The African continent is known for a plethora of things to include vast resources such as diamonds, gold and oil. Beautiful scenery and landmarks rival many around the world as tourism continues to grow.
Unfortunately, Africa is also known for fraudulent activities and many can attest to being taken advantage so that fraudsters are able to finance an affluent lifestyle.
Scroll through to learn about the six biggest scams from Africa that duped people out of millions.
The man who sold a non-existent airport
In 1995, Emmanuel Awude along with accomplices Ameka Anajemba and Christian Anajemba took advantage of a Japanese-Brazilian banker named Nelson Sakaguchi by promising him via fax that they would construct a new airport in which the banker could reap major profits.
Awude convinced the banker that he was Paul Ogwuma – governor of the Nigeria Central Bank and was able to schedule a meeting with him.
Upon meeting the fraudsters the very first time, Sakaguchi gave them $35,000 on the spot. He was promised $39 million at a later date but never received the cash.
Sakaguchi still obliged the trio, sending $4.65 million from March through June of 1995. He then sent $190 million over the course of three years.
The Nigerian fraudsters amassed $242 million in total from Sakaguchi. He sent the monies from Switzerland and various places so the transfers went undetected – for a period of time.
Though some of the money was recovered, the scheme goes down as one of the most elaborate in history.
Passport and Visa Fraud
The passport and visa scam occurs when two persons are in cahoots with one another and there is a transfer of official documents.
The person wishing to travel pays another with a valid passport and visa and uses the passport to travel internationally.
For instance, Detective Seth Sewornu, the head of the Ghana Police Visa and Document Fraud Unit recalled being propositioned in 2014 after he returned from a trip to the United Kingdom.
“I returned from the UK in 2004, and a distant relative approached me that “Look: you have a visa. This guy looks like you. Let’s give you £1000, so you give him your passport to travel,” Sewornu explained.
Others spend huge amounts of money to “travel agents” or “brokers” who promise for a fee of course – to obtain travel documents that enable the purchaser to travel to wherever they wish to.
Now, many fraudsters are targeting frequent travellers by stealing their face and identity but using their face and sometimes are able to travel outside of their respective countries, as documented by Quartz Africa.
Many Africans are desperate to travel abroad for better economic opportunities. Forging documents are just the tip of the iceberg as to what they will do to get out of their respective countries.
When the news of the 2016 arrest of the kingpin behind one of the world’s biggest internet fraud syndicates hit the headlines, many were shocked.
A 40-year-old Nigerian known simply to investigators as “Mike” was the head of a criminal syndicate that had scammed thousands of unsuspecting victims around the world of more than $60 million. The Interpol report says Mike’s network was spread across Nigeria, South Africa, and Malaysia, and consisted of at least 40 persons who carried out the scams and provided the necessary malware for hacking into online profiles.
Interpol speculated that Mike and his associates compromised the email accounts of several small to medium businesses around the world including Australia, Canada, India, Malaysia, Romania, South Africa, Thailand, and the United States.
Mike used contacts in Europe, China, and the U.S. who provided bank accounts needed for the transfer of illicit cash flows and other money laundering operations.
In this scam, Mike’s people would divert a payment so that instead of a buyer sending money to a supplier, the money ends up in a fraudulent account held by the scammers.
In another case, they compromise the email account of CEO, which is then used to send a money wire transfer request to an employee in the finance department. The money will end up in the scammers’ account.
One such case is that of “Stacey” a fifty-something-year-old South African woman who was swindled by a West African man.
Stacey jumped back into the dating scene after losing her husband of 32 years.
After plugging her credentials into an online dating profile, she was contacted by a man named “Jason” in 2017.
“We would chat, and he was wonderful. He was very attentive and became part of my everyday life. He had an accent which he explained due to his background, so I did not think too much of it. He even used Hungarian words, which I researched, and it was all correct.”
“We had proper intellectual conversations, I had no real reason to suspect him, and it really was too good to be true,” she explained to IOL.
The supposed couple tried a video chat but it went haywire – “When he finally relented and agreed, an image of a man came up but there were problems with signal and audio,” Stacey explained.
Jason claimed to be working in Ghana and expressed wanting to visit Stacey in South Africa.
The day before he was to arrive, Jason’s credit card was “swallowed by an atm machine.” He urgently needed $5,000.
Reluctantly, Stacey sent the money. Later on, when she went to the airport to meet Jason, she realized that he would never arrive. She had been conned.
Many people form successful internet romances nevertheless, some predators use factors such as loneliness and old age to swindle vulnerable individuals out of money.
This is just one of the many romance scams that have come from the continent. They are quite rampant that the U.S. Embassy in Ghana, had to give advice on how to know if you are a victim of romance fraud. The signs include:
“You met a friend/fiancé online, you’ve never met face to face, your correspondent professed love at warp speed and your friend/fiancé is plagued with medical or other life problems requiring loans from you.”
The scammer may cultivate a relationship with you or someone you know for months in advance before asking for money, but eventually, the person on the other end of the phone or computer will. The funds can be requested via money remittance, wire transfer or via your bank account.
The inheritance fraud
This typically involves an unsuspecting person receiving an email notifying them that they have inherited an enormous amount of money that can only be accessed by providing their banking details and other pertinent information. In turn, this information is used to steal a person’s identity and cause major financial damage to the victim while the scammers make easy money.
According to law enforcement, millions of dollars have been stolen through this scheme and it is difficult to track the crime since many of the perpetrators live outside of the United States.
In January, Michael Neu a man from Slidell, Louisiana was arrested after being found to be running the “Nigerian prince” scam with assistants in Nigeria. He had been under surveillance for 18 months before he was apprehended.
“Neu is suspected to have been the “middle man”, and participated in hundreds of financial transactions, involving phone and internet scams, designed to con money from victims across the United States. Some of the money obtained by Neu was subsequently wired to co-conspirators in the Country of Nigeria,” the police said in a statement.”
Neu was charged with 269 counts of wire fraud and money laundering.
This scheme involves an individual or individuals who claim to be businessmen or women that can help naïve investors gain profit by purchasing gold or other raw materials with lucrative returns.
On October 23, 33-year-old Ghanaian-American Henry N. Asomani of Dumfries, Virginia was arrested after collecting $2,993,354. The network Asomani was working with gained a total of $5,075,569 from 13 victims in Missouri, New Jersey and additional states, as originally reported by The Associated Press.
Asomani lured his victims through the Christian mingle website under the rouse of romance, however, later requested funds to fuel his supposed gold business.
Schemes like the one described above use two tiers such as love and an opportunity to earn a profit from a false investment to dupe the victim.
The victim is conned by being made to believe that the other party has mutual feelings for them and that they can earn extra money which can be twice as damaging.