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Bdaily defies the Nigerian ‘Prince Isa Ahmed’ scammers. Have any readers fallen victim?

by Graham Vincent

Those of you who have worked in a busy newsroom will identify with me on this. Swamped by emails, telephone ringing incessantly, quota to fill.

Besides the breaking business news, often the editorial team at Bdaily receives a cry for help from West Africa.

Obscure, yes. Many would have seen this, yet none of us (hopefully!) have fallen for it. Invariably, we chortle at the audacity of the message.

Typically, while filtering emails about multi-million pound acquisitions and start-up funding, an email will surface that catches my attention.

“We need your bank name and account number to help Prince Isa Ahmed, who needs to flee Nigeria, and you can become eligible for 20% of the $25 million he needs to get out of the country.”

“The late dictator of Nigeria, General Sanni Abacha, has died and now his widow wants your help in getting his $80 million out of the country.”

I am sure somebody somewhere has frantically forwarded their bank details, imagining their new life sat in a hammock on a deserted island in Fiji. And why not? These emails purport to bring riches in an instant.

But why does Nigeria have a monopoly on the email scam market?

The modern Nigerian 419 scam - 419 refers to the article of the Nigerian Criminal Code dealing with fraud - began as a postal scam during the corrupt years of the second Nigerian Republic during the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.

Predating the internet, the scam then morphed into a global scheme when the Nigerian Communications Commission granted licences to internet service providers in the country in 1996.

Scammers send many thousands of identical scam messages to email recipients all around the world. It only takes a few recipients to fall for the claims in the messages to make the operation pay off for the criminals.

How could anyone fall for it?

The text within the email is grammatically inept, the English employed often illegible and incoherent. Yet some people, typically the elderly, believe Prince Isa Ahmed is in grave danger in his native Nigeria.

Of course, Nigeria’s reputation as a failed state - with kidnappings of foreign oil workers, strife in the muslim North perpetrated by Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram, and rampant poverty and inequality - only perpetuates this view. Cobwebbed chequebooks are pulled out from bedside cabinets fairly expeditiously.

This is a problem worth highlighting. Innocent, often intelligent, people do sometimes fall victim to such scams. It is important to recognise the rhetoric deployed by scammers, particularly the prolific Nigerian ones. Don’t be their next prey.