|Ademola Ariyo||Monday, November 28, 2005|
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THE NEW FACES OF INTERNET DATING SCAM
here are many writers on the general internet scams, popularly called 419 letters. However, it's hard to find writers on internet dating scams. This is probably due to the reason that the issue is more intimate and not many people will want to talk about it. Worse still, not many people will want others to know they have been chatting with an unknown guy or girl on the internet. People prefer to keep this very secret. Little wonder why many people post their profiles on these websites without their pictures, not wanting to be identified. Be that as it may, I want to bring three cases of internet dating scams into the open so that we can all learn from them.
He said was chatting with this stupendously beautiful, white 30 year old lady from Massachusetts in the US. On her profile, she was a church minister. She combined this with a Master's degree from an American university and worked principally as Director of Administration in one non-profit Christian organization in the US. That profile, in its entirety, was spellbinding. According to my Nigerian friend, they were chatting for about twenty minutes and she asked him if he had a Yahoo address so that they could leave the dating site and chat using Yahoo. His answer was in the affirmative. In a jiffy, they logged out, changed over to Yahoo.
At last, my friend's Massachusetts lady stopped laughing. She told him she was in Ifako. To be sure she meant what she wrote; he asked if it's Ifako in the US. At this point she turned the chatting into Pidgin English. She said, "Bros, abeg bone that side; you know wetin dey shele, you just dey demo. I dey Ifako for Lagos". Slowly and to his wildest bewilderment, his Massachusetts white lady suddenly turned into a black Nigerian guy who was in Ifako, Lagos! He said he could not believe it! Upon his further interrogation and thinking that he (my friend) too "belong", the amoebic guy gave him the details of his modus operandi.
He said he had twenty different profiles like that, posted on four different dating sites, posing as ladies. The colour of these ladies ranges from white, black to mixed, just to cut across all the races that appeal to different men. His job everyday was to wake up in the morning and go to Cybercafés to see which of the "traps" had caught a victim. The ladies she used on these sites are more or less like models which many men would find hard to resist. By this way, he said that's where he was making his money everyday from victims he (or she) would ask money from, pretending he (or she) was "stranded in Nigeria while on vacation". The guy affirmed he had made thousands of Naira in this way. My friend prodded him further as to where he got the pictures of these ladies. The answer was simple: from other dating sites on the internet! After they concluded their chatting, he (my friend) reported the case to the dating site management. The poor Ifako guy's profile was removed pronto; with much appreciation for bring it to their notice. It might be a bad day for the poor guy, but of course he still had nineteen other profiles (if not more now).
While my Nigerian friend thanked his star for not falling a victim, an Ethiopian friend of mine was not so lucky. He met this black "lady" on a dating site, who was from Birmingham, England, and worked for a popular oil company with large presence in UK and the rest of the world. They had been "friends" for almost three months without knowing he was dealing with a devil. He went to bed many nights happy not knowing he would still go to bed at some nights weeping. To cut their story short, they had only been chatting online or exchanging emails. The last chatting they had was that the "lady" was going to Nigeria for some petroleum conference in Port Harcourt. Getting to Nigeria, the conference "unexpectedly" involved her incurring more expenses. Since she did not bargain for this before, she had to send an international cheque to my Ethiopian friend who would help her cash the money and transfer by Western Union, since many Nigerian banks were not "advanced to deal in international cheques". That was credible enough. The day the Ethiopian fellow got the cheque, he took it to his bank in Norway for clearance. This should not be a problem since the cheque bore a UK address and a UK bank details. He submitted the cheque to the bank cashier and credited temporarily to his account was a sum of NOK 40,000 (N800,000), as the cheque would take two working days to properly clear. Hardly had he left the bank than he received a text message from his "lover" in Nigeria: the urgent need to send the money.
The guy explained that it would take two days to clear. This explanation did not go well with his lover. On the long run, based on ideas from Nigeria, the guy went back to the bank to request that he be given the NOK 40,000 at he needed it urgently. The Norwegian bank, as simple as it is, obliged, since the guy was a good customer, graduate student and legal resident of Norway. The money was cashed and wired through Western Union to Nigeria. The deal was concluded in Nigeria, but not in Norway. Two days later, the Ethiopian guy got a telephone call from his bank to herald a bad news: the cheque bounced. He was given seven days to pay the money or face the wrath of the law. He had to gather all his friends and country fellows together. Everybody contributed money and he would have to work for at least one year as a student to refund the money. What a pity. And as if that was not enough, he got the shocker of his life when he opened his email. His friend-turned-enemy sent him a mail from Nigeria, calling him "the greatest fool of the millennium" and that "God will punish him" for sending the face value of the cheque without sending more money to a lover if he truly was in love! It's just like putting salt on an open wound, and what could he do?
The last experience happened to another friend of mine. He got a black lady on a dating site too, who happened to be living in Düsseldorf, Germany. Within days of chatting, the father of the lady was dead in Ghana and she had to be physically present at the burial. Within two days, our friend actually got a real telephone call from Ghana! At the other end was a real lady, speaking that she "arrived" safely in Accra and that she would go back to Germany within one week. As man proposes and "God" disposes, this would not happen. Within five days, a call came from Ghana to his cell phone. At this time, it was a Ghanaian "doctor", telling the guy in Norway that the "lady" was involved in a terrible ghastly motor "accident". The accident was so serious that the best hospitals in Ghana could not handle it. As a result of this, the lady was "referred" to UCH Ibadan, Nigeria, "the best Hospital in Africa". From this point, the conclusion was predictable: money needed to be transferred through Western Union to Nigeria! The guy would have fallen a victim if not for the fact that the calamity that befell our Ethiopian friend was still very fresh. He quickly did a little mathematics and concluded that The Nigeria Connection, as 419 is popularly known in many parts of the world, was palpable. That was how he saved himself from a lover-turned-robber.
The lessons to be leant from all these are clear enough but not exhaustible. There is therefore the need for caution when one deals with an unknown guy or lady on the internet. Space would not permit me to share devastating stories of people who have found themselves in hot soup as a result of internet dating. Like the saying goes in Nigeria: shine your eyes well well. So if you usually chat with unknown persons on the internet, your "lover" at the other side of the web might soon turn out to be a conduit pipe into your hard-earned money.