Showing posts with label 419. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 419. Show all posts

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Ghana: Vice Guide to "Sakawa Boys"



This Vice episode aired on MTV Dec 2010. Cue to 3rd segment (11:06) for the intro:
A few years ago some enterprising kids in Ghana figured out a way to spice up the old Nigerian email scam by combining it with magic. The result is called "sakawa" and right now it's huge in Ghana. All it takes to get started is a trip to the local dump to get a computer...

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Nigeria: This Revolution Will Be Embedded

Maga by Jahborne PiQanto. Album: Money.



A public service announcement or reminder that we've all been had and we're all magas -  including them?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

West Africa: Arsenal Dreaming

AlJazeera's Money & Power crew go into the slums of Lagos and Accra to investigate scammers who prey on the football hopes and dreams of young boys and the life savings of their families:



Apart from falling prey to scammers, others like McEdwin Ifeanyi Obi have argued in Pambazuka (blogged - here) of how the soccer dream, beaming in from Europe, is damaging a generation of young boys.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Nigeria: John the Reformed Scammer

The scam detectives site has been running a series telephone of interviews with an alledged ex-scammer now studying in the UK. An excerpt on what I call the "spaghetti effect" from part one:
John: First you need to understand how the gangs work. At the bottom are the “foot soldiers”, kids who spend all of their time online to find email addresses and send out the first emails to get people interested. When they receive a reply, the victim is passed up the chain, to someone who has better English to get copies of ID from them like copies of their passport and driving licenses and build up trust. Then when they are ready to ask for money, they are passed further up again to someone who will pretend to be a barrister or shipping agent who will tell the victim that they need to pay charges or even a bribe to get the big cash amount out of the country. When they pay up, the gang master will collect the money from the Western Union office, using fake ID that they have taken from other scam victims.

Scam-Detective: But where do the “foot soldiers” find the email addresses?

John: Lots of people sign guestbooks online and leave their email addresses all over the internet on forums and websites. We would just visit the guestbooks, forums and websites and harvest the email addresses. Some gangs have software that collects these emails automatically, so it cuts down on the work.

Scam-Detective: What percentage of emails would get a response?

John: Maybe 9 or 10 out of every thousand emails. Then maybe 1 out of every 20 replies would lead to us getting money out of the victim in the end.
Most of what John had to say sounded very public domain knowledge to me, but, hey, I'm sure others can figure out if he's really who he says he is. Part two and three.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Nigeria: Re: "African Dada" -- "Super Villains of the Modern Age" Cont'd

In reference to this post, Alyssa Rosenberg, The Atlantic magazine's Pauline Kael of all things pop culture, said:
I don't know if it started with District 9, which sparked a mini-controversy over its portrayal of Nigerian gangsters, but blogfriend Bunmi Oloruntoba's been tracking the portrayals of Nigerians as supervillians in news and popular culture, and his most recent find is the best yet: a blogger who tricks Nigerian 419 scammers into dressing up like superheroes, and has turned the experience into a comic book. I don't that Nigerian 419 scammers are really worthy of being our age's super-villains. They're harmful, for sure, even devastating to the people they trick. It's undeniably corrosive to have an economy where so many people are involved in scams--or illegal activity period, and Nigeria's not the only country you can say that about.
But they're not internationally nefarious--they're not The Greek in The Wire, they're not the specter of the Chinese in the Red Dawn remake. No one can be that individually powerful, and while it's certainly possible we could have another Germany under Hitler, I think it's unlikely. No, Nigerian 419 scammers are only powerful enough to be a meme, to be subject counterscams like this, and fodder for jokes on shows like 30 Rock. I don't know that there's enough genuine fear there to motivate more portrayals of them as a menace.
Alyssa, as always, dang it, is right on all counts. Going by her analysis, Nigeria, on behalf of the stereotype left by its scammers in email in boxes worldwide, is only guilty of the lesser crime of having, like any other nation, its fair share of harmful miscreants. In other words, Alyssa offers Nigerians a plea bargain. They can plead guilty to the lesser charge and we can throw the more damning charge of Nigerians-- or their scammers--being perceived as "internationally nefarious" criminals out of court.

