Nigeria online scams - EFCC still missing the point

Posted by Afam Nnaji | 15 years ago | 4,672 times

What is an online scam or 419 as it is popularly known today even amongst foreigners? Without any consensus on the definition I will explain what it is and how it works. Online scam is a scam that is effected using the internet.

It involves the initiator sending out emails to a lot of people (not really targeted people) making offers that are not real or true while waiting for greedy people to respond to such offers.

2 variants are common

1. A relative just died and left $150,000,000.00 in a safe deposit in a bank. Your help is needed to claim this money and for your stress you will be compensated with say 40% of the money.

2. There is this oil well that I just found in my backyard, no body knows about it but I am looking for buyers for the crude oil for as low as $10.00 per barrel.

Now, online scam cannot begin and end with the originator, in this case the 419 man, before a scam takes place you must have a willing partner waiting and hoping to benefit from this financial crime against Nigeria. In other words, 419 is a crime committed by at least 2 parties, not 1 party.

What does it take to initiate this online scam? A computer connected to the internet and an email account whether free or fee based. Then the ability to put together some sentences even with very bad grammar.

Nigeria’s image being battered I agree that 419 has contributed to the battering of our image worldwide but again that is simply because Nigerians decided to do what other people have been doing in the past only this time the prize is usually way too high.

For starters, the percentage of online scams being perpetrated by Nigerians amount to less than 10%, USA accounts for over 50% (based on a study some 3 years ago) so why should Nigeria be blamed for what others do?

Can 419 be stopped? No. Unless you want to control all the computers that Nigerians can use especially the ones connected to the internet. Can it be reduced? Yes.

And that is the essence of this piece. The current strategy of the EFCC Once in a while a fraudster is arrested and probably jailed.

But the fact is that for every single fraudster arrested you have hundreds of thousands of scam emails originating from pcs all over the world. While the Nigerian fraudster is arrested, paraded and jailed his counterpart/partner in the financial crime against Nigeria is sipping coffee in one foreign country cursing and blaming Nigeria and Nigerians for his stupidity and greed. Is this enough? No. Is this right? No.

What then is right? A crime committed by 2 people should have 2 people serving the punishment not 1 person. As simple as this statement is, herein lies the major problem hindering the fight against online scam. Just like prostitution, as long as men are willing to patronize prostitutes prostitution will continue, after all brothels will naturally close down if men stopped visiting them.

In the same way, as long as you have greedy foreigners waiting for such criminally focused business opportunities the sending of scam emails will not stop. I have challenged a lot of foreigners on this and the usual lame explanation some give after making it clear that most 419 victims are just plain stupid, lazy and greedy is that one cannot deny them the right to hope for a lucky break in life, can you imagine?

What can the EFCC do to reduce online scam? One way or the other the reason why we are not really making any headway is that only 1 person is usually punished for a crime committed by 2 people and in the sight of God and man this is wrong and counter productive. It is important for us to understand that the allegiance of the EFCC should be with Nigeria and Nigerians regardless of foreign bodies that support them either financially or otherwise.

The EFCC should come out with a bold statement that henceforth for any online 419 issue reported action will be taken only when the originator and the collaborator are arrested. Put differently, the so called victim should be sent down to Nigeria to face charges of financial crimes against Nigeria. What will this achieve? Remember that people commit crimes depending on the weight of the punishment for that crime. A situation where a foreigner knows that he/she runs the risk of being arrested and sent to Nigeria for trials and a likely jail team is good for Nigeria and for the world because not many foreigners will be willing to go that route.

If the EFCC is not making any serious progress in the fight against online scam in spite of the energy, money and time expended thus far then the time is now for them to try a new approach, an approach that is just and in good faith, an approach that will make it clear to all parties that there is a price to pay either as the originator or the collaborator.

We should be bold enough to defend Nigeria and punish whoever is engaged in financial crimes against Nigeria regardless of race or gender.

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