What is a “Yahoo Boy”?

A Yahoo Boy is a scammer abusing the trust of internet user to make him/her pay money in various forms. This type of scammer is particularly present in West Africa (Ivory Coast, Benin, Nigeria, Togo, Ghana).

A yahoo boy interviewed in a French TV show

History

The first yahoo boys, or more precisely their precursors, appeared in Nigeria in the 1980s. They then made a specialty of the so-called 419 scams (later renamed “Nigerian scams”): they consisted of sending mails making people believe in interesting gains for which some fees had to be paid by their victims. By the end of the 90s, emails started to replace letters and the phenomenon literally exploded in the 2000s thanks to the low cost and speed of emails.

The population of “yahoo boys” then grew rapidly in French-speaking West Africa and particularly in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, where the use of the term “Yahoo boys” and the folklore surrounding it developed. The scammers become real stars of the neighborhood, not hesitating to display a flashy lifestyle and to boast publicly about their activity of “pigeon hunting”. By distributing some of their money, they sometimes even get protection from the local population vis-à-vis the police.

Operating mode

The Yahoo boys operate primarily via email on “advance fee” scams:

  • Nigerian scams
  • the loan scams
  • the classified scams
  • lottery scams
  • Interpol scams
  • fake invoice scams

They are also very present on dating sites, social networks and on Skype where they carry out:

  • sentimental scams
  • sexual blackmail

How to recognize a Yahoo boy?

Scammers can usually be identified from the start by one or more of the following signs:

  • the email addresses used are @gmail.com, @outlook.com, @outlook.fr, @hotmail.com, @live.com
  • the messages sent are quite long and include many details to make their approach credible
  • there are several spelling mistakes and unusual expressions in an email
  • there are references to God, to respectability
  • the photos they use (for a product, for their profile on a social network) can be found via an image search in a search engine

Once their victim is “hooked”, yahoo boys often use the following strategies:

  • asking for money to cover expenses that were not originally discussed or because of an unexpected problem
  • they will try to avoid any verbal conversation (using phone, webcam or other problems as an excuse)… unless they provide a premium rate number to call
  • the use of anonymous and irreversible means of payment: PCS coupon, Western Union, MoneyGram
  • the sudden intervention of so-called “official” organizations or persons (lawyer, police officer, Paypal, collection company, etc.) strangely using @gmail.com, @outlook.com, @hotmail.com, @live.com addresses (abnormal fact for such persons or organizations)

What to do when faced with a yahoo boy?

Yahoo boys usually connect abroad (outside the European Union) in cybercafés, which makes them difficult to identify by the authorities. Since the yahoo boys use irreversible means of payment, nothing can be done once the funds have been transferred. The only thing to do is to stop the communication as soon as possible and then to :

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