are bound to take place. Societies progress from obscurity to enlightenment, throwing their arms wide open to the winds of scientific, technological, and cultural innovation. In some cases, there is serendipity i.e., a fortunate, accidental discovery.
Modernity peeped through the blanket of antiquity from the heyday of Blaise Pascal‘s ‘mechanical mind’ of 1640’s and Charles Babbage’s ‘analytical engine’ designed in 1842 through the First Generation electronic computers era of J.V. Atanasoff, Alan Turing, and J.P. Eckert to Alan Kay’s 1976 early notion of a laptop computer. Although the notion of a laptop computer had been existing since 1960, Manuel A. Fernandez, with bloated scientific ego, trumpeted his innovation as the first ‘laptop’ computers.
These great inventors, amongst others, did not specifically introduce computers in order to chase people out of jobs neither did they manufacture laptops for evil purposes. Computers were introduced basically to enhance productivity in organizations and at workstation, to save costs, human’s time and energy; its speed, accuracy, precision, and efficiency are incomparable to any wide spectrum of tasks performed manually by hordes of labour at a given time. However, what unfolds in present-day societies has continued to make one wonder if Internet fraud is one of the prices to pay for modernity.
Modernity is taking grim tolls on mankind, and man’s slavery to his own invention continues unabated. Internet fraud gained traction with the advent of GSM in Nigeria in the year 2001. The flurries of ‘hacktivity’ on the Internet at present make businessmen and businesswomen’s toes curl, unrelentlessly casting a murky shadow on the good image of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and forcing many to lose trust in the reliability of the Internet. Moreover, the health hazard believed to be associated with laptops, in other words, the lethal radiation emitted by laptops has kept users on their toes. Admittedly, the health risk linked to laptops does not seem to bother humanity or elicit much public concern as does the crime being committed on the Internet on a daily basis.
To understand the trend better, a couple of reasons will be given to explain the blizzard of Internet infiltration. In Nigeria for instance, unemployment rate is very high. Poverty, also, causes many people to dump formal education. Desire to get rich fast, which many Nigerian youths have seen in their politicians and public office holders is a compelling factor. Then there exist groups who show their resentment for slave trade and colonialism. For these people portraits of fettered slaves constantly remind them of the need for retaliation. But from whatever perspective one looks at the foregoing reasons and whether the reasons are cogent or invalid, Internet fraud and other vices orchestrated by mankind cannot stop because “The imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth”, says Genesis 8:21.
Worthy of note also is the establishment of Computer Departments in higher institutions as well as computer courses in school curricula. Practically everyone is a computer geek in their own right: from kindergarten pupils to company executives, the bungling to the run-off-the-mill types, life tilts towards the Internet and revolves around computers. In Nigeria at present, over fifty million people have become digital natives while well over thirty million citizens are now netizens, with many of the netizens violating all netiquette with gusto. This development undoubtedly comes in as a nice boon to the computer market, thus making it much easier for the criminals to hang on to their crime. But there is nothing heroic about Yahoo Boys and Girls’ escapades: the processes involved in breaking people’s password and hacking into accounts are explained on the Internet for everyone to learn.
The Internet has been abused by a portion of Nigerians, forcing the westerners to look askance at and direct their disdain and displeasure at the African race. The fraudsters, especially the blacks amongst them have got under many white people’s skin.
Internet scammers perfect their tricks and bilk unsuspecting people of their resources in several ways. Assuming you have been exchanging mail regularly online with your business partner whose business email address is the one I have labelled ‘A’: tjaxuxx.x.xpmuliattAiA.vMobv.email@example.com and if the address is hacked into or compromised by a scammer who has been closely monitoring your transactions for months online, it may be difficult for you to differentiate it immediately from the one compromised by the scammer, which I have labelled ‘B’: tjaxuxx.x.xp.muliattAiA.vMobv.firstname.lastname@example.org The compromised ‘B’ address has been made to look much like your partner’s ‘A’ address but differs only in the insertion of a dot (.) after ‘p’. Once you reply via ‘B’ there is a high tendency that, having swallowed the scammer’s subsequent bait, you will wire or send money through any next platform specified by the fraudster.
Apart from being an assault on modernity, Internet fraud is against God’s principles and teaching, and as such people, especially Nigerian youths, should desist from the act. Cybercrime is a very serious matter that cannot be glossed over in any society.
The act has its grave consequences, as scammers are known to have resorted to occultic means to get what they want.
The ‘FBI 77’ bust of August 2019 is the result of the dramatic efforts by Nigeria and the United States in bringing to fruition the cyber bill passed by President Muhammadu Buhari. The US, the EFCC, and President Buhari have done terrifically well. Jewellery, monies, houses, cars and laptops illegally acquired by unpatriotic Nigerians are forfeited to the Federal Government. These items should go to the less-privileged Nigerians, especially indigent PhD and Master’s students. The Federal Government should temper justice with mercy and let all Internet fraudsters apprehended so far in Nigeria go free once they are made to refund all monies obtained under false pretences. Since it is common amongst Nigerians to make a fortune out of misfortunes, the September 2019 ‘xenophobia’ returnees from South Africa, and those being deported from the United States should be critical of job offers and business proposals that stream into their rooms, computers or mobile phones.
In conclusion, the bad use to which the Internet has been put is gaining frightful traction, and one fears about what comes next. Technology has opened man’s mind to weird ideas and practices which it ought not to have been receptive to. Man groans under the weight of cyber crime and the justification for its creation is on the brink of collapse, awaiting a precipitous fall. But all hope is not lost: self–discipline, strong relationship with Jehovah, parents’ helping their children to differentiate what is good from what is bad, and lastly, humans’ resolve to put behind themselves the love of money and material comforts are definite steps towards checking the malaise of our time.
Sola wrote from Department of English Studies, University of Port Harcourt, Rivers State.