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Fraud: A thriving trend in Nigeria’s challenging economy

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Fraud, which is multidimensional in forms, sizes and scope, is a wrongful or criminal deception intended to result in financial or personal gains. It is a deliberate deceit on unsuspecting individuals or groups for the purpose of defrauding them. The present economic challenges in Nigeria are catalysts aiding fraud to thrive, making numbers of practitioners, patrons and their victims rise like dough under the influence of yeast. The rate of fraud in this political cum economic dispensation calls for concern.

Fraud is not a new thing; in fact, it is as old as the world itself. However, the accounts or records of fraudulent activities centuries ago remain infinitesimal given the rate at which it accelerated in recent times. It was not prominent in the 19th century, but it has evolved into a global phenomenon, experiencing exponential growth in the 21st century and – especially – in Nigeria. It would be right to state that its unpopularity status years ago has metamorphosed into its present prominence and pre-eminence.

An example can be seen in the recent wave of shock that swept through Nigeria by means of the well-planned fraudulent scheme that was carried out. A famous London-based company was impersonated and used as a medium to rob people of their money, tricking them into depositing large sums of money as a ‘security deposit’ in order to earn a position in the company. The trick was that various adverts would be submitted daily and a specific income would be earned depending on the job level of the individual.

Flying on the wings of many available sophisticated communication technologies, fraud now wears a new look. It has become people’s gainful employment. The audacity of the person or group of persons to impersonate a major company with already existing details, develop a stable website for advert submission, create false TV news, and successfully scam millions of unsuspecting Nigerians while staying under the radar is alarming.  This shows how fast and vast fraudulent activities are growing with the advent of sophistry and advancement in communication technology. Windows of fraud may become more apparent, as many unemployed youths use their technological devices to perpetrate evils.

The Olusegun Obasanjo administration established two anti-graft institutions; the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. The agencies were set up to tame the tide or wave of fraud. Unfortunately, the prevalent fraud or financial crime at that time was money laundering, and it was common among government officials.

However, “Yahoo Yahoo” has become a household terminology advanced through technology, while people who engage in this nefarious crime of fraud are regularly celebrated. These unscrupulous elements dubiously and fraudulently amass financial wealth at the expense of their victims.

The young evil geniuses only need technological devices like Android phones, iPads, laptops or a computer set to perpetrate their evils. Their activities include hacking into people’s accounts and withdrawing their money, impersonating multi-million businessmen, and using their identities to carry out fraudulent crimes, to mention but a few. The gurus in technologies create Apps through which they lure poor hungry Nigerians to invest and receive double their investments within a short time. They would deceive unsuspecting Nigerians into putting their money down, while they would go into extinction immediately after hitting their target. Unemployment, inflation, poor living conditions and greed among other things have made the practitioners and their victims increase in number as many people are seeking a way out of the economy.

To bring sanity to the system and tame the evil trend of fraud, parents should raise their children by imparting good moral values in them from the outset so that they may grow up with such acceptable values. Secondly, the government could help by creating jobs for the unemployed youths. If young people are engaged and earn a living through such engagements, they may not want to go into fraud.

The anti-graft agencies should also arrest and prosecute fraud suspects and those found guilty should be punished according to the law, to serve as a deterrent. The government should regulate all financial institutions, ensuring that fraud cannot be perpetrated through them.  Lastly, religious leaders should also lend their voices by preaching against any illicit gain. If these measures are taken, fraud will be reduced to the barest minimum in Nigeria.

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