Feature Article of Thursday, 29 March 2007

Columnist: Tawiah, Benjamin

Internet Fraud II


Benjamin Tawiah, London
If you are the veritable okotobonku, who would strip a woman of her underpants when she dupes you, then you would have a few nightmares with internet dating. In most cases, you would need a valid passport and a visa to travel to a destination on a map to get your panties back. Whatever you do with it is as disgusting as it sounds. If the woman’s internet connection is wireless, she could well be at the other side of the Jordan.

The international communication network was appropriately named the internet, because it is a big net that links many of the most pleasurable things to a site. It is the ‘net’ bit that we should be concerned with, not the ‘inter’ lot. Sometimes the net is too obvious to miss. At the click of a mouse, a juicy woman pops up, showing voluptuous curves and her nutritious nipples, to titillate the carnal mind. Just beside her photographs are a few words that portray a commercial product than a description of a decent woman.

A typical advertisement will normally have a title like: ‘All for you till you drop’ or ‘I will rock you wild’. The body of the message would seek to extol the virtues of this human product and portray the picture of a diamond ready for the taking. It could be as simple as this: ‘A curvaceous and beautiful lady seeks a financially resourceful gentleman with ‘gosh’ for good times, possibly more. Reply with pictures to fingerlicking69@yahoo.co.uk.’

What men usually forget is that sex is the last thing on the minds of women, even as they wallow in trivia and flirtatious opulence. Women are a rare breed; they need to be understood as emotional units than sexual objects. Similarly, women, even the most hardworking and well intentioned ones, think of men as economic units-people who would be effective co-breadwinners or preferably, sole breadwinners. So in many ways, there is no level field for a romantic takeoff.

What would the average love-struck gentleman make of this advertisement? The clues are all too prominent to misjudge. The mind’s construction of this woman is ably played out in the wording of the advertisement. Mark the words ‘rock’ and ‘drop’. She has been kind enough to tell you that if you get all she is offering, you will drop. When you drop, you are finished. But she is an abushkeleke; she never finishes.

Secondly, she has not hidden her sinister motive. She wants to tap into your financial resource. In return, she would offer curves and beauty. She also wants good times, but if they are good enough, she would renew the time. She said nothing about a relationship.

Another vital clue is this lady’s email address. In sex and relationship education, finger and licking are words that even an adulterous teacher will find difficult explaining to his adult students. 69 is not good either; it is the only sexual position that makes it possible for cunnilingus and fellatio to occur simultaneously. This is what this curvy woman stands for. Is she worth a try? Well, may be not. What if you chanced upon a goldmine of a profile, like that of this financially independent marketing manageress? ‘A prayerful born-again Christian lady seeks a God-fearing man for a Christ-centered relationship leading to marriage. God Bless You.’ The assumption is that a prayerful Christian, who is also financially independent would be a genuine person. But this could well be another Ms. Fingerlicking in a pulpit. In fact, she could even be a man wearing a moustache and may be a beard.

Investigative journalism sometimes requires many a journalist to go undercover and act out a role. I posed on an African dating website as Sabina Williams, a Ghanaian-British pharmacist looking for an educated gentleman for marriage. I regret to say that nearly six months after the advertisement, I continue to receive emails from anxious lovers. All of them love me, and have promised me prosperous marriage. Most of them sent me their photographs in their first mails and poured out the minutest details about their lives. One of them, a Hong-Kong based Ghanaian businessman, told me he is President Kufour’s cousin. He stressed that he looked exactly like the president. He sent me pictures later and to be fair, the guy bore a striking resemblance with the Ghanaian president. Well, I didn’t advertise for a Kufour look-alike; I only wanted a husband. So I didn’t marry him.

Another gentleman from Canada, who boasted of a swimming pool in his house, promised me the wedding of the century. He was prepared to buy me a ticket within a week to visit him in his big house. Those from Ghana adopted the ‘mmobrowa’ approach-boasting three and four degrees while cataloguing the usual problems.

When something looks too good to be true, it is usually false. None of my potential husbands, including a London university lecturer whom I nearly married, ever suspected that I was a man, even though I had given an obvious clue. My email address was a combination of my two English names: sabinawilliams@hotmail.co.uk, but I had used my own name to set up the hotmail account. So that when you received a mail from me, my email address directly followed my two male names-Ben Tawiah-on the same line.

When the bible admonished us to be as vigilant as the snake, the internet had not been invented but God was omniscient enough to have seen into the seeds of time. Often times, our computers warn us not to be naïve, but we just don’t take notice. When you type the word ‘naïve’ on a blank page on MS Word, your computer voluntarily adds a second dot after the dot on the ‘i’. It is not for decoration; it is a warning to be mindful of insignificant details. When you are naïve, you become gullible and stupid.

But some people never learn. After I had abruptly ended my romance with all my lovers as Sabina, because they all wanted to marry me at the same time, I created another email address and slightly altered my profile. Suffice it to say that I still had a lot of fish in my net. Most surprisingly, many of my first victims were caught again, including Kufour’s cousin, who never changed his sentence construction. He told the Kufour story again and sent those same Kufour pictures. I hope the president would find a match for his ‘cousin’.

Let us not take the speed and the ‘immediacy’ of the broadband revolution for granted. The people we see on the internet are strangers we may never meet. It pays to meet them and shake hands before making a material commitment. It does not make sense to even make an emotional commitment when the person is still in cyberspace.

If a woman, who does not know a man from Adam, is shameless enough to make a material request, it follows that she could only be a descendant of Adam: sinful by nature and opportunistic by nurture. We should always know that even if the ghost at the other end of the cyber spectrum is the beautiful person she promises to be, we are not the only person she is dealing with. She is a cyber unit available for the whole world to sample. We have seen the beautiful curves, so have folks in Afghanistan and Bermuda. Even if you are a charity organization, let other donors do the charity while she is still in space.

However, when you dutifully court a cyber unit, you can eventually download it into your inbox. Just as there are dangerous fraudsters out there, there are equally very genuine and wonderful people on the internet. When friendship transcends mere acquaintance, both parties usually realize the power of the symbiotic effect. The extra mile is only an inch away. There are many successful marriages today that were once only email addresses.

Even when you have established faith with a contact on the internet, it is important that you test that faith, by posing as somebody else with a different email address. You would realize that there are several ways you can use the web as a net to catch the fraudsters.

The author is a freelance journalist. He lives in London.
*If anybody felt disappointed by Miss Sabina Williams, I am awfully sorry. I meant no mischief at all; it was for purposes like what you just read. Thanks.

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.