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Nigerian Organized Crime In Lagos, Nigeria, a city of twenty million, illegal monetary scams are a way of life for a population which earns an average of one dollar a week. These internet scams also called Nigerian 419 scams are a type of confidence fraud in which the victims are cheated out of money. The number 419 refers to the criminal code in Nigeria dealing with fraud. Variations of the scam include advance fee fraud, Nigerian letter fifos, Spanish prisoner scam and black money scam.

These frauds are perpetrated by fax or mail but are now mostly conducted by the internet. Fake checks and money orders are used in scams because the law states that banks must make the funds available in one to five days regardless of the length of time the document takes to clear foreign banks, usually seven to ten days. The victims, thinking the check is good then wires a fee to the scammer. By the time the victim realizes the check is insufficient their wired money is long gone.

The EFCC, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission is a Nigerian law enforcement agency that investigates 419 crimes. Internet cafes are the host to multitude of Nigerian cyber scammers which the EFCC raids a regular basis. One global scam targets victims by sending an unsolicited letter, forgery, purporting to come from someone working for the central bank or the Nigerian government. The scammer claims to be looking for a reputable foreign company into whose account he can deposit funds ranging to ten to sixty million dollars which the Nigerian government overpaid.

Once the victim becomes confident of these scammers something goes wrong and the victim is pressured to provide large sums of money to save the venture. This is repeated many times and each fee supposedly will be the very last fee required. Victims are requested to travel to Nigeria or a border country to complete the transaction. They are then told that a Visa will not be necessary and the Nigerian scam artist bribes airport officials. This illegal entry into the country is then used to coerce the victim into releasing funds.

By posing as government officials, the scammers maintain a certain power over the victim. Other scams involve western union and money gram with notice of potential inheritance, help for charity or even lottery winnings. The messages almost always offer to let the victims keep a significant portion of the funds for their assistance. Excuses commonly used for fees are processing costs, taxes, legal fees or bribes to local officials. Although the EFCC has been somewhat successful in raiding the cyber cafes and incarcerating scammers in Lagos, considering the poverty and millions of inhabitants the scams go on.

Some things that might help crack down on these criminals, in my opinion, would be to make more public service announcements worldwide making people more aware of these kinds of scammers. Also, an international law enforcement getting more involved in the targeted countries and working side by side the EFCC to arrest not only the scammers but also the monetary wiring services who work with these criminals. These criminals do not tend to be the hard core, violent criminals as we have seen in previous films.

They have tendencies to be intimidated of law enforcement and police should take advantage of these attitudes and make harder penalties for their crimes. This might deter more of this activity. Another idea would be to charge more money for internet connections in this country. If the criminals are already poor, this would challenge them even more and might help cut down on their computer usage. These are some things that might help but ultimately, until the economy of Nigeria, specifically Lagos, provides a decent living to its inhabitants, it remains impossible to eliminate these scammers.

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