Desperate African Internet Scams that are too Good to be True

scam: Rusty Clark | flickr


Countries on the African continent have many internet cafes which are packed with individuals who are looking for ways to make instant money through scams. These individuals use internet cafes because operating from an internet cafe means it becomes impossible to trace these individuals among regular users.  Although a whole book can be written on the different types of scams that occur  in Africa, the internet scams widely known as Nigerian/Ghana Emergency Scam or Nigerian 419 scam stand out.

In the Nigerian/Ghana Emergency Scam, the individuals involved form a trusting relationship with the victim who they get in touch with usually through a dating site, providing a fake identity while posing as an interested woman or man. When a trust relationship is built with the victim they disappear for a few days. This leaves the victim distressed, and when they finally get back in touch the individual claims to have had an emergency whilst travelling to Nigeria or Ghana and expresses that they need funds urgently. The individual requests the victim to send the money with a promise that the money will be paid back. However, this will be the last time the victim will see his/her savings.

Shocking cases exist where the victim’s relationship with the scammer does not end once money hs been taken from them. In the case of Ms Grette , even after getting scammed and losing several thousand of euros she insisted on meeting the scammer in Nigeria. In fact she went a step ahead and provided financial assistance to him so he could go to America for further education. Ms Grette also arranged for several African students to visit Europe for arts exhibitions and helped them to advance their work.

The Nigerian 419 scam takes place through email correspondence where a specific story is used to lure money from victims. The story can be anything from a lottery jackpot win to inheritance money that needs to be transferred.   The individual will demand an advanced fee from the victim who pays the money to their account. Little does the victim know that their savings will be dispossessed, and it will be the last time that they hear from the individual.  These fraudsters have clear targets set in their minds and they constantly browse Facebook and dating websites looking for lonely people with money to spare.

These scams are far more intense and well thought out.  For example a Microsoft paper titled ‘why do Nigerian scammers say they are from Nigeria’ makes the claim that  a 10× reduction in density can produce a 1000× reduction in the number of victims found. This is an advantage to the fraudster, as it saves them time because this way they will not be bombarded with emails. They know that only those people who are too naïve to believe the crafted story will respond to their emails.

There are several tell tale signs that  these emails are suspicious. The grammar used is usually poor. The desperation in the email also gives a clear sign that something is fishy and  the email address is rarely believable.

worrying worrying fact  is  that those in the  governing systems in these countries are easily bribed. Some fraudsters make high incomes which enable them to get anyone who can hold them accountable on their payroll.. As these individuals work in groups this makes it a further complication for the police because investigation can take months. No wonder these scams are not coming to an end and are on a constant rise. It is therefore highly important for systems to be put in place to hold these individuals accountable for their criminal actions.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Best of Africa.

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