Strangers are lurking behind your door, By Rarzack Olaegbe

Is it an exaggeration or do Fintechs add value?
Rarzack Olaegbe

Do you remember the last time you shopped online? You didn’t check out. But you inadvertently exposed your CVV. That is the three digit number behind your ATM card. It is the Card Verification Value. You need it to complete your transactions. It offers you security against scammers. Scanned by the third eye, your bank account may be emptied. Your bank details may be exchanged for cash. Your life could be ruined. You may not know this. Or you do?

Okay. Take this. Do you know why many smart young people seek connections – at shindigs, churches, burials – with celebrities and wealthy individuals? Innocently, you dish out your business card like cookies. The card has your name, Twitter handle, email and office address. Once a clever parasite finds you as a juicy connection, your personal details are traded. Then, the parasite vamooses into thin air. Goodbye.

Cyber thieves are here. They are everywhere.

In the twenty-first century, cyber threats and attacks have become sophisticated. The easiest is identity theft. That is when a stranger steals your personal details and uses your identity to swindle you. If you don’t understand how cyber thieves operate, you are already a victim. If you do, you are a victor. Cyber rats are closer to you than you can imagine. Cyber rats are at your door. Now. Check.

On the one hand

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the landscape of cyber threats and attacks. For instance, to cushion the effect of the health crisis, the federal government distributed soothing materials to Nigerians. These materials came in the form of cash transfer. So, some Nigerians got loans. Others received grants. Yet, few received food items. Oludayo Tade, a communication consultant at Impact Elevator and Safeguard Specialist of the University of Ibadan in a research document, wrote that the Covid-19 palliative had been exploited by cybercriminals.

With the data from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Police, Tade discovered that the cybercriminals have developed similar schemes used by the government. To succeed, the fraudsters asked some Nigerians to supply their names, birthdate and bank account details in order to be eligible for the Covid-19 relief loan. The criminals said via sms that the loan will be transferred into their accounts. This is false.

Many Nigerians obeyed the call. Few did not. Through these fraudulent schemes many people have been swindled. It was after the fact that the victims realised they had been conned. Identity thieves are faceless. They are strangers. But they know you. They are lurking behind your door. Now. They are watching you. Like a lion lurking, they are waiting for you to sleep before they pounce.

On the other hand           

Cyber thieves are here. They are everywhere. For instance, a Masters’ degree student in a Moscow university narrated his story recently. To augment his stipends, he applied for a job.  The firm can use his excellent communication skills. During the interview, he discovered that the company is a duplicitous firm. It is not an insurance firm. It trains its staff on how to steal people’s identities. How to fleece their targets. An agent’s one goal is to extract valuable assets. Name. Age. Marital status. Employment number etc.

One of the training methods is imbibing the insurance world. How it works. Why do people buy policies? The whole gamut. To reach the targets, the firm has a crawler. It creeps through the internet. It amasses the targets. From Europe, America, Asia, Mexico, Bahamas, Aruba and other countries where insurance is mandatory. So, the core targets are millions of people who are policyholders. To reach them, call masking surfaced. The pseudo-insurance firm has a call masking technology.

For instance, a telephone call from the firm – in the city of Moscow – to a target in Washington DC will display Washington code. The target will perceive that the caller is in Washington. Likewise, a call to a target in the UK, has UK code. A call to Ukraine, Aruba, Anguilla or Antarctica has that country’s code. Do you get the drift? That is brilliant.

The firm employed thousands of callers. Like a call centre, they are dedicated to making calls. He told me that the call centre is a beehive. Why is this so? It creates belief. It erases doubt. It builds connections. It calms the target. Once a target calms, it is time to pounce. This is psychology. You know, all learning is state-dependent. What do I mean? To enhance memory and behaviour, state-dependent learning creates similar states of consciousness. For instance, if you learn in an environment of chaos, your chance of remembering what you have learned is higher if the same environment is created again.

Used by the Russian firm, the method pushes the prey to associate the call with protection, promise and possibility. This is how the firm operates. This is how it fleeces millions of targets. And it operates right at the city centre. It works in the heart of Vladimir Putin’s country. To maintain secrecy, all agents signed non-disclosure agreements.

If you don’t understand how cyber thieves operate, you are already a victim.

Hmm, how did this student get this information?

I have also signed a non-disclosure agreement, Bigmummy.

Did he accept the job offer?

That is another story for another day.

Meanwhile, some fintech firms have employed compliance systems to fight these identity thieves. They are fighting everything. They are fighting criminal transactions and cyber theft. Here is a roll of honour: France-based Bleckwen uses real time analytics software. Germany-based Hawk employs artificial intelligence. Veriff from Estonia serves 190 countries through its compliance processes. In Nigeria, there is no Fintech start up in that space yet. Why? Because you don’t know who is lurking behind the door.