Language Selection

English French German Italian Portuguese Spanish

Internet Scammers Keep Working in Nigeria

Filed under
Security

Day in, day out, a strapping, amiable 24-year-old who calls himself Kele B. heads to an Internet cafe, hunkers down at a computer and casts his net upon the cyber-waters.

Blithely oblivious to signs on the walls and desks warning of the penalties for Internet fraud, he has sent out tens of thousands of e-mails telling recipients they have won about $6.4 million in a bogus British government "Internet lottery."

"Congratulation! You Are Our Lucky Winner!" it says.

So far, Kele says, he has had only one response. But he claims it paid off handsomely. An American took the bait, he says, and coughed up "fees" and "taxes" of more than $5,000, never to hear from Kele again.

Festac Town, a district of Lagos where the scammers ply their schemes, has become notorious for "419 scams," named for the section of the Nigerian penal code that outlaws them.

In Festac Town, an entire community of scammers overnights on the Internet. By day they flaunt their smart clothes and cars and hang around the Internet cafes, trading stories about successful cons and near misses, and hatching new plots.

Festac Town is where communication specialists operating underground sell foreign telephone lines over which a scammer can purport to be calling from any city in the world. Here lurk master forgers and purveyors of such software as "e-mail extractors," which can harvest e-mail addresses by the million.

Now, however, a 3-year-old crackdown is yielding results, Nigerian authorities say.

Nuhu Ribadu, head of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, says cash and assets worth more than $700 million were recovered from suspects between May 2003 and June 2004. More than 500 suspects have been arrested, more than 100 cases are before the courts and 500 others are under investigation, he said.

The agency won its first big court victory in May when Mike Amadi was sentenced to 16 years in prison for setting up a Web site that offered juicy but phoney procurement contracts. Amadi cheekily posed as Ribadu himself and used the agency's name. He was caught by an undercover agent posing as an Italian businessman.

This month the biggest international scam of all - though not one involving the Internet - ended in court convictions. Amaka Anajemba was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison and ordered to return $25.5 million of the $242 million she helped to steal from a Brazilian bank.

The trial of four co-defendants is to start in September.

Why Nigeria? There are many theories. The nation of 130 million, Africa's most populous, is well educated, and English, the lingua franca of the scam industry, is the official language. Nigeria bursts with talent, from former NBA star Hakeem Olajuwon to Nobel literature laureate Wole Soyinka.

But with World Bank studies showing a quarter of urban college graduates are unemployed, crime offers tempting career opportunities - in drug dealing, immigrant-trafficking, oil-smuggling, and Internet fraud.

The scammers thrived during oil-rich Nigeria's 15 years of brutal and corrupt military rule, and democracy was restored only six years ago.

"We reached a point when law enforcement and regulatory agencies seemed nonexistent. But the stance of the present administration has started changing that," said Ribadu, the scam-busting chief.

President Olusegun Obasanjo is winning U.S. praise for his crackdown. Interpol, the FBI and other Western law enforcement agencies have stepped in to help, says police spokesman Emmanuel Ighodalo, and Nigerian police have received equipment and Western training in combating Internet crime and money-laundering.

Experts say Nigerian scams continue to flood e-mail systems, though many are being blocked by spam filters that get smarter and more aggressive. America Online Inc. Nicholas Graham says Nigerian messages lack the telltale signs of other spam - such as embedded Web links - but its filters are able to be alert to suspect mail coming from a specific range of Internet addresses.

Also, the scams have a limited shelf life.

In the con that Internet users are probably most familiar with, the e-mailer poses as a corrupt official looking for help in smuggling a fortune to a foreign bank account. E-mail or fax recipients are told that if they provide their banking and personal details and deposit certain sums of money, they'll get a cut of the loot.

But there are other scams, like the fake lotteries.

Kele B., who won't give his surname, says he couldn't find work after finishing high school in 2000 in the southeastern city of Owerri, so he drifted with friends to Lagos, where he tried his hand at boxing.

Then he discovered the Web.

Now he spends his mornings in Internet cafes on secondhand computers with aged screens, waiting "to see if my trap caught something," he says.

Elekwa, a chubby-faced 28-year-old who also keeps his surname to himself, shows up in Festac Town driving a Lexus and telling how he was jobless for two years despite having a diploma in computer science.

His break came four years ago when the chief of a fraud gang saw him solve what seemed like "a complex computer problem" at a business center in the southeastern city of Umuahia and lured him to Lagos.

He won't talk about his scams, only about their fruits: "Now I have three cars, I have two houses and I'm not looking for a job anymore."

