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Washington Post Says Economy Is Bad... No, Good... No, Bad For Nigerian 419 Scammers

from the good-or-bad? dept

There's a fascinating article in the Washington Post about the impact of the worldwide financial crisis on Nigerian 419 scammers. However, I have to admit, that I'm a bit confused about the article, which seems to state two totally contradictory things. First, that it's more difficult to be a Nigerian scammer these days since Americans don't have as much money -- but then at the same time, that Americans are falling for the scam more easily these days since they're desperate for money. I don't see how both can be true. Two quotes from the article:
"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."
And then, just two paragraphs later:
U.S. authorities say Americans -- the easiest prey, according to Nigerian scammers -- lose hundreds of millions of dollars a year to cybercrimes, including a scheme known as the Nigerian 419 fraud, named for a section of the Nigerian criminal code. Now financially squeezed, Americans succumb even more easily to offers of riches, experts say.
And then, just a bit later, the scammers again complain that times are harder, and profits are down 40%.

So... um... which is it? Has it become more difficult or easier than ever? Isn't that the sort of thing that a newspaper reporter would be expected to search out and let us know? Not the Washington Post, apparently. It just tells us both are true and lets everyone else figure it out!

While, personally, I still can't figure out how anyone is still fooled by such scams after so many years of them being talked and written about, the article does suggest that the scammers themselves are easily scammed. This, of course, will come as no surprise at all to the group of folks who have fun scambaiting 419 scammers, but the article notes that scammers who are having a tough time are quickly throwing down lots of cash on magic potions, powders and artifacts to help them perform better as scammers:
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.
So, scam baiters, it seems like perhaps you should be selling such things right back to the scammers.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    A Dan, Aug 10th, 2009 @ 6:44am

    Makes sense to me, in theory

    More people are falling for it, but the people who fall for it don't have nearly as much money to steal. So profits would be down, since the increased volume doesn't make up for the decreased value of each successful scam.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 10th, 2009 @ 6:52am

    Re: Makes sense to me, in theory

    Ironically this is the same thing that happened to Dell.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 10th, 2009 @ 7:09am

    Re: Makes sense to me, in theory

    Beat me to the punch.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 10th, 2009 @ 7:44am

    The article seems like a 419 scam...

    It promises some value and then it just confuses you until you are not certain what your getting but you really hope you get it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Bradley Stewart, Aug 10th, 2009 @ 7:50am

    Believe Anything? You Bet!

    Its true that the more desperate people are the more likely that they are to become vulnerable.I believe it goes a lot farther than that. Just listen to talk radio or television. So many of these callers seem to believe almost anything that they have heard or read. Critical thinking was, is, and will never be part of their mental vocabulary.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    NullOp, Aug 10th, 2009 @ 8:03am


    I am sure that within the next couple of days we will see the announcement of a bailout for the Nigerian scammers. After all, how can Obama ignore some of his fellow countrymen that have fallen on hard times? Ooops, sorry for that "countrymen" statement as we all know he was born in America;-)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 10th, 2009 @ 8:14am

    I think the guy writing the article had an idea in his head but ran face first into a brick wall trying to express it.

    I think the idea went along the lines of "American's are easier to bait into scams due to hard economic times, however due to American's having no money Scammers are dipping into a dry well due to hard economic times."

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. icon
    Annoyed (profile), Aug 10th, 2009 @ 8:26am

    Re: Bailout

    Um, why are they his 'countrymen'? Because he's black? These are Nigerians... that makes them from Nigeria. Obama's ancestry is Kenyan, from Kenya. It's kinda like calling a Finn a Swede or a Brit just because they happen to be pale and from northern Europe.

    My apologies for the clarification, but this is America and you're a moron... so I wanted to make sure you didn't think 'Nigerian' is a PC substitute for 'ni**er'.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Mechwarrior, Aug 10th, 2009 @ 8:40am

    Re: Re: Bailout

    Though to most, its spelled the same way. I cant tell the number of times an online forum devolved into calling each other Nigers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. icon
    Alan Gerow (profile), Aug 10th, 2009 @ 8:55am

    I echo the logical argument of the original story. Scammers are getting more nibbles, but aren't able to reel in as many big catches.

    What I find more interesting is the chain of scamming. I should totally set-up an automatic reply to an e-mail address I purposely get injected into spamming lists which says:

    "Thank you for your contacting me about (enlarging my pen1s, your incredible business opportunity, and/or that fantastic m0rtgage rate). I am unable to send you cash at the moment, like many Americans I am hit with hard financial times. But let me tell you how I intend to get myself out of it, and it can help you too! With my amazing discovery of a special blend of herbs and spices that make people want to give you money! I'm using it right now! You want to give me money, don't you! That's how great this works!!! Send $583 to..."

