Shame, shame shame
E. Ablorh-Odjidja, Ghanadot
Criminal activity on the Internet has no boundaries and
Africa is having a go at it at an incredible rate. We have
already put our imprimatur on “419”, advance fee fraud, as a
uniquely African craft.
Personally, the “419” scam has been a remote experience
until I received this rather distressing email, purporting
to have come from a friend and a fellow writer. It read:
“ I am sorry I didn't inform you about my traveling for a
program called Empowering Youth to Fight Racism, HIV/AIDS,
and Lack of Education. The program took place in three major
countries in Europe which are Austria, Spain and England,I
am presently in England.
I misplaced my wallet on my way to the hotel where my money,
and other valuables were kept. I will like you to assist me
with a soft loan urgently. The total sum of money that i
would need would be $2,200US Dollars to sort-out my hotel
bills and get myself back home.
I will appreciate whatever you can afford, i’ll pay you back
as soon as i return, Let me know if you can assist me? so
that i can send you the details to use when sending the
money through western union. Regards, Kofi”
The letter was not a bad email
letter, at least, for one that was
supposedly written in a hurry and under such duress.
Traditionally, the “419” letters have a safety feature in
them: They are written by mostly semi-illiterates. That
alone would prompt you to trash them, that is if you could
get pass your greed.
The email purporting to have come from “Kofi” had no greed
factor. Rather, it played on your sympathy for a colleague
in distress. It promises no reward or gain, but it was
equally pernicious like a “419”. It was an effort that
sought to take advantage of someone else’s reputation. The
soft loan promissory statement would not be honored and the
victim, this time “Kofi” would have had his reputation
The other victim would be, obviously, the sympathizer and
the friend who had decided to offer a soft loan that would
never be paid because the recipient was bound to disappear.
I had my doubts upon receiving the email, but decided to
believe the story and to offer some contribution. Truly,
many of us on Kofi’s address list were the targets. And I
was almost taken had Kofi not called me.
Fortunately, he had gotten wind of the email being
surreptitiously circulated on his behalf.
Before his call, I had sent a note to the criminal
purporting to be “Kofi,” asking for details to complete the
transaction, at least a portion of the amount sought. It
was just about this time when the real “Kofi,” in this case
Kofi Akosah Sarpong, called to tell me that he was safely
ensconced at his residence in Ottawa, Canada.
Kofi was not in Europe. I was relieved and embarrassed at
the same time. I wondered why I did not give in to my
initial skepticism after reading the email. Why did I choose
to suppress some useful questions that popped up in my
mind? How could a mature man and intelligent fellow be
caught stranded overseas without any recourse to his
immediate family at home for funds? Or why did he not
appeal to the conference organizers, at least for his hotel
bill? Or why did he not call me
Obviously I did not exercise any of these questions until I
heard from the real Kofi.
Next time, I will make the first call myself. And I hope
you would too when you receive any letter purporting to have
come from a stranded friend. Call his home; he may be there
instead of wherever the email says he is. It is that
June 17, 2008