By DULUE MBACHU
Associated Press

More in Tux Machines

Software: MapSCII, Notelab, Pageclip, Wine

  • MapSCII – The World Map In Your Terminal
    I just stumbled upon an interesting utility. The World map in the Terminal! Yes, It is so cool. Say hello to MapSCII, a Braille and ASCII world map renderer for your xterm-compatible terminals. It supports GNU/Linux, Mac OS, and Windows. I thought it is a just another project hosted on GitHub. But I was wrong! It is really impressive what they did there. We can use our mouse pointer to drag and zoom in and out a location anywhere in the world map.
  • Notelab – A Digital Note Taking App for Linux
    This post is on an app that brings the power of digital note-taking to PC users across the platform spectrum. If note-taking with a stylus then you would like this one, and in fact, I couldn’t have given Notelab (an open source Java-based application,) a better introduction. The team of creatives has done a good job already.
  • Pageclip – A Server for Your HTML Forms
    Data collection is important to statisticians who need to analyze the data and deduce useful information; developers who need to get feedback from users on how enjoyable their products are to use; teachers who need to carry out census of students and whatever complaints they have, etc. The list goes on. Seeing how convenient it can be to use services that are cloud-based wouldn’t it be nice if you could collect form data in the cloud as easily as creating a new HTML document? Well, Pageclip has come to the rescue.
  • Wine 3.0 Release Lets You Run Windows Applications on Linux More Effectively
    The Wine team has announced the release of Wine 3.0. This comes after one year of development and comes with 6000 individual changes with a number of improvements and new features. ‘This release represents a year of development effort and over 6,000 individual changes. It contains a large number of improvements’. The free and open source compatibility layer, Wine lets you run Windows applications on Linux and macOS. The Wine 3.0 release has as major highlights Direct3D 10 and 11 changes, Direct3D command stream, graphics driver for Android and improved support for DirectWrite and Direct2D.

today's howtos

GNOME: Themes, GTK and More

  • 5 of the Best Linux Dark Themes that Are Easy on the Eyes
    There are several reasons people opt for dark themes on their computers. Some find them easy on the eye while others prefer them because of their medical condition. Programmers, especially, like dark themes because they reduce glare on the eyes. If you are a Linux user and a dark theme lover, you are in luck. Here are five of the best dark themes for Linux. Check them out!
  • GNOME Rolls Out The GTK Text Input Protocol For Wayland
    GNOME developers have been working on a new Wayland protocol, the "gtk_text_input" protocol, which now is implemented in their Mutter compositor. Separate from the zwp_text_input protocol, the gtk_text_input protocol is designed for representing text input and input methods associated with a seat and enter/leave events. This GNOME-catered protocol for Mutter is outlined via this commit with their protocol specification living in-tree to Mutter given its GNOME focus.
  • Wine, Mozilla, GNOME and DragonFly BSD
    While GNOME is moving to remove desktop icon support in version 3.28, Ubuntu 18.04 LTS will continue to ship with an older version of Nautilus (3.26) in an effort to keep this age-old practice alive, at least for its upcoming LTS release. In more GNOME-related news, version 3.28 of the Photos application will include a number of enhancements to its photo-editing arsenal, such as shadows and highlight editing, the ability to alter crop orientation, added support for zoom gestures and more. For a complete list, visit the project's roadmap.

Red Hat and Fedora

  • Red Hat Satellite: Patch Management Overview and Analysis
    We review Red Hat Satellite, a patch management solution for enterprise Linux systems.
  • Analysts Expect Red Hat Inc (RHT) Will Announce Quarterly Sales of $761.96 Million
  • Red Hat, Inc. (NYSE:RHT) Shares Move -0.17%
  • A Modularity rethink for Fedora
    We have covered the Fedora Modularity initiative a time or two over the years but, just as the modular "product" started rolling out, Fedora went back to the drawing board. There were a number of fundamental problems with Modularity as it was to be delivered in the Fedora 27 server edition, so a classic version of the distribution was released instead. But Modularity is far from dead; there is a new plan afoot to deliver it for Fedora 28, which is due in May. The problem that Modularity seeks to solve is that different users of the distribution have differing needs for stability versus tracking the bleeding edge. The pain is most often felt in the fast-moving web development world, where frameworks and applications move far more quickly than Fedora as a whole can—even if it could, moving that quickly would be problematic for other types of users. So Modularity was meant to be a way for Fedora users to pick and choose which "modules" (a cohesive set of packages supporting a particular version of, say, Node.js, Django, a web server, or a database management system) are included in their tailored instance of Fedora. The Tumbleweed snapshots feature of the openSUSE rolling distribution is targeted at solving much the same problem. Modularity would also facilitate installing multiple different versions of modules so that different applications could each use the versions of the web framework, database, and web server that the application supports. It is, in some ways, an attempt to give users the best of both worlds: the stability of a Fedora release with the availability of modules of older and newer packages, some of which would be supported beyond the typical 13-month lifecycle of a Fedora release. The trick is in how to get there.