Friday, August 31, 2007

Romance Scams

I am aware that Ghana has a reputation for '419' scams - though most Ghanaians will readily blame the Nigerians for this. '419' is the number of the Nigerian criminal code section dealing with fraud. It seems to be a big business with Internet cafes being the popular hangout joints through which these fraudsters ply their 'trade'.

The real reason for me writing this post today is that I came across something quite startling on the US Diplomatic site for Ghana. To be honest, it was quite coincidental. I was searching for a vet to which I could take Nico - our puppy - to and wanted some contact numbers. Via, via I ended up on the home page of the US Diplomatic site for Accra and there was this link to warnings about 'romance scams'. There is a down loadable document that gives tips for recognizing and hopefully preventing this type of scam. I will share a bit with you….

Before you send any money to Ghana, please take the time to be very well informed. Start by considering the fact that scams are common enough to warrant this warning. Next, look over this partial list of indicators. If any of them sound familiar, you are likely the victim of an internet scam.

-You met a friend/fiancé online

-You’ve never met face to face

-Your correspondent professed love at warp speed

-Your friend/fiancé is plagued with medical problems requiring loans from you

-You are promised repayment upon the inheritance of alluvial gold or gems

-You’ve sent large sums for visas or plane tickets but the person cannot seem to make it out of Ghana

-When your friend does try to leave the country, h/she is detained by immigration officials demanding payment or bribes

-Your correspondent consistently uses lower case “i’s” and/or grammar not in-keeping with their supposed life station or education level

copied from http://accra.usembassy.gov/


At first I had a good laugh and then sobered up as I realized the gravity of the situation. To be honest, it’s not uncommon for this to happen in real life situations where you actually meet the person face to face. Single women - young or old - can be seen as 'a ticket to ride’ - be that to a better life out of their situation, out of the country it doesn't matter. Will have to share with you some insights I have from a book that I just read about ' Love, Lust and Lies' which looks at the social phenomenon of dating and love in Ghana. Might also be interesting to have a look at the support group that victims had formed - http://groups.yahoo.com/group/romancescams/ - even sadder that most of them seem to be women. Don't get me wrong, I am sure that men have their fair share of scams too. Truth be told I suppose 'Ghana' in the text above could be substituted with the name of any other developing country Jamaica included. Particular countries on the African continent do have reputations for being 'how Stella got her groove back spots' - what is interesting is that often times unlike her profile in the movie, 'Stella ' ain't so young, or black for that matter. I guess the real question is how come people are so lonely, after all I guess that is the reason why you do reach out to connect, isn't it?

Romance scams aside it is somewhat ridiculous to see the letters that people will send for financial assistance. A part of me can't even believe that someone would actually respond to these letters. Then again perhaps I am too much of a skeptic and would not readily support these requests. The beggars at the stoplights with their deformities proudly on display barely get me to respond, much less such a request of this nature. The last one I received confessed to being the illegitimate some of Kofi Annan and now needed help in securing the millions that had been creamed from the numerous UN programmes! Now what would make someone being in their right mind provide their bank account details etc. to such a request? or send money? It's hard enough to come by the money you work for, what makes one think that it could be so easy. Come on people, wise up!

1 comment:

Nicholas said...

You are right to point this out. I am not a victim as i have seen through the deception by asking questions and getting inconsistent answers. I was looking to meet someone in London and registered on a dating site and had a number of contacts from Africa which were mostly individuals, undoubtedly quite desperate and asking for small amounts, but one reflecting a lot of those hints. I have carried on the scam and am going to report it with all the contact details. It is a real shame as there are many genuine girls in Ghana and other countries who are going to miss out due to mistrust.