By Stephen Mayo
Why do most internet scam letters originate from Africa? How and why do their mostly foreign based victims fall for these childish scams? Are security forces across Africa so inept that they cannot stop these “white collar” internet scammers?
The activities of African internet fraudsters, most of them young boys fashionably called “yahoo boys” and their female accomplices project Africa in a negative way but what are honest Africans doing to stop them? I needed to get inside the mind of one of these scammers and give a “dose” of the medicine they so generously ditch out to their victims. I exposed myself to the scammers to get inside their minds and know how they operated
This is my fascinating scamming story
On January 28th, I received an unexpected email titled “very urgent” from a supposedly stranded “Enaga Nteakong Catherine” who signs “herself” off as “cathy”. I don’t believe this is a woman .The letter had all the tell tale indications of a scam letter. It was addressed to “undisclosed recepients”. These scam letters are sent out to thousands of people so they don’t want victims to see the email addresses of their other targets. Their language is usually very approximative.
“How are you? Where are you now? You have time to devote to me about a situation and discreetly mail? I’m in trouble as I do not know what to do without your support.” The letter said.
“Cathy” then went on to explain how she was mugged on her way to a “hotel” in Ivory Coast and all her belongings, bank cards, telephone, money, all stolen. She needed help. She badly needed 1500 Euros to get back to Cameroon. She then provided me with western union details to transfer the money to her in Ivory Coast. She will pay me back on her return to Cameroon, she added.
I begin to “Scam” back
I told her I will gladly send some money but could she refresh my memory about who she was and where we met? In her reply, She thanked me for contacting her and then re-inforced the fact she badly needed money. I should also keep the deal from others or as she put it “maintain discretion”. At this point, I sent a prompting letter to help her refresh my memory of who she really was.
After all, you don’t write appeal letters to strangers expecting them to send you 1500 Euros if they don’t even know you. I told her I was also from Cameroon. She fell for my game. Yeah, she was definately Cameroonian.
I asked if I knew her in Yaoundé? “ Yes “, she replied quickly and made her first crucial mistake when I asked where she lived in Yaoundé. She said she was once a Secretary in an unnamed office in Yaoundé and lived in “maki” quarter. There is no “Maki “ neighbourhood in Yaoundé, I challenged her. Initially flustered, it took a day for her to get back. (These guys don’t lack imagination)
After probably doing a quick internet search, she came back apologising for her “unfortunate mistake” but now said she used to live in “New Road Bastos”. That is a direct English translation of “Nouvelle Route Bastos” that actually exists in the Cameroonian capital. We were now level on points; 1-1
I however needed proof that she will pay back any money I sent to her. Unperturbed, She came back with an attached copy of a Cameroonian passport with the above name. I can’t publish that because it is probably a real passport the scammer stole or managed to get his hands on.
That was however still not good enough for me. Could “Cathy” send me a contact number of someone in Cameroon I could call to verify her identity? She initially stalled but realizing I was serious and discussions will end if I don’t get a number, She sent one. I rang but of course, the number was out of service. What business took “cathy” to Ivory Coast I asked. She came back that she owned a cloths shop in Bessengue market in Douala and even gave me a shop number. Another quick check indicated that was another fake.
Before moving into the next stage of my mind game with “cathy”, I pretended I had forgotten how much she initially asked for so I again asked how much she needed. Quick reply; 2000 Euros which is 500 Euros more than she wanted in her first note. She probably thought she had me well cornered!
Afraid the scammer might think I am getting too suspicious and stop replying, I extended the next bait. I sent a ten figure MTCN number and said I did not include my address and test question because I still needed to talk to “her” personally and a friend or contact number in Cameroon before I could give the necessary information.
Late that evening ”cathy“ replied that her Ivory coast ordeal had given her a fever which is why she could not reply quickly. She promised sending me a contact number for a cousin but kept side stepping each time I said I needed to talk to her cousin. She finally sent a fake number in Cameroon. Ok, I said I needed to talk to her then send her my address so she could get the money.
By now, she was so desperate she was sending me at least three emails a day. She eventually sent another fake number claiming it was the number of a another client in the hotel where she was staying. I tried the number and it was blank.
My last note to “cathy” read; “When you send me a phone number, I will get back to you. Without that, there is really nothing I can talk; you are wasting your own time”
Because I know the “She” writing to me is really a “he”, I guess he does not want me to hear his voice so he refuses to give me a number to call her
Lessons from My mind Game
What I learnt? These scammers are damn stupid. “Cathy” did not do a basic research to get her geography and descriptions right. She faltered when she mentioned “maki” as a neighbourhood in Yaounde. Their Language is usually approximative.
In one of “ her notes” the English was almost flawless so I guessed “she” hired a good English speaker to write that particular mail. She kept sounding very religious with references about how God will bless me if I helped “her”. But honestly, the scam is a crap.
I have no idea how people still fall for this fake distress calls because the scenario are always the same; the travel unexpectedly abroad, they get mugged, they want assistance that they will pay back as soon as they return to base.
Well, I am still waiting to hear from lady “cathy” my small time African scammer!
Stephen Mayo is a Zimbabwean Writer Resident in California USA. You can contact him on Contact@irokohertage.com