Nigeria Online Scams: Where The EFCC Is Getting It Wrong

Posted by Afam Nnaji | 15 years ago | 6,134 times

Many variants are common. Win a trip to Hawaii, all expenses paid. Get a free laptop delivered to you, only pay for shipping.

You have won some money, pay a small fee for processing and the cash will be sent to you. Some will make an offer, real product up for sale unfortunately to millions of people around the globe. Let us assume that only 1 million respond to the offer, the seller disappears after collecting money from as many people as possible without delivering simply because he/she cannot deliver a single item to the numerous buyers of that single item.

It has been on the internet for long, it’s not new, the easy targets being those not too knowledgeable with computers or the internet. The easiest mode of contacting the millions of potential victims is the email especially with the free email services around like yahoomail and hotmail. Another important issue worth mentioning is that till date, over 90% of all the online scams originate from outside Africa, yet countries were not really bothered about these scams until Nigeria took the scam letters to the next level.

Enter the Nigerian version of the scam, aka 419 These days 419 which refers to the code (in Nigeria) that covers the advance fee fraud has taken over the name of online scam. Every internet user especially outside Nigeria knows about 419 and Nigeria. This is the only bad news about the whole issue of 419, nothing more nothing less. Before stating where the EFCC is getting it’s campaign wrong let me quickly highlight some of the negative effects of the Nigerian 419 on our nation.

1. Credit/debit card issuers and processors have refused to come to Nigeria for business making it difficult for Nigerians to settle transactions on the internet. I know that some banks in Nigeria now have some form of understanding with card issuers like VISA card but the implementation is very limited, first it must be prepaid (debit card) and secondly and most importantly it must not be used to settle transactions online. So where is the advantage? It is important to state here that the Americans and Russians rank very high in credit/debit card frauds and not even the Nigerians. The Russians I gather have even taken this to the next level by making ATMs cough out money at will whenever they want to the dismay of the ATM owners/operators.

2. Nigerians are discriminated against by businesses that offer internet related services simply because they are Nigerians. This is one area where I will blame Nigerians for not standing up to defend their country. I run an internet based business ( This link opens a new window) and each first time email I send to any company say for web hosting needs, domain name registrations etc has in it’s first line ‘I am a Nigerian, living in Nigeria, this is what I want and this is how I intend to pay; wire transfer or money order, no credit cards, if your company cannot accept payments either through money order or wire transfer then I don’t think we can do business’.

As usual I will get a reply stating why they will not entertain my request because I am a Nigerian. I will always reply and remind them that the level of crime in the US is more than what we have in Nigeria, I will remind them that the US accounts for close to 60% of all the online scams when compared to Nigeria with less than 10%. I will also tell them that they have competitors and I will not feel bad if they can’t offer their services to me, I will simply knock on the doors of their competitors and I will end my email.

Now what happens? The same company will reply and apologize for their earlier letter while stressing the fact that past experiences with Nigerians have made them to avoid Nigerians as much as possible. The point I am trying to make here is that most Nigerians are not confident enough to defend their being Nigerians and would rather use a faceless credit card or debit card to settle transaction thereby masking their real identities. Some Nigerians have lost a lot of money simply because companies on realizing their true identities knocked them off the internet without making any refunds whatsoever.

Apart from the 2 points raised any other impact or effect we may have been hearing or made to believe is self inflicted or political statements aimed at ridiculing Nigerians and we unfortunately agree to such nonsense. Where the EFCC comes in Where does EFCC come into this my story? A visit to the EFCC website and taking a look at the links page will show you irrelevant and race induced websites setup by Westerners that have tried unsuccessfully to defraud Nigerians in the past.

It’s like they are hitting back at Nigerians by devoting their time and energy in ridiculing us. And the EFCC without understanding why these websites come into being in the first list them as useful or helpful resources on their site. This is unfortunately very bad for everybody in Nigeria. A website was set up purely to educate Nigerians and expose 419 letters around and most importantly expose the 419 victims as “lazy, greedy and stupid”.

Before some of you start saying this is harsh I must state here that more than 90% of Westerners that have come across the site agree, after all it’s only a small percentage that fall for such rubbish 419 letters and most of them can’t prove to anybody that it wasn’t greed and laziness that made them fall for such scams. The link to that website was sent to the EFCC website but was never added to the site but countless links of some greedy people are decorating the web page of EFCC website.

The site is set up to protect innocent people who may come across such letters in the future. All the letters on that site are from my email box with only a handful being sent by Westerners who want the letters they received published on the site. They all agree that the only way to fight scam is to expose scam letters and nothing more. If it is a fact that scam emails from Nigeria constitute less than 10% (10% is just being conservative, it shouldn’t be close to 5% in the real sense anyway), the question that we should be asking ourselves is this, “why is the whole world against Nigeria or why are they more comfortable branding Nigeria as a 419 nation?”

