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Informal networks are vital to the young scamsters’ success.

These networks revolve around banks, security agencies, co-fraudsters and, sometimes, families.

Internet fraud is organised along areas of specialisation to make a success of the deviant behaviour.

Fraudsters study the security network of online transactions to decide where to pitch their tents.

Many of these fraudsters – dubbed “yahoo-boys” – have become filthy rich. In April 2012, Olasaidi Dare, an undergraduate of the Olabisi Onabanjo University in Ago-Iwoye, was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment for an attempt to obtain money under false pretences in a cyber-café.

On June 5 2012, a Federal High Court in Kaduna State sentenced Imonina Kingsley, of the University of Ilorin, to 20 years’ imprisonment.

Quick monetary reward is what “yahoo-boys” have in mind. Sending fraudulent messages to online dating websites and social network sites were reported to be low-risk – but high-profit – areas of specialisation.

A third-year student said to me: I started online fraud in my second semester of 100 level [a session comprised of two academic semesters in Nigerian universities] as an impostor via online dating.

For successful execution of fraud, an insider within the bank is important: the banker facilitates payment without attracting the attention of security agencies. The instability in the Nigerian banking sector may have created an uncommitted workforce.

These cases attest to the pervasive nature of internet fraud in Nigerian universities.

My own research was conducted at Nigeria’s premier University of Ibadan.

Another scam that is popular with the “yahoo boys” is phishing, a technique used to acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords and credit card details. They may stand at ATM galleries to feign assistance to vulnerable users – illiterates, the old and the physically challenged – and later swap cards to defraud them.

The fraudsters carry out their attacks mostly on weekends and mostly outside the state where the account is domiciled. This means victims will be unable to ask their banks to stop illegal transactions on their accounts until Monday morning, when the banks open for business, even though they receive debit alerts over the weekend.

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