LONDON: Software giant Microsoft said it will work with the government of Nigeria to curb one of the greatest menaces on the Internet today – email scams.
According to the agreement terms Microsoft will provide the technical support and training to Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) who will in turn trace and prosecute those found guilty. Most of the email scams doing the rounds currently are believed to originate from Nigeria.
Typically, a recipient is told the sender has come into big money and wants to invest into the former’s country for which it seeks a partner (the recipient); or the sender would simply claim to be the head of an African bank that has found a large sum of money unclaimed as the account holder is long since dead, has no relatives and no claimant has come forward for the money. The recipient is promised a large piece of the pie if he agrees to get the entire amount transferred into his bank account and sends an ‘advance fee’. Many are conned into paying this huge advance fee which they never see again.
The EFCC chief warns against replying to any such email and asks recipients that they report it to local authorities like the police who will in turn forward it to the EFCC. The EFCC has a special department assigned for this task, called the ‘Advanced Fee Fraud Section’. The scam is now known as the 419 scheme after the particular section in the Nigerian Criminal Code.
The EFCC’s executive chairman Nuhu Ribadu said 419 scams are no doubt a big problem for the government but there were other growing problems such as credit card fraud, hacking of sites and lottery scams. The country’s new legislation could change all that as the laws now allowed the authorities to prosecute anyone involved in facilitating the crimes; which meant even cyber-café owners could be prosecuted if the crime were traced to their cafés. The Nigerian government is expected to make spamming a criminal offense punishable by a three-year jail term.
Using technology, the government is now able to trace the crime right down to the source from where such scams originated. Consequently many scammers have fled the country and are now based in places like the Netherlands and Spain.
The EFCC claims that it is currently investigating hundreds of suspects and as many as 50 cases involving 100 people are being prosecuted.
The EFCC has already worked with the US-based Microsoft and has succeeded in bringing to book a couple of companies alleged to be involved in one such scam.