Feature Article of Saturday, 3 December 2005

Columnist: Lindsay, Robert

There is a lot of 419 coming out of Ghana

Much to my embarassment, I was apparently scammed out of ~$2,300 over the course of a year or so by a Nigerian romance scammer operating out of the Achimota District in northern Accra, Ghana. This person, possibly a male, was posing as a woman named "Mary Malik", age 30, a Ghanian who resided in the district with her mother, brother and several orphan friends.

I thought I was helping out a poor Ghanian, when all I was doing was getting scammed. In order to get them to quit living off me every month, I tried to set them up in a taxi business, but soon there was a "terrible accident". Through a heartbreaking story of police after her, etc., I was scammed out of $700. Then, angry and wanting to be paid back, I invested in a "rental car for the tourist agency" business. I thought I was going into business in Ghana!

Little did I know that the whole thing was just a massive scam. I also shipped a camera to Ghana, which reportedly never got there, but apparently did get there and was stolen. I paid for a PO Box in North Accra. Money was picked up several times by "Alhassan Malik" in north Accra.

First of all, I want to tell you that our info is that the vast majority of 419'ers and romance scammers operating out of Ghana are in fact Nigerians. There are few Ghanians in on this. Nevertheless, I have a bad feeling about your country now. There are Nigerian scammers operating out of the Achimoto District in North Accra as we speak. They seem to operate out of Internet cafes. Do the Ghana police know about this? Why won't they do anything about it?

We think that the Internet cafes may close around 10 PM or so and then re-open around 11 PM to let 419'ers come in. The 419'ers may come in and spend all night in the cafe and leave in the morning. Or, possibly, they may just scam during daylight hours. I had IP addresses for my scammer and I have seen several others out of Ghana. They are all out of Ghana Telecom. As you may know, we can associate IP addresses and times to determine exactly who was using what computer at what time.

There was contact info there for Ghana Telecom, but I didn't even bother to contact them, because I assumed that they would not do anything. While I was checking out "Mary's" story, I sent numerous emails to several Ghanian government agencies. I was dismayed to note that the email addresses on the webpages of most Ghanian government agencies were not operable! That would be akin to the email for the US Department of Commerce on their webpage not working!

I concluded that Ghana is possibly a failed state. Am I wrong? So, first of all, I would say, darn it, all major Ghanian government agencies, if they have a website, should at least have a working email address.

The Ghanian police never returned several emails I sent to them either. Even the Nigerian police are starting to answer our emails. I recommend that the Ghanian police answer emails from concerned Westerners who are worried they may be scammed out of Ghana. Ghana is getting an undeserved reputation for fraud due mostly to Nigerians in the country. It would be worthwhile for the Ghanian police and government to ameleriote these worries by existing so that we can contact them and check "Ghanians" out.

Why couldn't I find out if "Mary Malik" existed? Why can't the PO Box opened now be used as a criminal investigation? Why couldn't I consult an office of the Ghanian government to make sure that "Mary" indeed got a business license with the state (with my money)? Why couldn't I contact the motor vehicle office to determine that "Mary" did indeed register a vehicle (with my money) in Ghana? Why couldn't Ghanian police, given Mary's name and address, verify that that person lived at that address, as even the Nigerian police do for us now?

Some of us are tired of this 419 thing.

I am glad that is so! I am very worried that Ghana may develop a 419 culture along the lines of Nigeria, but I am not so sure it will. Has there yet been one single arrest in Ghana for 419 or romance scamming? Shouldn't we be able to report IP addresses to Ghana Telecom and have them investigate them for using Ghana Telecom to commit fraud?

It is really a shame.I have also been receiving a couple of such letters too.

Yes, I get them all the time. A greater problem now I think is romance scamming, because it is more clever. It is really nailing a lot of people.

Hope to hear from you.

Hi sorry for the much-delayed reply. Such is often the case when I have a difficult email to write. I could have written you a quick email right on back, but it would not have been sufficient for what I really wanted to say.

First of all, I am the founder of a group on Yahoo called anti-scammers. You are definitely invited to join. In the group, you are free to introduce yourself and ask what can be done re: Ghana. The focus of this group is the Nigerian romance scam, but we also deal with all Nigerian scams, including 419 scamming. We also deal with other romance scamming and peripherally, with internet scamming in general.