Friday, May 07, 2010


Cons and scams are one of the mankind’s oldest occupations. Adam and Eve fell for a con and ever since victims have continued piling up. Technological advances have paradoxically increased the scope and impact of these scams.

Internet scams come in all shapes and sizes, from the comical to the macabre. Examples include fake websites, charity scams, fake job offers and many more.
The Nigerian 419 (or advance fee) scam is one of the most pervasive and insidious. It is named after Section 419 of the Nigerian Criminal Code that deals with cheating and obtaining property by false pretences (fraud). It has been around for a long time but despite repeated warnings, it continues to draw in victims from around the world, including Kenya.

The gist of this scam is to delude the victim into thinking that he or she has been singled out to participate in a very lucrative business deal. An e-mail is sent to the intended victim after obtaining their contact details from a stolen mailing list or computer. This e-mail may be in form of a business proposal that requests the victim’s assistance to transfer thousands of dollars into their bank account. They request his contact, bank details and an authorization letter. They then invite the victim to Nigeria or a West African country to complete the transaction.

Once someone travels to this country, violence and threats are employed to extort money and further pressure the victim. Numerous foreign nationals from America, Africa and Europe have been murdered and reported as missing after travelling to West Africa in pursuit of these “deals”.

This scam preys on victims who want to get rich quickly. It is unfortunate that promises of large amounts of money continue to impair peoples’ judgment.

Kenyans should beware of any unsolicited e-mails that promise monetary windfalls. Detecting these e-mails is easy because of the following common elements. Claims are made that the other parties are employed in, or have strong ties with the Central Bank of Nigeria, the Nigerian Government or dependants of a dead or living victim. The victims are usually told that there are no risks involved in the process. Their bank details and personal documents are usually requested and finally an advance fee is usually required to either pay for some transfer fees or bribe government or bank officials.

This scam should not be allowed to further defraud Kenyans. The Kenyan Police Cyber Crime Unit and the ICT sector should combine forces and sensitize Kenyans on the perils of this scam.

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