Everyone and his brother is well aware that Nigeria is the scam capital of the world. In fact, it is the only country in the world that actually has federal legislation in place to protect its citizens from foreign charges of scamming! Scamming is a significant source of foreign capital for Nigeria and is protected much like a natural resource. Western Union all but prohibits its clients from sending money to that country.
In spite of knowing all of that, I fell victim to a Nigerian scam. I was well aware of the very real possibility of it, even as I participated in it. It took more than 6 years for this scam to work its way to its natural end. In the end, I believed what I wanted to believe rather than what good sense should have told me. Now, I look back and laugh.
But let me start at the beginning. Six years ago I was eager to set out on a long trip and I was looking for a travel companion. I posted an ad on Craigslist to find another Canadian who would be interested in such a trip. I had a few responses but the one that stuck with me the most was a reply from a young woman in Nigeria, Fayez Brown. She told me she was fully prepared to embark on a long trip but unfortunately didn’t have the money. I discounted her as a travel partner but I found her emails quite engaging. We became internet pen pals. Of course she needed a little money from time to time and of course I sent it. It was never much money and she always appreciated it.
Because I knew Nigerian scams were so prevalent, I asked her for a copy of her passport. She sent it to me. Later, I asked her to set up a cam session on Skype. Again, she obliged. After this cam session I was convinced that she was quite real and quite feminine.
She told me she was eager to leave Nigeria because the conditions were so difficult for everyone there. She even directed me to CNN reports to substantiate her points. She had her passport and was ready to leave if only she had an airline ticket. At that time, I told her I had no money for an airline ticket (because it was true).
As the years passed, the Islamist Boko Haram militants became ever more active in Nigeria and her pleas for help in escaping her country became ever more strident. She told me about the mass kidnappings, torture and rape that this group engaged in quite openly and with no opposition from the government. Further, the rest of the world simply didn’t care. She lived in terror and would do anything to be able to leave her country.
Last fall I sent her money to buy a new passport, as her old one was about to expire. Within a few weeks she sent me the face page of it. Once again, this gave me clear evidence that she was who she said she was, that she had used the money as she had promised she would and that she was ready to leave her country as soon as she had an airline ticket out.
As soon as I had the money for that ticket I sent it to her. A few days later she confirmed that she had received the money and that she would buy her ticket within a few days. I waited anxiously for an update regarding her progress on getting her visa and airline ticket. As you can imagine, I was very disturbed when her daily emails and Yahoo chats came to an abrupt stop. It took me just a few days to realize I had been scammed.
I had believed her because her scam was so elaborate. Her correspondence was consistent, her emotions were heartfelt and her story was credible. Further, our correspondence extended over several years. I figure that she could not have made more than 50 cents an hour working on this scam. In other words, it simply was not worth the effort.
After her correspondence stopped, I compared the two passports she had sent me. I was startled when I rechecked her dates of birth! The date of birth on her first passport was November 28, 1983; the date on her second passport was September 24, 1987. They were different by nearly four years. I also compared the photos – they were clearly of different women. If I had double-checked these passport pages before I had sent the airfare I would have enjoyed the scam without loss. As it turned out, the loss was minimal.
I enjoyed the ride during our email exchanges – they were full of romance, drama, anxiety, commitment, desperation and love. I enjoyed more genuine excitement from these exchanges over the years than I would have from spending the same amount at the local movie theatre. I also came to admire the perseverance and skill of Nigerian scammers. They have elevated scamming to an art form.
Photos by Jan Wall – all rights reserved