By Abbas Muhammad
When an average Nigerian hears the word “ Yahoo,” the first thing that comes to his mind is fraud. But the truth is Yahoo is just an emailing platform whose naàme was tarnished by the unscrupulous activities of some corrupt people around the world.
In reality, Yahoo was invented by Jerry Yang and David Filo at Stamford University in 1994. They were both electrical engineering students and the initial name for their invention was “Jerry and David`s guide to the world wide web”. It was a directory of other websites organised in hierarchy as opposed to searchable index of pages. Later that year, they renamed it Yahoo which is an acronym for “Yet Another Hierarchically Organised Oracle”. It grew rapidly through the 1990s and diversified into a web portal.
Now moving to how this platform was turned into a haven and tool for fraudsters in Nigeria from where the name yahoo boys originated. The use of Yahoo Messengers for fraudulent activities started in the late 90s.
Yahoo boys came in phases, those who started in the early 2000s were into lottery scam, using mailers to “ bomb” (a term used to describe accessing of websites or platforms to get victims) sites in order to get clients (clients are used to describe victims), asking them to pay money in order to redeem lottery tickets.
Then came the era of the real G-men around 2006\2007 also called the Yahooze. This set was specialised and focused in love scamming. During their era, the ruse of Nigerian prince was used rigorously, telling gullible foreigners that one is a Nigerian prince stuck in one situation or the other and the client should send some amount of money before the so-called prince can get their wealth back or unfreeze their assets in order to come and meet the said client in whatever country they are.
Those from the era of Yahooze have mostly legitimised their wealth and are now into legal businesses that have covered the source of their first ill-gotten wealth. They are hiding as everyday citizens never to be caught or noticed, perhaps they are smarter than their present successors who are keeping a loud and noticeable profile.
The recent generation of yahoo boys starting from 2010 till date are the extravagant and careless type. Majority of them are young and immature and the volume of money they make actually flatters them.
With advancement in technology, the scamming platforms are now numerous to choose from in order to get clients. They are however easily traced by the authorities such as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Apart from using websites, the present generation of yahoo boys now use social media platforms for bombing and the most commonly used is Facebook. The Facebook accounts are used to get potential clients to initiate these scams, they are categorised into old and new Facebook. A new Facebook account is not more than 3 years old, but accounts of five years or older are more trusted and used for bombing. Old Facebook accounts are used because they last longer than new ones, before they are reported. One then asks how do they have so many old accounts to have lasted this long?
The answer is they don’t, this is why they resort to hacking of Facebook accounts or easily buy them as one would purchase a common commodity. A Facebook account of five years can be sold for as high as 2,500 naira, older accounts could be sold for more than that.
Another segment of it is Facebook dating, which is often with women from different European countries with a view to fleecing them off some dollars. And such accounts are very expensive like 20-30,000 naira per account. It is an enhancement to their predecessors “love scamming” method.
Drenched in their greed and desperation to have wealth by all means, they now resort to black magic and charms and this particular one is called Yahoo Plus. They use the charms to convince clients to obey their requests. Some of the items required by the priest could be the client’s picture or address. Some of these rituals are mild like those asking for pictures, but some go as far as making animal sacrifices and in some extreme situations human sacrifices. Boys involved in Yahoo Plus are the reason the human harvest business is thriving in some parts of the country. It is also party responsible for the increasing cases of missing children in recent times.
One might wonder how all these procedures are passed down or shared. Those in the yahoo business and have been successful open a learning center of sort called the “HK” meaning Hustling Kingdom, which seems like a regular household from the outside. It doesn’t cost a dime to join a HK, but each HK comes with its own rules with the head called chairman and his second in command called the general or senior boy and then the members of the HK have shared chores. How these HKs are funded is through the chairman who is already successful and gets at least 50%-70% of every successful cash-out from his subordinates.
These criminal activities that started with a few people have now exploded into a widespread virus, youths are blinded with the desire to make fast money without going through the conventional process. The evil effect of yahoo can be seen even in secondary schools, it is like a disease that spreads fast with the wind except in this case the internet and social media help drive the virus. For young minds, seeing 18 year olds owning cars worth millions tends to corrupt the minds and peer pressure takes over from there.
Some see internet fraud as a pathway to success in life, some hide under the guise of taking back the wealth of their ancestors from the white man, while some are pushed into it by extreme poverty. But all these are not genuine excuses to warrant involvement in any form of financial crime.
What youths should be wary of is what they stand to lose from engaging in fraudulent activities. From being jailed, to forfeiting their so called cash-outs, becoming an old taker (one who has benefitted from the yahoo trade but lost it all) losing the chance to have a life worth living and the profiling that comes from their actions that spoils the image of hard working youths within and outside the country.
The EFCC has lived up to it’s duties as it is constantly tracking these fraudsters nationwide and bringing them to book almost on a daily basis.
But what becomes of the victims of such fraudulent activities? Are they compensated? Are they apologised to?
Perhaps a system should be put in place to at least track some of these victims and pay them from the confiscated wealth of these fraudsters in order to serve appropriate justice and also to boost the battered image of the country.
Also, prevention they say is better than cure. The EFCC and other necessary stakeholders should implement a measure starting from secondary schools and universities to warn youths about the dangers of being involved in fraudulent activities.
Digital literacy should also be part of the school curricula so that young people can learn how to make legitimate income from the many legal opportunities on the internet.
Abbas is a Mass Communication student at Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria.