While the Four Corners team is filming, Kweiku returns a missed video call from the woman and blocks his webcam with his finger so she can't see him.
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The conversation switches gears between declarations of love, sex talk and insistent requests for gifts and money. It's really hard times here baby," he tells her. Sometimes I feel like, wow, this lady, she's really in some misery or pain because she really wants to see me and she can't see me. Kweiku's friend 'Skidoo' introduced him to the scamming business. He believes he knows the way to a woman's heart and her bank account.
I wanted to check on you. Have you eaten all the stuffs? Maybe it's been long since she met someone like that, it's been a long time since someone pampered her. It's been long since someone told her sweet things, you understand. In a packed internet cafe in a commercial town west of Accra, we find teenage boys and young men in front of every screen, logged in on dating sites under names like Jessica, Mary and Jennifer.
The teenagers, known in Ghana as 'cafe boys' or 'browsers', are searching for middle-aged and elderly men in the US, Australia and Canada, and luring them to chat on Google Hangouts. I'm horny," the Australian man writes to him. And I will make sure to make him happy, like he will fall in love with me. Mohamed tells Four Corners he has been doing this since he was 16 to make a living, or sometimes just to earn credit for his phone.
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Each time they "play", Mohamed tells his targets his webcam is broken and instead sends videos of the woman he claims to be. The Australian man has been sending webcam equipment to Ghana so he can finally see and hear her live. I thought we were in the beginning of something long term. Ghana has more phones than people. With high youth unemployment and cheap internet, online fraud is booming. At a shrine on the outskirts of Accra, businesswoman and celebrity fetish priestess Nana Agradaa casts spells for her customers to help them make money.
We watch as Nana Agraada invokes her spirits in front of a wooden idol, covered in photos of westerners which have been brought to her by cafe boys. She chants, spits schnapps and pours talcum powder on her idols, as she demonstrates one of her most popular incantations with an assistant. Cafe boys like Mohamed, Kweiku and Skidoo are the bottom feeders in a global enterprise which has spread from nearby Nigeria.
The FBI reports formidable crime organisations which originated in Nigeria have spread to more than 80 countries and are making billions of dollars a year from scams alone. This is how, in some cases, victims of romance scams are traded among criminals to be used in much larger crimes, including drug trafficking and money laundering.
Meet the scammers: Could this be your online lover?
Just like in Ghana's internet cafes, scammers gather online to trade skills, knowledge and fake identities in a vast black market operating on Facebook. There are day-by-day formats for every scam: The Yahoo Boy rarely lives alone. He needs his comrades around him to pull off a successful scam: Luckily for the Yahoo Boy this is not a problem, because the sector pulls in enough money to create room for everyone. An entire new building, tucked in the middle of New Haven, Enugu, Nigeria, houses scammers as well as the offices that produce the documents, stamps, phone connections and internet disguises they need.
The noise that perpetually engulfs this building from electricity generators indicates, just like the business that is conducted here, a Nigerian reality where no one depends on the state for anything. There is no electricity just like there is no law and order, or opportunities to apply your skills in any useful sort of way. But there are plenty of opportunities in the Yahoo Boy universe.
Nigeria | Internet scamming. The Yahoo Boys Universe - ZAM
Okechukwu Nnadi would not say that to be a scammer is the best career choice for a young Nigerian, but, he adds, it will do in a situation where young graduates like himself have little to no other career opportunities. If you are desperate enough you become eager to learn which brand of this business will pay you the most, and how soon. Then you learn what time of day is best to throw a bait and on what platform, how much time must pass before you check back in on a client.
You learn that the business documents you need can be produced here in New Haven. Once money is transferred by a victim, Nnadi and his colleagues do not stop until that victim has no more money and no one else to borrow from. As soon as one variety stops yielding, another is invented. Nnadi holds a University degree from Nnamdi Azikiwe University. Okechukwu Nnadi was never too eager to go for a lowly paper pushing job anyway. He tells me that he got expelled from another, private university once, after he had sought excitement and material gain by joining a cultist association: As we chat, it becomes increasingly clear that he is very proud of his scamming skills.
The romance scams are easy, Nnadi says. I would, for example, never go to visit my present victim. After you have promised to go and failed even though she has sent you some money, she begins to doubt. It eventually fizzles out and you move on fast to others. Harder is, he says, the business scam, where someone orders actual material items from you: But they are good at that in the Enugu building. She will be sent the name of the agent, a photo ID, the name of the airport and details of the consignment.
Her name, passport details, house address and phone number. There is no real agent and there never was a consignment. I ask incredulously and he explains that it is possible to create fake profiles that convince even the very sceptical Nigerian. Online-Dating scams can been defrauded of those advantage of alleged involvement in the besocial.
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Faking it — scammers’ tricks to steal your heart and money
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