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Date Published: 05/18/10

Advanced Fee Fraud and the Nigerian Experience By Saka Raji Audu 

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The Advanced Fee Fraud crime is the 419 criminal code section of the Nigerian constitution, which is completely outlawed. The 419 crime is always perfected in such a clever way that the victims believe that the fraudsters are doing honest business, but later discover that all is false. This is after when the victims would have suffered some financial and material losses to the 419ners. There are victims who have suffered this type of false business transaction. However, most of the victims of the 419 frauds are some time also not honest because they are always willing and eager to benefit where they do not invest. This is why they easily fall prey to the fraudsters.  

In any case, the 419 fraudsters have different corny ways with which they trap their victims, all in an attempt to get rich quickly. The use of the internet scam is the most common ways in the present jet age to dupe people of their valuables. For instance, an internet scammer or fraudster sends an email to an identified victim informing him or her of a huge sum of money in hard foreign currency has just been won, giving excellent but imaginary details of the award. The scammer then goes ahead to demand personal details of his victim including bank accounts number where the imaginary money won can be lodged or transferred to the victim. This is very common these days. What about the Global Service Mobile (GSM) providers that usually tells their subscribers to part away with sum of N100 to win millions of naira back?

If the victim is a desperate one who is also in need of fast money and does not care to think twice, he provides his genuine accounts information to the unknown scammer, and before he knows it, his little or huge saving is gone. The banks are some time syndicate to this 419 fraudulent crime by aiding and abetting scammers. We have had situation where genuine services rendered by people are paid through issuance of dud cheques that do not go beyond ordinary paper. We have also witnessed GSM fraudsters who send messages to their victims of huge sums of money awarded to them by certain service providers and asking them to part away with some specified amount before they can get the 'award.' 

What about the fake money doublersand washers who tell their victims to provide some little money to purchase chemical to wash certain denomination of currency into millions of money for their victims. The question that perhaps, some of the victims hardly ask before accepting to be part of this type of scam is that, if the money washers or doublers can double millions of any currency for their clients, why can't the washers or doublers do same for their own benefit? This is where greed and avarice come to play in the matter of 419ners and their victims. Although one understands that the fraudsters of this nature use some concoction to influence or lure the acceptance of their victims into the business. Still, if the victims are not interested in the shoddy business in the first place, there is little or no influence any concoction can offer. 

The effect of money laundry is also very crucial in the matter of the Advanced Fee Fraud (419) crime in Nigeria. Some prominent Nigerian politicians and business morgues have often been charged of money laundering, the crime of which has affected the international image of the country as the giant of Africa. Huge sums of money are often siphoned out of Nigeria to the detriment of the country's economy. Some business men would like to ask the government for assistance in form of grant to make a turn around in the economy. When such grant is granted, the business men launder the money outside the country through banks in the pretext to purchase certain machinery for production. But at the end of the day, such machinery is never purchased and neither the money granted for such purchase comes back to the country. It goes into private foreign accounts. This is how the country's economy is drain-piped and neck-dipped or under developed. In most cases, some people carry undeclared large liquid cash out side the country, all at the detriment of the country's progress. In addition to all these, we also have the pen robbers who make use of their pen to impregnate figures for the country to dance naked. This is not to talk about some employers that often deduct employees' money for insurance saving but do not remit such deduction into the accounts of insurance administrator.  

The Nigerian government and various stake holders have fought both tooth and nail to crack down the activities of various 419ners denting the image of the country. The government has not relented in her war against the advanced fee fraud crime through Agencies as ICPC and EFCC. It is on record that some people who specialise in defrauding their victims through the Automated Teller Machine (ATM) were nabbed by the country's Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC). Likewise, some of the internet fraudsters have also been trapped in recent time.   In spite of these efforts being made by the Nigerian government in this aspect, the onus still lies with the victims of Advance Fee Fraud crime to be wary of being trapped due to their greed and desperation to also take advantage of quickly get rich syndrome.  

Except frauds like the cracking of the Automated Teller Machines, pen robbery, issuance of dud cheques and money laundering crimes that are carried out by fraudsters against the knowledge of their victims, some other forms of 419 scams such as money doubling or washing, deceptive internet correspondence mails and others in this bracket are purely done with the active involvement of the victims and therefore, can be avoided. For instance, whenever one receives mail from any body directing one to make certain sum of money available to get huge sum in return, one should be intelligent enough to discard such mail as purely attempt to cheat, knowing full well that for any amount of money to be earned, there should be an input or turn around. If these are absent, we should simply know that no one can make another one rich just like that.  

In Nigeria, some people are desperate to visit or be residence in America. The 419 fraudsters cash on this desperation to dupe their victims. In many cases than one, people have been told by fraudsters that they have won the American lottery for acquisition of American Citizenship or Green Card. As a result of desperation of being Americans through short cuts, some people normally believe such non-existent award of American Green Card as true and do go ahead to follow up the luring instruction of the fraudsters at their own peril. The question is how one can win a game, competition and lottery one has not entered for or participated beats one's imagination. It is this lack of intelligence and attempt to reap where one does not sow that gives room for one to be victim of this type of 419ners.  

Above all, if we are able to identify the root cause of problem, such problem is as good as having been solved. We are now aware that responding to 419 internet mails and other related type of deceits will certainly make us vulnerable to being cheated. So, nobody should think that his or her pocket can be impregnated with money within a bleak of an eye. This is why people must avoid using their good money to chase bad one. In this case, greediness and insatiable desire to quickly get rich should be relegated to the background and thrown to the dustbin. This is one clear way to avoid being a victim of the Advanced Fee Fraud popularly refers to as 419 in the Nigeria parlance.  

Finally, while counseling the Nigerian government to live up to her challenge in combating 419 crimes in the country, individuals have role to also play against creating enabling environment for the 419ners to flourish. This is where agencies as Nigeria's Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC), Independent Corrupt Practice Commission (ICPC), etc should continue to intensify strategy towards nipping the problem of Advanced Fee fraud Crime in the bud. 

Saka Raji Audu writes from Kano and can be reached on his email: sakaraj@yahoo.mail 
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