Be Aware of Scams Like the Nigerian Connection

 E-mail is a wonderful thing. These days, it’s more efficient and reliable than the Post Office, and it’s virtually free. I find it useful for keeping in touch with people I might not otherwise have the time to talk to and helpful for confirming details that sometimes seem too insignificant for a phone call. Through e-mail and the Internet, information about virtually everything has become easier to find and share.

However, the Internet is also rampant with scam artists seeking to deprive the innocent of their hard-earned money. One of the biggest scams around is based in Central Africa. Black Internet users should not let their interest in and affection for what some call “the African homeland” be used against them.

When so many are taking steps to cross the “digital divide” and hook up to the Internet, it’s a shame there are people out there setting traps that may deter technological newcomers from benefiting from technology.

One should be on the lookout for e-mails from people claiming to be government officials or businessmen from Nigeria, Sierra Leone or other African countries seeking assistance in clearing up a financial problem. In return for your assistance, they claim that you’ll get a pay-out that could total in the millions. It seems too good to be true. It is.

This scam has been around for years through regular mail and fax, but e-mail has made it even easier for the scammers to tempt us. This scam is called “The Nigerian Connection,” “Advance-Fee Fraud” and “419.” 419 is the Nigerian Criminal Code designation for the scam. In Nigeria, it is one of the country’s top industries and has conned Americans out of billions of dollars.

I get several of these e-mails every month. I got one recently from someone claiming to be the wife of the late former president of Nigeria. She told me she had $50 million hidden from the current Nigerian government, and would cut me in for ten percent ($5 million!) if I’d help her get the money out of Nigeria. I was assured it was a “humanitarian service” I’d be doing for her and her countrymen and that it was “100 percent risk free” for me.

Had I replied, I most likely would have been asked to provide things like my bank account information. Later on, I might have been asked to forward money to grease the skids for all that money that would later be coming my way. After all my money was gone, I would probably never have heard from them again. In the worst-case scenario, I’d actually have been invited to Nigeria to seal the deal and been robbed, beaten and possibly killed.

According to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Americans were cheated out of $100 million in 1996 and 1997 alone. One alleged victim was swindled out of $400,000 before reporting the fraud. There are undoubtedly many additional thefts which have gone unreported because those who are duped have been too embarrassed to report it.

Black America stands to lose a lot by not participating in the technological revolution sweeping our nation and the world. At present, what’s left of the perceived digital divide between black American and technology is the gap made by those who are afraid to take advantage of the free or low-cost computer access provided by businesses, schools and charities. It’s an understandable problem, but one that must be overcome.

Once that technological gap is breached, however, people need to be aware of scams like the Nigerian Connection. There is too much awaiting black America on the Internet to allow this to be a deterrent. Just be aware and be informed.

(David Almasi is the director of Project 21. He can be reached at [email protected].)

Note: New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those of Project 21.

The National Center for Public Policy Research is a communications and research foundation supportive of a strong national defense and dedicated to providing free market solutions to today’s public policy problems. We believe that the principles of a free market, individual liberty and personal responsibility provide the greatest hope for meeting the challenges facing America in the 21st century.