At first I thought, fair. Bargain accepted - done deal. But after some pondering [i.e. downing a beer] I've come to the conclusion that my revered critic friend, as usual, has dug up something else here that's worth exploring in more detail. First, one thing she forgot to mention--which she might be unaware--is that the whole Nigerians-as-"Super Villains of the Modern Age" theme came from her blog, or, to be specific, came from what a commenter said on her blog in reference to the District 9 backlash from last summer. In swiping the comment, though, I left out one word -- what the dude actually said was "Ridiculous Super Villains of the Modern Age." So if Alyssa is equating "super villainy" to "international nefariousness," then that missing adjective should erase all misconceived allusions of a Nigerian "super villainy" on par with the likes of The Greek, S.P.E.C.T.R.E , Dr. Doom, or, oh shit it's Galactus.

That said, I think Alyssa's remark that "Nigerian 419 scammers are really unworthy of being our age's super-villains," especially in a post-AbdulMuttalab world, will come as a relief. But like I said, after some pondering it should also be said that the relief comes at a cost. The minimal, yet consequential, cost here is that, though, Nigerians are not even close to being terrorists of any kind (trust me on this), still, dismissing their "villainy"--super or otherwise--amounts to dismissing a healthy disposition towards organized crime, which speaks to a criminality that, like with the Sicilians and the Costra Nostra or the Japanese and the Yakuza, is bound to contain indelible cultural expressions of who Nigerians are as a people, what boundaries they have drawn, and the codes they regard (or dismiss) when they decide to set up tent on the other side of the law. What I'm saying in essence is, if you want to understand, for example, the culture of New York, by all means go to NYU and talk to some cultural studies professor. But if you like your New York culture served up to date and hotly relevant, talk to a cop.

So, let's for a second say Nigerian 419 scammers are indeed worthy of being our age's super-villains, Alyssa's analysis would still be on point because we won't by any means be talking about the irksome entry level scammers sending you ridiculous emails probably from some Lagos internet cafe in some ramshackle apartment somewhere in Festac Town. Rather, we will be talking about a lede like this like the one below from British GQ (May '08):
[How] one Nigerian gang stole £122 million from a Brazilian bank in the biggest single advance-fee fraud, or 419 scam, in history. All it took was a fax machine and a gullible financier...
GQ was actually running an excerpt of from Misha Glenny's book, McMafia: Crime Without Frontiers, which looks at how the fall of the Iron Curtain or apartheid unleashed all kinds of formerly contained and structured criminal elements on the rest of the world. Sorry Nurse Nasty, but the Nigerian scammers we are talking about from here on in are so not in your league; entry level miscreants scammers throw against the wall email plates of spaghetti, hoping one strand sticks so they can relieve that strand of a few thousand dollars, but when you are defrauding bankers in Brazil to the tune of a £122 million, using an impressive array of banks spanning Hong Kong to the United States, not to mention shuffling and disguising the money through 17 different banks in Nigeria alone, you are a "Super Villain" in my book.

There are pages in Glenny's book that dealt with Nigerian crime syndicates in South Africa, which many will be surprised to learn reads like the treatment for District 9. Glenny tells how under apartheid, because young blacks, coloreds and whites did not mix, drug cultures developed separately and, after apartheid, it was the Nigerians that spotted the opening and made their own in roads into South Africa's narcotics underworld by becoming agents of diversification and cross fertilization of the drugs that were already in use -- thus extending drugs in South Africa past their traditional users and segregated neighborhoods. Glenny writes:
Above all, the Nigerians were branded as criminals in South Africa, where crime had, in a few short months, become the decisive political, social, and economic issue. And Hillbrow became the most feared no-go area in one of the world's most crime-ridden countries.
But he goes on to observe that:
Yet despite a reputation for ruthlessness, the Nigerians in South Africa (or more accurately the Igbo, who make up between 80 and 90 percent of them) run their criminal gangs, as we've seen, on principles of nonviolence. Into Hillbrow and other parts of South Africa, they have imported an egalitarian system of tribal councils stipulating that territories should not be fought over but agreed upon and discussed. "Arbitration, Not Aggravation" could be their slogan (pg. 185).
And that, in a nutshell, is where I'm heading with some of this. The world's concentration on entry level email scammers from Nigeria looses sight of the bigger--unfortunate--picture of Nigerian criminality and how, like other long standing unfortunate American, Chinese, Russian etc. crime traditions, it has managed to come up with its own unique blend of ethnic tradition and organizational culture that structures a way of doing business on the wrong side of the law.

