EFCC says cybercriminals prefer cryptos and gift cards for accessing ill-gotten funds

Ejike Kanife

Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) says gift cards are the most preferred method employed by cybercriminals to access the funds from their illicit cyber activities.

This was revealed from a report on the investigation activities of the Lagos Command of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, for the second quarter of 2021. According to the report, gift cards remain the most prevalent method with 39% of funds accessed through the digital cash.

Gift cards are an alternative to cash usually issued by banks and big retail companies like Amazon, Google Play and Steam. Also called gift vouchers, they are usually prepaid cards and as such, carry an actual value with which the carrier could purchase items in those retail stores.

The EFCC data also revealed that the next most prevalent method employed by the suspects to access their illicit funds are bank transfers with 27% of cybercriminals preferring the method. Cryptocurrency comes in third with 21% of funds accessed through this means.

Gift cards are very difficult to trace because they are not attached or registered to any individual or account. Therefore, there is no personal information linked to them. As such, they are easy to convert, resell, or exchange.

Gift cards

Gift cards also don’t require any extra expertise to access and use unlike cryptos and other digital forms of money. Using them is as basic as buying stuff through a credit card. Furthermore, they can be used both offline and offline thus ensuring ease and convenience for the user.

Cryptos, on the other hand, are digital currencies hoisted on blockchain technology. Because blockchain technology is generally considered to be decentralised, it is assumed that cryptos cannot be traced. But a lot of recent detections are proving those notions wrong.

Nigeria’s crypto war

In February, Nigeria’s Central Bank (CBN) issued a directive barring Nigerian banks from facilitating transactions involving cryptos. That order effectively brought open trading of cryptos to an abrupt end in the country as Binance, Bundle, Yellow Card and other crypto exchanges were forced to suspend Naira payments on their platforms.

One of the major reasons tendered by the CBN is that the digital currencies are increasingly been used for criminal activities in the country including money laundering, terrorism financing, purchase of small arms and light weapons, tax evasion and terrorism.

CBN Crypto Ban aftermath: Patricia relocates headquarters From Lagos to Estonia
CBN barred banks from facilitating crypto transactions

The IMF has since thrown its weight behind the CBN’s crypto ban and now, this report by the CBN might act as a form of justification for the CBN as it moves towards putting a final nail in the coffin of crypto activities in the country with the proposed introduction of the e-Naira CBDC.

The data from the EFCC’s Cyber Crime Section also reveals that the dominant form of internet crime is Online Dating/Romance Scams. According to the report, 64% of cybercrime suspects are involved in romance scams.

The suspects involved in dating scams allegedly benefitted to the tune of N8, 310,000; $349,290 USD; £ 900; €10 and Cryptocurrency 0.17513.

“Middle Man Scam” which is a petty scam whereby the perpetrator acts like a middleman between a prospective victim and a bank comes a distant second with 8%. “Picking” accounts for 7% respectively of those arrested.

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