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. icon
    Marcus Carab (profile), Aug 10th, 2009 @ 9:07am

    Re: Re: Bailout

    I agree. But you can't deny that there is an African kinship that breaks the boundaries of nations somewhat. Given the history of the continent, it only makes sense.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. icon
    Marcus Carab (profile), Aug 10th, 2009 @ 9:09am

    Re: Re: Re: Bailout

    Okay i'm sorry Annoyed, I actually replied to your comment without really reading what NullOp said. My comment makes no sense in context, NullOp is just being a dick.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    interval, Aug 10th, 2009 @ 9:13am

    Let's go back to how anyone could fall for such scams. I've baited these guys before, replying to their fishing with lines like "Oh really? You need my help?", and then following up the replies with email addresses that imply I might work for INTERPOL or the FBI. I've even used ridiculous names like "My name is Hojo Hominigrits, how can I help you secure these funds you are due, good sir?"

    How in the fuck would anyone even believe their fishing emails even a little?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. icon
    Chuck (profile), Aug 10th, 2009 @ 9:13am

    Re: Re: Re: Bailout

    You mean, the fact that the Africans are killing each other?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. icon
    Alan Gerow (profile), Aug 10th, 2009 @ 9:30am

    Re: Re: Re: Bailout

    Um, I can definitely deny that there is an African kinship even within a single country. With the amount of entire villages being wiped off the map in waves of genocide across the African continent, there is no solidarity amongst Africans within Africa, or even countrymen. The lines are drawn more closely to old village/tribal lines, not political boundaries such as countries. Most political turmoil in Africa comes from which village/tribe currently has control of the country and how they're treating the other groups within their boundaries.

    If you put a Kenyan and Nigerian in a room together, I doubt there would be much mutual respect.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. icon
    Marcus Carab (profile), Aug 10th, 2009 @ 9:31am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Bailout

    Like I said I really misread the entire original conversation.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. icon
    Marcus Carab (profile), Aug 10th, 2009 @ 9:36am

    One of the problems with print

    I've been thinking, and articles like this actually point out one of the problems of print journalism, which is extremely deadline based.

    Quite simply: sometimes you're rushed.

    Admittedly I haven't worked in any newsrooms as reputable as the National Post, and I haven't actually worked on the editorial side since college, but I have observed without fail that sometimes journalists have to cut corners, or not take ideas as far as they wanted to, or leave out certain interviews or research elements, in order to make deadlines. Sometimes it's as simple as a source who doesn't get back to you in time.

    This, I think, is the reason that truly excellent publications still produce sloppy journalism on a fairly regular basis.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. icon
    Eric Londaits (profile), Aug 10th, 2009 @ 9:58am


    I'm very skeptical about scambaiting. When you start reading their stories you realize that most of them are probably fake (some are CLEARLY fake), and that they have a very very racist side. It seems they're mostly stories about showing "how stupid nigerians are" written just for kicks.

    ... Then you start questioning if any scambaiting story is actually real.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Waca-waca, Aug 10th, 2009 @ 10:12am

    Re: Bailout

    Ha, ha!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    Devil's Advocate, Aug 10th, 2009 @ 10:16am

    Re: Re: Re: Bailout

    "Kinship?" Baloney! If that is so, then why isn't the continent peaceful and prosperous, since the "kinship" you speak of is so strong?

    By the way, did you know that African tribes would war with each other and sell the losers into slavery? I'd hardly call that "kinship" by anyone's definition. You need to read up on some world history.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    Waca-waca, Aug 10th, 2009 @ 10:18am


    will you accept stamps?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    Crabby, Aug 10th, 2009 @ 10:21am

    Re: One of the problems with print

    The sloppiness is due to the fact that a) the reporter couldn't be bothered to re-read what he/she wrote, and b) most newspapers have done away with copy editors, who would have caught such stupidity. But who cares about accuracy anymore? Not the fourth estate, apparently.

    We all have deadlines. Some of us, however, can be bothered to take the time to do our jobs correctly.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. identicon
    Devil's Advocate, Aug 10th, 2009 @ 10:27am

    Re: Scambaiting

    Okay, if you say the scambaiters are racist for laughing at the Nigerians, does that mean that the Nigerians laughing at the Americans for taking the scam are also racist? And what if the scambaiter is black? Is he/she still a racist?

    Just asking, because it seems like these days the term "racism" is thrown around so much that it just doesn't mean anything. Stories written for a laugh aren't necessarily racist just because the story is about a particular group of people. Be careful of what you accuse people of, especially when you don't know who the people are.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. identicon
    The Root, Aug 10th, 2009 @ 9:45pm

    419 Advanced Fee fraud

    Subject says what it's based on.

    Fees add up, scammers make money, we suffer once we're stupid enough to give in.

    I personally just mark each 419 e-mail as spam and forget it.

    Those that are dumb/stupid enough to believe that shit need to restart their education.


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. identicon
    Enrico Suarve, Aug 11th, 2009 @ 5:10am

    I'll cut out the middle man

    I'm going to start selling Americans magic tortoise pendants

    Mine are made from magical tree excrement and therefore ten times more powerful - guarenteed to make your morgage advisor say "yes", they are also useful for scaring away tax collectors when pinned to your front door

    $400 each - who's first, limited supply

    PS I am also acting as an advisor to a government minister who needs somewhere to place their second home allowance, please only apply if you are happy with thousands of dollars a month being placed in your account

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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