Other traditions Nigerians bring, as a people, to operating international level of crime syndicates is definitely a topic worthy of future research. At this point, however, I'm more interested in why the narrative of Nigeria's crime tradition is still perceived as unsophisticated and relegated to the ghetto of the "ridiculous." My guess is, it's...

1) Because no one, Nigerians included (especially the bourgie ones), know jack about it. Blomkamp's District 9 is, probably, the first major narrative document that's given the world a small glimpse of Nigerian organized crime on the international level.

2) Because Nigerians are Africans and so on..., the sophisticated white collar ways of international crime clutters up a convenient stereotype.

3) The principles of non-violence Glenny noted among the Nigerian syndicate in South Africa also means, in terms of organized crime, Nigerians, out of principle, try to avoid hitting the mattresses whenever they can, along with avoiding all the other drama that comes with the territory. In that way, Nigerians tend to roll, in Wire parlance, as deep as the The Greek, are no Barksdales, and tend to see what they do more from the Stringer Bell point of view.

5) Also, like with Nollywood, I suspect organized crime is all business and the business knows it's not exploring artistic possibilities and so it keeps to certain gaudy limits in order to turn a profit. This means the sophistication we speak of is in the adaptation to an ever changing terrain, while the product or the crime itself remains crude but consistent.

All that said, arguing for the cultural relevance of a Nigerian international criminal class is probably a foolhardy thing to be doing, considering the country's image is at the moment in the shitter of shitters. But the point within a much more larger point is that the nature of Nigerian villainy spans a complex spectrum with a dial that needn't be stuck on just email scammers, for they have so little say about who Nigerians are as a people other than they are lousy spellers.

Oh, and finally, in response to that part of the analysis where Alyssa wrote, "No one can be that individually powerful, and while it's certainly possible we could have another Germany under Hitler, I think it's unlikely." Too late! Hitler already thinks Nigerians are the cat's pajamas (lol):

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Nigeria: "What More Do Nigerians Want?" -- Super Villains of the Modern Age, Cont'd

Whoo!!! Just heard a Nigerian made the cover of Newsweek... Aww shucks, it's him  :-(



A Colbert classic so funny I had to post it twice:

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Everyone knows that terrorists are all young, poor, disenfranchised, Arab Muslims. Well, except the Christmas bomber - who is a middle class, well-educated Nigerian. Which frankly I don't think is fair. We elected a black guy what more do Nigerians want? [Our Bank Account Number Over Email] -- Colbert

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Nigeria: S.C.A.M.M.S -- "Super Villains of the Modern Age," Cont'd



Over at 419 Eater, Nurse Nasty, someone that specializes in "scamming" Nigerian scam artists by toeing them along with promises of cash while getting them to do things like dressing up as superheroes, has literally brought all his/her efforts together in a smashing comic book that aesthetically out-Nollys Nollywood:



Nurse Nasty is my new Omar Little. He or she has pretty much strung along all the scammers below to imitate the characters in the comic book panels sent to them, they no doubt too blinded by their own greed to get the joke. Let's just say I've not laughed this hard or for so long at my own demise.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Nigeria: "Super Villians of the Modern Age," Cont'd

Africa is a Country posted an Identity Guard commercial that plays on the notoriety of Nigerians as online fraud artists, but the ad then ends with a twist that turns the stereotype on its head:



It's too early to tell if there is a pattern emerging here, but the TNT series Leverage pulled the same move in its pilot episode back in Dec '08 (watch full episode - here). [spoiler alert] After getting double crossed by a greedy aerospace CEO who had them steal someone's airplane designs and then refused to pay them, Timothy Hutton and his band of hi-tech thieves use a group of Nigerians to get back at him, turning the tables on the CEO who becomes their new mark...



