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Mfonobong Inyang: Maintaining Your Digital Distance From Cyber Criminals

If it swims like a catfish, tastes like a catfish, then 9 out of 10 ten times it’s a catfish!

Mfonobong Inyang

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Any kind of crisis disrupts the status quo, changes people’s plans, and has consequences that were not foreseen. The COVID-19 pandemic isn’t different. While people will, generally, build their resilience, summon courage and fortitude to navigate these unprecedented times, many unscrupulous elements will be lurking in the dark to prey on unsuspecting individuals.

Our lives, businesses, and governance have transited more to the digital space, meaning that to effectively work and engage with people, we are depending on technology more than we have ever done. For most of us, we have cut our teeth long ago with working remotely. For others, this is uncharted territory – it’s literally a ‘new normal’ for them.

‘Novel’ is the operative word here. Not only is this particular virus novel, novel systems are also springing up, novel information is everywhere and novel products are flying around. Fraudsters, as they are wont to, will attempt to fleece the uninitiated, plunder the unguarded, and deceive the careless ones. Dealing with a health pandemic is tough enough, imagine becoming victim to the ‘money heist’ of online marauders.

Here are some hacks you should use to discern what is authentic and what is a phantom:

Don’t Rush!

The thinking of criminal minds when attempting to defraud you is to infuse an element of false urgency. The idea behind this to cause you to respond to their call to action within a very short time without much recourse to scrutiny before their cover is blown. Most legit deals factor in a healthy time frame between their message and your action. By responding too quickly or responding at all – you may already have one leg in the booby trap.

If It Appears In Your Spam, It’s Most Likely A Scam!

Email services, like Gmail by Google, deploy top level Artificial Intelligence (AI) to help you flag these types of emails. Not only do they send such messages to your spam, you may see a further warning like: “This message seems dangerous. Similar messages were used to steal people’s information. Avoid clicking links, downloading attachments or replying with personal information.” To put it in colloquial terms, they are saying, “egungun be careful, na express you dey go!”

Always Resist The Urge To Shalaye

This isn’t just one of those legendary quotes I picked up from the sometimes savage streets of Nigerian Twitter, it is, in fact, a very instructive life lesson. It doesn’t make sense for anyone to call you out of the blues asking for your personal/banking details. Financial institutions will almost never call you to share your card details, One Time Password (OTP), Bank Verification Number (BVN), Authentication Code or password – because they already have such information in their database. Anyone claiming to be a bank official demanding such is a charlatan. Call your account officer to double check when you receive such suspicious messages.

If The Conversation Appears Fishy… It’s Very Likely From A Catfish!

Catfish here refers to a social media account that is set up and operated by someone who pretends to be someone else. Essentially, it’s the identity theft of someone who is popular, rich, in position of influence or authority, or someone in need. These fake profiles seek to exploit your emotional attachment to such people or causes to defraud you. Always review the timelines of such account, you will see that they are scanty with little or misleading information, pictures or mutual contacts. If it swims like a catfish, tastes like a catfish, then 9 out of 10 ten times it’s a catfish!

Dear Anon…

Many of us are on this table but I just have to break it. Usually when there is a giveaway online, we are asked to drop our account details so that ‘Anon’ can bless our ‘Aza’ with ‘something light’. I saw a lot of that during these past few months and whilst I understand the good intent of such moves, it does pose a certain level of risk. Some people’s job is to go to such comment sections to mine banking details with the hopes of infiltrating them. This is being done regularly.

What I advise, and do myself, is that in the inevitable event that I have to put out my account details for business, I use such account as a holding account. This means that after a particular time, I move the excess money into either of my other two accounts. Thus ensuring that the exposed account remains a low-risk one and in the off-chance that it is hijacked, I have pre-empted the damage control.

Bring Two People…

I have absolutely nothing against Multi-Level Marketing (MLM). If anything, I respect that business methodology but it seems that mad people have taken over that asylum. In many countries where stringent Consumer Protection Policies exist, it is a criminal offence, especially with financial products or services, for the seller not to respect full disclosure clauses. If someone tells you that by selling a product to two or more down liners, you are automatically entitled to huge amounts of money, cars or vacation in exotic locations, it’s a fraud.

It’s more complex than that, nobody is that nice. If they cannot walk you through the whole nine yards and properly educate you on what it takes to achieve certain perks – RUN!

COVID-(4)19

I am sure you have seen emails or ads claiming to have high grade medical masks like the N95 for sale. Others claim to sell certain medication that purportedly cures the virus. Some claim they have a stock of medical equipment waiting to be shipped to you at a very affordable rate. All these are very ‘sick’ scams because they seek to prey on people’s desperation to stay safe and fleece them of hard-earned monies. Don’t fall for such. Also report anyone dealing in such dubious acts. Always purchase your medical supplies from well-known stores and accredited retailers.

Trust me, now is not a time to part with your hard-earned income because every Naira counts these days. Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom, always keep your eyes sharp on the lookout for any funny business out there.

Continue to wash your hands, stay at home if you have no reason to go out, mask up when you’re in public places and maintain physical distancing when you’re in the midst of people. This phase of easing the lockdown requires more personal responsibility than enforcement from authorities to succeed, so think of others – this is your opportunity to be a super hero too.

Mfonobong Inyang is a writer, speaker, photographer, cinematographer, media & tech egghead and nation-builder. A master storyteller that has developed premium content for brands on corporate communications, book projects, scripts and social media. A graduate of Economics – he speaks the English, Ibibio, Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa languages. More on www.inspiromfon.com

1 Comment

  1. Website Design

    July 9, 2020 at 11:45 am

    distancing yourself is not enough but looking for a ways to top the act, it kills business especially for we web designers

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