The answer is simple and straight forward for those who don’t want to play politics with the issue. It is because we are Nigerians. Yes, because we are Nigerians. Remember that online scams have been around for quite a while even before Nigerians starting using email not to talk of writing and sending scam letters. Then, people were defrauded to the tune of some couple of dollars maybe in some cases over a thousand dollars.

But enter Nigerians into the market and the whole idea changed, potential victims are presented with mouth watering offers that would make the intending victims as rich as having 40% of funds in millions of dollars. The greed for such easy and painless money being made by partnering with the corrupt Nigerian to defraud Nigeria blinds the intending victim to part with small processing fees.

Should the deal succeed (it rarely does) no complains. Should the deal fail, then it’s another news making headline; Nigerian fraudsters at it again, dupes man/woman of US$xxxxx. The whole place is agog, blacklist Nigeria, search them at the airports, deny them visas etc. While this is going on, what happens to the greedy and stupid victim? Nothing.

The greedy victim walks away feeling angry that a mere black man/woman had the guts to defraud him/her and the next thing? He sets up a website and starts attacking the image of Nigeria without stating the details of the deal that actually left him/her sulking because that will expose how shallow the thinking was when the deal was on. Some of the most successful deals translate to millions of dollars in Swiss Vaults.

These stolen monies are easy to take to Swiss Banks but not easy to take out, even when a country’s President is able to establish that such funds were public funds stashed away be corrupt leaders. The UN, World Bank and other similar bodies will see this happen and not do anything to compel the Swiss banks or any other banks that may be housing stolen Nigerian wealth to make a refund.

The World Bank will be more comfortable with granting loans that will hold and keep Nigeria down for ages before such loans can be paid back where as the US is in debt to the tune of over 7 trillion dollars with funds that belongs to countries other than the US. Back to EFCC and the Nigerian angle. I think it is 100% wrong for the EFCC to prosecute the 419ners without asking for the greedy victims to be prosecuted with them. Yes, ask the victim’s country to hand them over to Nigeria for trials, after all both the 419 originator and the greedy victim colluded to commit a financial crime against our dear country Nigeria. Why try one person and leave the other to roam free? EFCC should ask for such provision to be made before 419ners are tried and I think that will make anybody wanting to get into any shady deal think twice before going ahead.

I am sure by now some people reading this piece will assume I have a problem to sort out with 419 victims, not at all. The truth is that having come across 419 emails (I receive them regularly), having read them well then there are only three reasons why someone will fall for such letters: greed, stupidity and/or laziness. Like I said earlier, the only thing the EFCC can do to fight this scourge is to expose the letters so that intending victims will at least know that these letters are around.

If the 419ners must be tried then the greedy victims must be tried with them as simple as that. It takes two to tango, not so? The US government on their own part have warned it’s citizens not to enter into any shady deal with Nigerians and even stressed that the government won’t help any victim in any way whatsoever should any of it’s citizens be defrauded. That’s a clear position to me and I agree with them. Likewise, our own EFCC should inform Nigerians and the whole world that henceforth 419 victims must be brought to Nigeria for trials before any 419ner will be tried.

I am sure that the US will ask for Nigerians to be handed over to them for trials were the situations reversed. On a final note I must state a painful truth here. As long as computers with internet access exist, 419 letters can not stop flying around the internet more so when we have so many willing and greedy people at the other end of the divide waiting to make quick, easy, stress free money from ‘corrupt Nigerians’.

The situation here is very similar to that of prostitution. How can you expect prostitution to stop or reduce for that matter when men will always patronize them? The same simple solution will readily suffice here; once all the men decide not to patronize prostitutes, the profession will die a natural death but I don’t see that happening, not now, not tomorrow, not even centuries to come.

So, EFCC while commending your efforts in trying to sanitize this country especially as it relates to financial crimes, I need to restate that the present style of handling 419 and other internet related scams needs a little readjusting. Exposing such letters will achieve more than arresting known 419ners as millions yet unknown are still sending such letters every day. Even at that, our hard earned monies are being spent in prosecuting them when Nigerians are dying of hunger and diseases on daily basis. I hope the idea of insisting that 419 victims be tried if their Nigerian partners must be tried should be looked at seriously.

We should come up with policies that will promote, protect, empower Nigerians and not simply do the bidding of the Westerners whose sole aim is to make Nigerians look, act and feel inferior even when we have broken all the academic records in the US and UK. As to the impact the job of EFCC has had in Nigeria wait for this; The mere mention of EFCC made my bank to behave when I threatened to visit the EFCC should I leave the bank premises with the issue at hand unresolved. Information is power, na dat day I believe.

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