Facts tell, but stories sell. There is a story going around that Juja has been named a global cybercrime hotspot by Interpol. The story is not true as confirmed here, but it sells. Looking at it, one can get some very good lessons on how our society perceives cybercrime. I would also want to explore the cost of cybercrime on a society in general, with Nigeria as an example.
The reaction to the story is weird. Some are afraid and worried about this new form of crime which they do not understand. I understand that for someone who is not very informed or knowledgeable about such matters, the mention of cyber-crime would make one cringe. It is like when walking out in an open and dark place, you are told that there is a sniper with some very good night vision and he is shooting anything he sees for fun. You do not know how to protect yourself.
I understand the concern, and this is good. People need to be continually educated on the cyber-threats that the society is facing so that they can keep themselves safe.
But for many people, the story of Juja being a cybercrime is something to be happy about. It is a trophy that Juja has earned, and hopefully, the skills will be used against people who are thousands of miles away in developed countries. It is a cool thing to be a cybercriminal because that shows that you have a brain that is still functional, and even above average.
It is considered a game of wits and not a crime. But what is the cost?
Cybercrime didn’t Pay in Nigeria
What is the cost of cybercrime to the innocent bystanders who are neither perpetrators nor the direct victims of the same?
In Nigeria, the so called ‘Yahoo scammers’ have been around for long. They are the people who send you emails claiming to be a rich Arabian Prince with a treasure to share. They scammed the world before the world got to know about it.
In many places, they are celebrated as heroes. People want to be a Yahoo-Yahoo, scam people and make a lot of money. Those who have done it before are not regarded as criminals, but people who know how to survive. It is justified by the fact that it is the poor who are stealing from their colonial masters and other wealthy countries.
But what is the implication to the country in general? These scammers are partly the reason why Nigerians has a bad reputation and the cost for this is high. It is the reason why Nigerians find it hard to get Visas to many countries, why they pay more for those Visas if they get them, and why they are scrutinized more than anybody else.
It is also the reason why many payment companies do not accept cards issued in Nigeria and some International businesses do not want to do business in/with Nigerians. Nigerians are also not allowed to receive money on PayPal, while the extra paperwork required for Nigerians when traveling is just too much.
While very few Nigerians are involved in Cyber crime, all of them pay for it.
‘Normal’ crime costs individuals because they have to build fortresses instead of houses. There many other costs of crime such as the chains on side mirrors, or filling road signage posts with concrete.
For cybercrime, the cost is also there and you may not realize it until it is too late. Nigeria is paying hard.