And from that point on we are not privy to the whole plan and we only know as much as the CEO does and, like him, we are left thinking the Nigerians being introduced to him are up to no good. At the end, the Nigerians are shown to be legit and the flashbacks reveal that all the while the joke was on us.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Nigeria/ Liberia: Taylor Got 419'ed?

 According to Sir Charles the Taylor, now testifying in his own defense at the Hague, Nigeria's former president Olusegun Obasanjo pulled a fast one on him. Taylor, who was allegedly picked up with "huge sacks of cash on the border with Cameroon some 1,000km (600 miles) from the southern town of Calabar where he had been living in exile in Nigeria," says Obasanjo lied about him trying to escape:



Knowing what people like to think about Nigeria and Nigerians, did Charles Taylor just pull the "Distict 9" card at the Hague?

Monday, September 7, 2009

Nigeria: "Super Villains of the Modern Age," Cont'd

Still on the depiction of Nigerians in film or ads, Miquel, over at Subsaharska, links me up with this post on how Nigerians have taken over from Russians as the go-to baddies in American movies. That post led to Henno, at Backwater Views, and his post on the ostracizing and vilification of the Nigerian community in Vietnam.

Nigerians as the new Russians and Nigerians in real life being vilified in Vietnam tells me we might soon see Stallone in Rambo 5, facing off some bad-ass militant leader in the Niger Delta. Sorry. Couldn't resist.

But in cyberspace, there can only be one true super villain:

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Nigeria: "Super Villains of the Modern Age," Cont'd


Bernie, you can't believe everything you read on the internet. Otherwise I'd be a Nigerian millionaire by now.
I love how Bernie cocks his head when the PS3 dude said that. lol. Great ad. And the depicting continues.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Nigeria: Portrait of the Scammer as a Young Man

Portrait of a Young Man by Aaron Douglas

As if problems with the SAT-3 undersea cable that's cutting off 70% of Nigeria's internet connectivity wasn't enough, WaPo's Karin Brulliard figures the global recession is also making life difficult for Nigeria's online scammers:
'We are working harder. The financial crisis is not making it easy for them over there,' said Banjo, 24, speaking about Americans, whose trust he has won and whose money he has fleeced, via his Dell laptop. 'They don't have money. And the money they don't have, we want.'
Not excusing the scummy Nigerian scammers, but Brulliard fails to see the larger story here. When individuals, under false pretenses, ask for money over the internet it's called a "scam." After wreaking the economy, when Wall Street bankers, making no mention of paying themselves millions in bonuses, ask the American taxpayer for money, it's called a "stimulus." 

A stretch? This old post over at Kissing Suzy Kobler jokingly illustrates how Wall Street has, in fact, sent every American taxpayer an email that goes something like this

Ask him and he will tell you the terms "financial meltdown" or "global recession" are just spoons. What's making life difficult for the far less intelligent Nigerian scammers is the fact that far bigger Wall Street scam experts have already been through lots of pockets and have already cleaned out the hapless Americans those Nigerians were pinning their hopes on.


Thursday, August 6, 2009

Africa: Aids Advocacy And Hip Hop -- And Never the Twain Shall Meet

The AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (ARASA), a regional partnership of civil society organisations working together to promote a human rights based response to HIV/AIDS and TB, posted this a few weeks ago:



Wonder if the crew over at Wronging Rights have seen this. And speaking of bling...

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Nigeria: Continent of Long Lost Cousins - Letters to President Obama (Parts 1 and 2)

Dear Uncle Barracks,
Congrats on your assumption to the throne of US. We your Nigerian famili are very happy for you and for ourselves. It is our turn now to chop US national cake and our enemies cannot do anything about that.

I was to come to see you personally at Wite aus but I was not allowed at the airport because of say no fisa. I told them I am Obama kosin bet they refuse me. Your new elesion is a very good news for the Obama clan in Kenya and the famili in Nigeria . When I fest went to the family aus in Kenya to tell dem we are one famili they did not agree but my pastor from my church make 3 days dry fast and give me a special sponge to baf in barbitch after this they accept me. Becos they dont remember the sister of your granfada mother dat went to Nigeria and mari a shief live near Lagos in 1956 which is also my own personal great grandfada.

