By Saron Messembe Obia
The internal wrangling in Cameroon which begun in 2016, following several socio-political requisitions have expose citizens and foreigners in the country to different security threats. Gun shots, knife crimes, use of local bombs and the emergence of cybercrime victims. This paper focuses on victimization through electronic payment by cybercriminals, using mobile money and bitcoin. Despite the appeal of the minister of territorial administration to mobile operating companies in Cameroon to strengthen security protocols for mobile money transactions, help in the identification of suspect, and the slow pace in which ID cards are processed in the country, is another major challenge in policing the different types of crimes. Nonetheless, the paper exposes on cybercriminal modus operandi, as caution mobile money service companies and agents of the growing menace in the field of cyber security.
The development of electronic wallet by mobile operating companies in Cameroon has change the dynamics of cash transfer, the payment of bills, educational fee, purchase of furniture, sponsor of programs by NGOs, but also negative impact, as cybercriminals use to perpetrate crimes, mitigating financial transaction through purchase of bitcoins. Cryptocurrency term which heard in every economic milieu, have become a tool use by some unscrupulous people engage digital marketing and cyber criminality to extort or victimize communities. Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency invented in 2008 as an open source software, which started operating in 2009 under the name Satochi Nakoamoto with the following particularities; digital money package which is privately own and exonerate individuals from bank fees, a virtual currency that uses per-to peer technology to facilitate instant payment, bitcoin is purchase through mobile money with the use of internet with cash deposit. Mobile money is an electronic wallet and a pattern which simplifies transfer and withdrawal of money through system configuration on a cell phone (Cash In and Cash Out).
Drawing from Minister of Territorial Administration Paul Atanga Nji’s 45days warning for all mobile money recipients to be identified by March 2020, is evident that cyber criminality is a major security challenge in Cameroon. The minister revealed troubling statistics in relation to the present socio-political situation in Cameroon; nearly 540 million FCFA of ransom money have been collected by secessionist terrorist during the last four months in North West and South West regions. More so, those engages are not identified by mobile operating companies, and 340 complaints have been registered in the city of Bamenda according to the minister (digitalbusiness.africa).
Scammers now use NGOs to extort money from nationals and foreigners posing issues relating to the internal wrangling in Cameroon. They usually appeal for donors to sponsor internally displaced persons, scam foreigners and nationals, requesting foreigners to pay with bitcoin. When the victim pays via bitcoin, the criminal cooperate with a mobile money agent, who purchase the bitcoin using the internet and effectuate cash-out (withdrawal via mobile money) for the criminal. There are usually three aspects about these modus operandi by cybercriminals:
No identification document is required from the individual (cybercriminal) for the cash-out
Though some expert claim tracking IMEI can help during criminal investigations, but with no identification only the mobile money agents remain prime suspect to the investigator.
Some criminals operate with stolen ID cards (some use ID cards pick on the road) which can be crucial for investigations. Though law enforcement agencies relay on International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI). A criminal operating with someone’s identity (name, date of birth gotten from an identity card) after registering a sim card purchased on road is crucial. After one hit, the sim card and phone is destroyed (usually sim cards sold at 100FCFA, and mobile money subscription free with someone’s else information).
- Funding individuals engaged in internal wrangling. The internal wrangling in Cameroon particularly in the two English speaking region necessitates new security protocols in relation to identification, financial transactions and funding of non-state actors.
- Mobile operating companies should caution sale agents on the identification of sim cards with their identity card for others, because the want to sell or make fast profit. Some criminals even buy one to five sim cards and identify with the vendors’ information. They usually give silly complaints as;
- I have forgotten my ID at home and the vendor will identify the sim card with his or her identity card and even create mobile money account with it, in order to sell the sim card.
- Some declare their ID card is missing but still purchase and identify sim cards with invalid receipt or scan ID card.
Once one has a mobile money account, cash-out does not require an ID card, just the personal identifiant number (PIN) and even cash-in does not require the identity of the person depositing the money, except the transaction is done from a personal phone. For example; criminals calling individuals in the South West region, claiming to be non-state actors in request for support, if not will attack the person or family member. Other for instance, use of someone’s identity to register a sim card and create a mobile money account, which is controlled from another device to cash-out ransom for non-state actors.
Mobile operating companies should develop new security protocols in other to identify individuals effectuating Cash Out or Cash In, in crisis zones in order to limit funding of criminal networks.
- The person carrying out the transaction may complain the sim card was not registered with his / her name. More so, with the use of new technological patterns, sim cards are being cloned, fake ID cards produce despite the biometric process introduced in Cameroon. As such, any person paying money into someone’s account (cash-in) in any kiosque, the ID card or receipt of the person be snap as well as when a withdrawal (cash-out) is made.
- With the growing security menace from unscrupulous individuals appeal for support negative activities, any individual constraint to send money to an unknown person via mobile money, there after must get in touch with law enforcement officers with the following information
Mobile operating companies should caution sale agents on the identification of sim cards with their identity card for others, because the want to sell or make fast profit. Some criminals even buy one to five sim cards and identify with the vendors’ information. They usually give silly complaints as;
name of the recipient, phone number and reason for the transaction, to help mobile operating companies and law enforcement experts to block such transactions and apprehend perpetrators.
Submitting a complaint in a police station is more complex than suffering from cancer in Cameroon. Some usually attest not being attended to in stations, the best approach to be adopted by law enforcement agents, as well as to facilitate criminal investigations is to produce a document which comprises; The allege suspect name, phone number used, picture if any, date and reason for transaction. Meanwhile, the victim will submit his/her name, phone number, photocopy identity card, location plan, finger prints and signature. Most victims have usually not gone through formal educations, and sometime have difficulties in writing, as such the finger print, signature, picture and stamp will certify the complaint against X (particularly if the complaint is being written by a police officer due to their incapacity). Also mobile operating companies should caution individuals using their personal mobile money accounts (who are not registered sale agents working with mobile operating companies in the country) to buy
bitcoins online and pay cybercriminals via mobile money about legal prescriptions and sanctions as per; LAW N° 2010/012 OF 21 DECEMBER 2010 RELATING TO CYBERSECURITY AND CYBERCRIMINALITY IN CAMEROON.
Cyber insecurity is gaming Cameroon administrative system, from the cyber-attack on the presidential website in 2015 and the recent breach of the ELECAM website, security protocols need to be strengthen at the level of mobile operators, banks, and even national security. Each minute youngsters connect to study cyber security, particularly courses on hacking, policing methods are required before and upon graduation of those engaged in the field of security studies. However, the present socio-political crisis in the North West and South West regions of Cameroon is a major security menace, as most techies are base in Buea, Silicon Mountain. Ethical hackers are necessary for the control and monitoring of activities in the country. Forensic and criminal profilers play a great role in the crackdown of cybercriminals; they understand their modus operandi, language use in the milieu and gadgets or tools used. Communication is weapon of mass destruction, as well as a tool for peace building.
(The Author is the Editor of crimeandmoreworld.com)
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