Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Yahoo-Yahoo! Fraud via the internet.

There’s a new way of defrauding the gullible in the Western world and it originated (again) from this end.
Formerly, the sore point for the Police Forces of the advanced countries was “419”. Named so after Section 419 of the Criminal Code of Nigeria which stipulates that it is an offence to obtain property or money by false pretences.

In this scam, the fraudster would send multiple (thousands) e-mail to businesses and individuals all over Europe and America (I entered a business centre once in Lagos and saw a large directory of business names being used as a guide).

There were many variances to the trick. Some might say they were accountants of some Government organ in Nigeria, e.g. the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and that there was money, (often hundreds of millions in pounds sterling or dollars) forgotten in some account. The writer would claim that he (or she) knew how to get the sum in issue out and all that was needed were the account details of the unsuspecting foreigner so the money could be removed from the country and deposited there.

They would offer the foreigner a smaller cut of the sum if the transfer was successful. Now, 10% of fantastic sums like $255 Million would be attractive to many people.
Then the sting would start. The fraudster would state that there was a small hitch in the transfer, some blockage by a minor official, that could be sorted by the payment of a paltry sum of , say, $16,500, by the foreigner. The fraudster would ask of it as a loan, repayable from his share of the money once transferred.
The foreigner already caught like a fly in a honey-trap would willingly and quickly oblige.
And then a new demand would be made- say, another $35, 000 dollars or so, needed to overcome another “minor” obstacle and to ensure the smooth and immediate transfer of the principal sum.

In for a penny, in for a pound- The victim would beg, borrow or steal this sum to hasten things, and then once more, a demand , say for the sum of $40, 000 being “the last and final payment” the victim would have to make before becoming a millionaire.
This would go on and on until realization would hit the victim someday and he would either go quietly into the night, nursing his wounds, or shout out for redress. For individuals caught in this web of deceit, they would have borrowed vast sums from friends and family in the belief that they would be able to pay back many times over with the arrival of the windfall.

In cases where even larger sums were in issue and had been promised the target, arrangements would be made to fly him to Nigeria. He would be met at the airport by police outriders (This is difficult in the current dispensation) and would be taken to the best hotels. If he desired to see the place where the money was, e.g. The Central Bank, arrangements would be made to take him in and meet with an “official” of the bank in an imposing office on the premises. Sometimes it could be arranged to take the target to a luxurious home in the country where he would see men and women sitting before banks of computers, counting foreign exchange (These things happened. Even I, marvel at their daring, as I write)

The Metropolitan Police tried to be politically correct about it and called it the “West African Advance Fee Fraud Scheme” on its website whereas we all know the architects of this scam mostly came from our great country. They were made up of all sorts- the educated, the illiterate but streetwise... There was a common denominator though-They were all persuasive.
The scams continue even today and it is true, apparently, that a sucker is born every minute. A fool and his money are soon invited places.

It should be noted, that under the government in place now, it is highly difficult to perfect the vast majority of these schemes. But still, some sail through.
The government is determined to rid the country of the image of corruption and is waging a virtual internecine battle with the fraudsters through its Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). A number of fraudsters have been arrested and some have moved operations to places on the West Coast of Africa like Ivory Coast. The Met Police prophecy came true in the end.
Personally, I think the fraudster and the victim should both be imprisoned.
Greed is the bait and often, the victim is lured by dangling obscenely large and supposedly stolen sums before his eyes. If the scenarios painted to the target were true, he would be stealing money from Nigeria. They have no qualms about that, apparently.

Now to the new scam. Its called Yahoo!-Yahoo! And it’s simple to the point of silliness.

Male Nigerians go on the web and engage Male Caucasians in conversations in chat rooms. The Nigerian pretends to be female and sometimes enlists the help of a female friend who allows him to use her picture as the girl in question. After a while, “the girl” asks for money to help pay for medical bills for her dying father, or asks for money to buy a plane ticket so “she” can come visit. Always, the money is converted to other uses.

The spoilsports, EFCC, have again waded into this and seem to have an agreement with Western Union and Money Gram to compile names of those who come repeatedly to receive money from abroad from different unverifiable sources. Many have been arrested here but it hasn’t stopped yet. I think this might be because male pride doesn’t allow you to tell (and warn) other men that you’ve been having cyber s-x with another man.

I don’t know if impersonating the female gender is an offence (See Ru-Paul) but EFCC considers it so. I suppose I’d have issues too if I’d been mandated to clean up a country’s badly battered image and new scams were being devised daily.

So, for anyone who’s out there and thinks he has a Nigerian girlfriend, ask for her Mobile Phone number. Believe me, every Nigerian babe has a phone. Call her at odd times. You’ll know after a couple of calls if it’s the real thing.

What if the fraudster is female? Its possible but unlikely. Sitting for hours on end in some uncomfortable cyber café trying to attract other men or even females, is essentially a male thing. Trust me. But better still, “Don’t trust nobody but your Mama, and even then, cut the deck”.

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