“We are working harder. The financial crisis is not making it easy for them over there,” said Banjo, 24, speaking about Americans, whose trust he has won and whose money he has fleeced, via his Dell laptop. “They don’t have money. And the money they don’t have, we want.” This is a small part of the interview from a very interesting
…Americans — the easiest prey, according to Nigerian scammers…
Here are some of the findings I thought were most interesting.
- Nigerian scammers say that Americans are the easiest target. The perception may be due to the sheer number of Americans, but… think what you will.
- “I’m selling greed,” said Felix, 29, an e-mail swindler. “You didn’t apply for any lotto, and all of a sudden you just see a mail in your mailbox that you’re going to win money? That means you have to be greedy.”
- Felix says, in good months, he has made $30,000, which he blew on clothes, hotel rooms and Dom Perignon at “VVIP” clubs. These days, he lamented, proceeds are down 40 percent. I don’t know how much he makes in bad months, but that’s a pretty hefty figure. No wonder so many Nigerians are choosing this career path.
- People say public awareness is the key. But online victim support groups abound. U.S. embassy, bank and money-transfer-agency Web sites display warnings about scams.
Still, people get duped.
“My fiancee is there in Lagos. . . . She is an American . . . she speaks with a heavy African accent after being there for two years,” one smitten American wrote to the U.S. Consulate in Lagos, pleading for help. “I have attempted to send her money so that she can leave the country, and both times the guy at Western Union stole the money.”
Wow, some people are very desperate for romance, falling for tricks like these. One reason why our fake Russian brides here are booming.
- Banjo said his most lucrative swindle is the work-from-home scam, which authorities warn is flourishing as the world sheds jobs. In U.S. newspapers and on the Web, he places ads for “pickup agents” or “correspondents.” They print out counterfeit corporate checks — Honeywell is one company whose checks Banjo said he faked — at $10 apiece and mail them to other unsuspecting folks. Those victims then cash the checks and wire the funds to the scammer’s accomplice in Britain or South Africa — places less likely to elicit the sender’s suspicion. After taking a cut, that person wires the rest to Banjo. Days later, when the bank deems the check phony, the casher must pay. So, not all scams require a direct deposit to Nigeria. Be extra careful.
- Banjo has made, in good months, $60,000. Twice better than Felix, Banjo!
- Now this is a funny one. I didn’t realize voodoo was such an integral part of the society there. But in these tough times, the scammers said, they are relying more on a crucial tool: voodoo. At times, Banjo said, he has traveled six hours to the forest, where a magician sells scam-boosters. A $300 powder supposedly helps scammers “speak with authority” when demanding payment. A powder, rubbed on the face, reportedly makes victims viewing the scammer through webcams powerless to say no.
“No matter what, they will pay,” said Olumide, a college student, adding that he is boosting his romance scams by wearing a magical, live tortoise hanging from a cord around his neck.
- The scammers also have heart, somtimes. Sometimes, Banjo said, he has so pitied victims that he returned their money. There was Katrina, in Cleveland, who wanted to go to after-Christmas sales. And there was Jimmy.
“Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy,” Banjo said over a Red Bull, straining to remember. “Somewhere in Florida? Florida. Yes, Florida.”
Jimmy was a truck driver. Banjo was Monica, the American owner of a boutique in Nigeria. The boutique burned down, and Jimmy wired money. Jimmy sent money for Monica’s flights to the United States, which she missed three times. Jimmy broke it off after dispatching a total of $25,000, Banjo said, but could not stay away. I don’t get how these people have so much money.
“He was still asking, ‘Just come home. Just come home, baby,’” Banjo recalled.
Banjo said he wired $1,000 to Jimmy and told him that he had been duped.
“There is another thing scammers always say in Nigeria,” Banjo said,
“that every day, another maga is born in America.“ (maga: ‘victim’ in slang and pidgin English)