Can a Nigerian Scam, Scam a Nigerian?

The short answer is yes, of course, although with the 419 scam it seems that the main targets are now abroad, but I’m sure there are those in Nigeria that have fallen into this trap especially in the early days.

I thought the 419 scam was well known both in Nigeria and abroad but apparently there are still gullible and greedy people unaware of this deception. Current trends in the scam were mentioned on Blogistan and SAFspace so there is no need to rehash it here.

I received my very first scam letter in my email spam just this past September. I was amused that the writer claimed to be affiliated with some prominent and wealthy Nigerian family and then proceeded to outline the scam of how their were funds locked and how much money I should contribute to help unlock the funds and for this I would be generously rewarded with a dent in my bank statement.

I did not respond to it and amazingly about a week later I received another letter similar to the previous one but with the names changed and to my surprise they included the salaam in their salutations, now my interlocutor was Muslim, fascinating. And over the next month, I received my third and final 419 email again with a different name and offering of the salaams.

When I discuss this issue amongst Nigerians, many of them while empathizing with the innocent and gullible that have been duped have little sympathy for those that read the letter and greed overtook them and in their desire to make a quick buck off money that more than likely was gained illicitly actively wanted to participate in this scam.

The 419 scam may not able to dupe as many Nigerians anymore but they are still other scams which are more commonplace.

About a decade ago, a woman called my mother’s bank several times claiming to be her and attempted ultimately unsuccessfully to close her accounts and have the money deposited in some account in Nigeria. This occurred after my mother returned to Nigeria for the funeral of her father. Her bag containing her passports both American and Nigerian, pocketbook, and other important documents was stolen.

To add insult to injury when she returned to New York, Customs officials strip-searched her and detained her for 5 or 6 hours while they searched her bags and questioned her apparently they thought she was trying to smuggle something back into the States. When they found nothing, they let her go and my mother vowed she would never settle again in Nigeria although I think her stance has softened with time and with the death of her mother this past year.

Another Nigerian friend was working as a telephone sales rep for a large internet company and when potential customers asked her where she was from due to her accent, if she said Nigeria, some customers would ask to speak to another rep or just hang up so she began saying England since many people cannot seem to tell the difference between the two accents.

When my family returned to Nigeria this year to bury my grandmother, there were the normal airport hassles and rental car schemes. On the way to the family home, my sister and aunt rented two cars, my sister insisted on having a nice newer one with AC and my aunt got a jalopy. All of the money was paid upfront and sure enough less than a third of the way into a 5 hour journey, the nice car broke down and everyone had to squeeze into the jalopy and there are no refunds.

At the airport when leaving Nigeria, for us with dual-citizenship we show the blue American passports and the people seem to take pity on us, thinking we are not familiar with or used to the expected give and take in order to have our bags cleared and loaded onto the plane.

But for my aunts and uncles with only the green Nigerian passport, they are expected to offer up something to the workers before their bags are cleared. It’s not necessarily just money, they want anything perfume or packs of chewing gum will also do otherwise they will delay you with some excuse about your bags being too heavy or some newly invented surcharge.

Back in the days of military rule, my father was offered a position in the government but declined on principle because he is not corrupt, disdains financial mismanagement, is politically outspoken, and military dictatorships are often unstable so one day you could be an important figure and the next you find yourself on the wrong end of the firing squad.

One family in our community in upstate NY that was not particularly well off had a brother promoted to a high rank in the military in Nigeria and the next thing we know the moving truck is in front of their house and they moved to New York City. We ran into them a few years ago at a wedding and they seem to be living rather comfortably.

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