So many frauds, so few birthdays

According to Wikipedia, Nigeria’s main exports are cocoa and oil. But what you won’t find in most travel guides is that Nigeria is also associated with 419 scams and Internet fraud in general. In Germany, this international crime ring is often called the Nigeria Connection.

Last Thursday the German police arrested a 34 year old in Berlin, who’s presumably a member of the Nigeria Connection. He sold non existent items by on-line auction, and his more than 100 victims lost around 70,000 EUR. His victims transferred the money to illegally opened bank accounts – it was then withdrawn from the accounts using cashpoints that weren’t monitored by cameras.

Working the other way round – as a bidder, not a vendor – is still on the daily agenda of the Nigeria Connection. How does this scam work? First, they bid on compact items like mobile phones and laptops, usually offering unreasonably high prices to ensure that their bids are accepted. They ask the vendor to send the item to Nigeria as soon as possible, often saying that it’s a birthday present for their children.

And usually they come up with the wildest stories – here are some excerpts from emails (with spelling and grammar errors typically found in Nigeria Connection messages) sent to the vendor following purchase:

“I live in australia, I’m interested in buying your item for my husband who went for christian program in nigeria.”

“Right now I’m in Osaka Japan a humanity programme. I want that item for my son in Nigeria.”

“I am Dr. Christy Ogieva, one of the Doctors currently in Turkey trying to put the Bird Flu under control. (…) for my son studing in Nigeria on the occasion of his birth day.”

The victim is told that they will receive full payment and money to cover additional shipping costs once the item has been sent. Usually the victims are asked to give their full address, phone number, email address and bank account information. There have been cases where vendors were told that the money would be delivered to them personally. Strange as it may seem, it looks as though there are people who believed this.

This scam has been around for a number of years now, but people keep falling for it. Members of the Nigeria Connection probably don’t have as many children as they claim, but they do have a lot of imagination. And they’ll continue to use this to target unsuspecting on-line auction users.

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