Cyber Violence for Hire: The Hidden Peril for African Youth

June 16, 2024
Jenny Mezie-Nwagbo


In the age of information and connectivity, the boundaries between the virtual and physical worlds blur, presenting a new set of challenges for young Africans.  Amidst the charm of social media and online gaming, lurks a dark underbelly where cybercriminals thrive. From sim swapping to the treacherous world of “IRL jobs,” where violence becomes a transaction, the digital landscape harbours hidden perils that pose a grave threat to the African youth population. 

What are IRL Jobs?

IRL, an abbreviation for “In Real Life”, is used to refer to something that goes on in the real world, outside the digital communication world or virtual reality. Source
“In Real Life” jobs are everyday occupations where employees work from a physical location. However, in the context of the sim swap community, IRL jobs take on a darker significance. Here, they become avenues for members of this community, or sometimes even victims of SIM swap fraud, to “arrange” for acts of violence, property damage, or worse, all advertised as “IRL jobs” mainly on Telegram.

Sim Swapping Explained:

Sim swapping is used by cybercriminals to gain unauthorized access to an individual’s sensitive information, such as bank accounts and personal data. The process involves tricking a mobile carrier into transferring the victim’s phone number to a SIM card controlled by the scammer. Once in possession of the victim’s phone number, the scammer can intercept text-based two-factor authentication codes, reset passwords, and ultimately gain access to sensitive accounts. A lot of sim-swappers are between the ages of 13 and 22 years.

The Connection between IRL Jobs and Sim Swapping:

So, how do IRL jobs fit into the equation? Imagine a scenario where an enraged sim swapper is seeking revenge against a rival swapper, or perhaps a victim of sim swap fraud is consumed by a desire for retribution. In their quest for vengeance, they may turn to the dark corners of the internet, where individuals advertise “IRL jobs” as a means to settle scores. These jobs could involve orchestrating a physical assault, causing property damage, or even more sinister acts.

For a chilling firsthand account of how violence is offered as a service within the sim swap community, read Yuri’s story here.

Unwanted Deliveries

Online social media and gaming handles have evolved into significant status symbols, coveted by many users of these platforms. However, some users with desirable usernames have faced harassment from cybercriminals seeking to obtain these names by force. These cybercriminals then proceed to sell the unlawfully acquired usernames, sourced from platforms like Instagram, Minecraft, Twitter, and Snapchat, through online marketplaces to the highest bidder.

The methods employed by these cybercriminals to coerce social media users into relinquishing their accounts are varied. They often involve mining the victims’ personal information, such as phone numbers and addresses, to harass them. This harassment may manifest in various forms, including incessant texts from anonymous numbers demanding access to the account. In more extreme cases, it can escalate to the point of sending unwanted food deliveries to the victims’ homes, and even targeting their family members who reside in different cities.

What to Look Out For and How to Stay Protected:

To safeguard against falling victim to sim swap scams and other forms of cybercrime, it’s crucial to remain vigilant, especially in the context of “IRL jobs” being used to facilitate violence-as-a-service. Be cautious of any involvement in arrangements for acts of violence or property damage, advertised under the guise of legitimate employment opportunities. Be wary of unsolicited calls or messages requesting sensitive information, and verify the legitimacy of any requests before providing personal details. Additionally, enable two-factor authentication on all accounts and regularly monitor bank statements for any suspicious activity. For further guidance on how to stay protected from sim swapping, read more here

By staying proactive and adopting best practices for online security, individuals can mitigate the risk of becoming unwitting victims of cybercrime.

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