Now the famili has choose me to diskus some important matas with you. You know you have been long in Amrica and have forget our traditions but tank God we, your famili are hia to guide you to be rill African man. As a president, you must have a male son in office who will take over after you die and since ya wife Mitchell has not able to do that, we have find a wife for you from your fada village. The famili have already chose a good girl from de village not like Amrica or lagos gals who are too stubborn to obey the famili. She is a humble well behave and edicated gal who study sewing and fasion disine so she can help with sewing your suit wen e tia and also unifom for ami and soja. I hope ya waif will assept famili shoice becos we have fogif her for her winchcraft wich dont allow her to have a male son but if not, she can go back to her fada. Even my pastor has say your younger thoter may need a deliverance becos her granmoda want to give her winsh and ogbanje spirit to chop. Please donʼt wori about what dis will cost becos I will do it with my own pusonal moni becos we are one famili.

I also want to tell you that I want to set up NGO for hades unfans in Kenya and I can be the leader of the NGO. I have a good standard six degree and also studied computa at Iyana Ipaja so am well qualify for dis. Please I need your help for this.

I hope you will consider my request. I will also like your personal mobile so I can call you. Please greet Auntie Minchel and the shindren for us. God bless you and may all your enemies fall down and die, in Jesus name!

Til I hear you, I am

Yours amiable cousin
calista obama

It appears the U.S president never replied the first letter. Meh. As if the lack of a reply ever stopped Nigerians from writing to America. The joke continues -- Naija blog has the follow up:

Dear Cosin Baraks,

I am still waiting your ansa to my last letter. Hope things are all fine with you as you prepar for wite aus. How are Auntie Winshell and my shidren? Hope fine. Mama Sarah and all famili in Kenya and Nigeria have sent her greetings.

When I tell my son Adesoye dat Broda Baraks need a male son to take ova Amrican presidency afta you, e say no king in Amrica. I say what about Matin Luter King? E say Papa you funny. I say your moda famili funny. E say for Amrica, no fada pass power to im son, I say wat about George Bush pikin whish get presidence from im Papa George Bush also.

Now, I have to tell you a fery bad news and I hope you take it with heart of a man as you are Afrika man and not Oyinbo pepper who don’t have liver. Dat your small wife, dat Awelewa (Beauty na her Lagos name) I tell you about whish famili marry for you, is fery beatiful gal o. if you see her eyeballs, hehn? Den be like two boil hegg! Her hair is black and long and tick without no chemical, it take 3 onidiri 5 hours to plat it with rubber. Her hip is like Aran velvet and roll like syncro system till e scata somebodi head and the way the hips be I tink she will have plenti sons as possible. In fact her breast is standing anyhow. If somebodi put dia head on her breast, they will be in heaven. Anyway, I am paplex to find out that the gal have take in. That means she have get pregnancy. I was very surprise because she is a good well behave gal. After I take her to my pastor for prayer, Pastor tell me that, in fact, to be honest, I am the one she get the pregnant for. It is de devil work to scatter awa famili and becos de gal is friending wit bad gals in the yard since she come to dis Lagos. I beg you broda to forgif me but it is devil work! I tink our famili enemy want to use the gal to cause problem in Obama famili. I am very regret dis but pastor say we must not spoil de pregnancy. Mama Sarah have said the next wife for Baraks will be in her own personal room in Kenya until we send her to you. I tell Beauty she will be my 3rd wife but she say I too old. I say what about Broda Baraks, she say too old. You two old man. I say ya her fada be too old. She say she want go school after she born and be lawyer. I tink she have now stopborn laik Lagos gals.

I have now move to a self contain in Shogunle because my new position as Barak cosin cannot allow me to stay in two room Iyana Ipaja again because of when you want to come and greet me. The self-contain is very nice and get tolet.

I still want your help wit my NGO so dont foget your own flesh and blud.

Till I hear you, may Helen Akpabio catch all ya enemy and may dey fomit lizard, cowrie and padlock, afta, fall down and pisces! Amin!

