Conning the con artist

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By Olusegun Oruame @ Matters eRising

God bless Ribadu, former czar of the EFCC. He did not stop the 419 scourge. But he reduced the intensity of the aura that made yahoo-yahoo such an appealing business.  Ribadu has fled the shores of Nigeria. Away from the enemies he haunted for making a personal feast out of the national treasury. Enemies who now dictate the pace of crime against the state.

History has set upon us again, the full deluge of scam emails; phony phones calls where the caller with hidden numbers pretends to be calling from London or New York and has a goodwill business or an angel fund to help us prevail against poverty. Once we fall for the bait, we become the latest ‘mugu’ to be scammed.

The yahoo-yahoo boys are back in full force. They call us in the early hours of the morning. They wait for clues on our sides of the call. They use the clues to encourage us join them in the con-game. Once we fall, and many of us always fall for those cheap bogus business openings; once we fall, we end up with winding tales of how were conned.

We hardly accept that it was greed that made us fall: that innate lust for cheap money that has made many abroad and at home to fall for con artists. We always blame our fall on the supernatural. The con artists do not work with mere brain. They use juju. They use juju to convince us that we have our millions waiting for us in a business proposal we have no knowledge of.

They use juju to get us against our better judgment to join them in becoming emergency suppliers of imaginary products that we have never heard of. They use juju to get us pray and thank God for that break-through that we have waited all the time for and that has finally come through a total stranger who called us in the middle of the night that he is Godsend for our financial breakthrough in life.

As long as men will not stop to be gullible and will not stop to lust after cheap gains, they will not stop becoming pawns of yahoo-yahoo schemes. The emails come their hundreds informing us of becoming lucky winners of a lottery we never entered for and requesting for personal information that include our bank details. Driven by greed, we raise no doubt and simply key in the information for the online con artists to work on immediately or at a later date. Sometimes, it could even take a year or more before the con artists begin to work on us.

Whenever we provide information about ourselves on the Internet, we are helping someone somewhere to create a database of his likely targets in months or years to come. When you get those cursory emails that you have been nominated in a ‘World Who is Who’; or an online social network invite; or name database of professionals, pause before you respond or better still simply delete the offensive email. Chances are you are helping to make yourself a potential target if you help criminal elements put your information on their database.

When you suddenly get a phone call with a caller that appears to know so much about you including the primary school you attended and even mentions your mother’s name, beware, you may have helped him to know you when you filled that harmless form online months or years back. The world is more connected that ever before and the propensity to commit crime of ‘knowingnss’ is far higher than ever before.

With more people owning their Internet access at home or via their mobile window; laptops and high-end handsets, the Internet is already in the pockets of the fraudsters. They no longer need to sleep at the cybercafe to search for victims.  They can con you while they are negotiating through the heavy traffic of Lagos or while cruising on the highway between Sokoto and Zaria.

When that email comes, simply delete it. If it’s a call, you have the option of telling the con artist to try someone else or helping him to waste his call units by pretending to play along. My friend in one of the telecoms companies took the second option. He conned the con artist not out of his money but out of his wits. Enjoy the phone conversation between him and the con artist:

I got a typical call very recently, here’s the gist:

Mr. 419: Hello, how are you?

Ayo: Fine. Please, who am I speaking with?

Mr. 419: Haba, don’t you remember me?  Who do you know in UK that could be calling?

(Sensing a scam, I threw in a trap…)

Ayo: Johnson!  Is that you?  (I don’t know any Johnson in UK.)

(Thinking it’s a break, he swallows the bait)

Mr. 419 : Of course, this is Johnson!  How come you didn’t recognise my voice initially?

(Certain it’s scam, I decided to punish him verbally and financially.  I had the time that morning so I was going to assist him waste his call credit.)

Ayo: Jooooooohnson! Kai! Omo buruku gbaa ni o! (You are a specially bad boy)  Your father died, you didn’t so much as show up or send a note.  Omo a se iru e fun e! (Your children will repay you with such).  Didn’t you hear about his demise?  He was so bitter and full of original curses curses for you.

Mr. 419: (Obviously subdued)  I didn’t hear. I would have come.

Ayo:  Too bad.  You heard you mama is leprous too?  You didn’t hear about that, abi?

Mr. 419: (Now uncomfortable) No, I didn’t hear.

Ayo: (Enjoying myself thoroughly).  Too bad.  Is your wife that foolish too?  Not even a word from her after you folks married without our blessings?  If the husband is not wise, is the wife lame-witted too?

Mr. 419: She’s fine.   I’m certain she’ll get across to you. There’s an issue…

(Breaking in before he begins his story)

Ayo: Johnson, O se mi o: you offended me.  I sent you money to buy me a car and you just disappeared.  When am I having my money back?  You want me to curse you too like your father did?  I don’t have his kind of patience I’m sure you know.  I won’t wait that long before I give you what you deserve.

Mr. 419:  (Grunted).  This issue is important…

Ayo: Shut up!!! When are you sending money home?  Haba! We sent you to school, clothed you and sent you abroad…  Are you now a 419?  Stealing from me your friend too. Your father was right to curse you… And you can’t escape it if you continue like this.  It’s not a curse.

Mr. 419:  I’ll repay you.

After about 50 minutes of moves and countermoves…I owned up.

Ayo: See Mr. 419, I don’t know any Johnson in UK.  I just needed to teach you a lesson.  Go get a proper job.

Mr. 419: Were! Oloriburuku! Lo ti n sepe fun mi lat’aaro! (Madman, and you’ve been cursing me since morning!)

Ayo: Disconnected.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                             First published 2009

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