Yours best cosin in Nigeria

Festus

Monday, November 17, 2008

Nigeria: Barack's Continent of Long Lost Cousins

A slew of columns and opinion pieces have littered African newspapers since Barrack Obama became the 44th president-elect of the United States. Many of those opinion pieces try to understand or dial down the heightened expectations Africans now have of Barrack, who, because of his African lineage, they now expect is able to wave an American wand and solve all of Africa's problems. Puis Adesanmi writes in Pambazuka that:
There is so much chaotic internet lather over what's in it for Africa. 'We are now in charge!!!' That's how a friend calling from Lagos - he has never ventured beyond the shores of Nigeria - gleefully screamed into the telephone, almost rending my eardrums. The naturalness with which he pronounced his 'we' immediately activated my scholarly instincts. He was calling from a beer parlour, where folks had declared an all-night Obama drinking spree. As he screamed, I could hear excited voices in the background, all seamless discursive appropriations of the American present: 'winner ooo, winner, we don win', 'our son is in!' Possessive adjectives seemed to be on sale and every Nigerian was grabbing one from the shelves. The 'we' that came over the phone from Lagos is indicative of the degree of Africa's emotional investment in the Obama project. We have moved, at least temporarily, from expecting the 'dividends of democracy' - always a mirage - to anticipating the dividends of Obama. Somehow, the dividends of Obama are being framed as more vectorial of immediate and concrete results for the continent than the dysfunctional and effete democracies in place.
On the lighter side, someone has already taken a swipe at composing a letter from a Nigerian who claims Obama as a cousin and who is not dialing down his or her expectations in soliciting help from a new and  powerful family member. Sadly, one needs to be "Yoruba-lingual" to grasp the side splitting humor and rich nuances in the bastardization of the English language below:
Dear Uncle Barracks,

Congrats on your assumption to the throne of US. We your Nigerian famili are very happy for you and for ourselves. It is our turn now to chop US national cake and our enemies cannot do anything about that.

I was to come to see you personally at Wite aus but I was not allowed at the airport because of say no fisa. I told them I am Obama kosin bet they refuse me. Your new elesion is a very good news for the Obama clan in Kenya and the famili in Nigeria . When I fest went to the family aus in Kenya to tell dem we are one famili they did not agree but my pastor from my church make 3 days dry fast and give me a special sponge to baf in barbitch after this they accept me. Becos they dont remember the sister of your granfada mother dat went to Nigeria and mari a shief live near Lagos in 1956 which is also my own personal great grandfada.

Now the famili has choose me to diskus some important matas with you. You know you have been long in Amrica and have forget our traditions but tank God we, your famili are hia to guide you to be rill African man. As a president, you must have a male son in office who will take over after you die and since ya wife Mitchell has not able to do that, we have find a wife for you from your fada village. The famili have already chose a good girl from de village not like Amrica or lagos gals who are too stubborn to obey the famili. She is a humble well behave and edicated gal who study sewing and fasion disine so she can help with sewing your suit wen e tia and also unifom for ami and soja. I hope ya waif will assept famili shoice becos we have fogif her for her winchcraft wich dont allow her to have a male son but if not, she can go back to her fada. Even my pastor has say your younger thoter may need a deliverance becos her granmoda want to give her winsh and ogbanje spirit to chop. Please donʼt wori about what dis will cost becos I will do it with my own pusonal moni becos we are one famili.

I also want to tell you that I want to set up NGO for hades unfans in Kenya and I can be the leader of the NGO. I have a good standard six degree and also studied computa at Iyana Ipaja so am well qualify for dis. Please I need your help for this.

I hope you will consider my request. I will also like your personal mobile so I can call you. Please greet Auntie Minchel and the shindren for us. God bless you and may all your enemies fall down and die, in Jesus name!

Til I hear you, I am

Yours amiable cousin

calista obama

I have said this before and I will say it again, we Africans learning to laugh at ourselves could very well become a veritable natural resource.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Dear American Taxpayer


Kissing Suzy Kolber, on behalf of the Federal Reserve and Wall street, pens a better version of their $700 billion email scam.

When individuals do it, they are called Nigerians or 419 scam artists. When the government and Wall street financial institutions do it, it's called a "bail out" -- please!!!

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