You know those e-mail scams you get from Nigeria? Well, it turns out that the promises of untold wealth if you help with a financial transfer and other scams, including romantic connections, have become a major industry in that nation. The Washington Post has published a fascinating portrait of the so-called yahoo-yahoo boys who are in this particular line of work. From Worldwide Slump Makes Nigeria’s Online Scammers Work That Much Harder:
Banjo is a polite young man in a button-down shirt, and he is the sort of guy on the other end of that block-lettered missive requesting your “URGENT ASSISTANCE” in transferring millions of dollars. He is the sort who made Nigeria infamous for cyberscams, which experts say are increasing in these tough times.
U.S. authorities say Americans — the easiest prey, according to Nigerian scammers — lose hundreds of millions of dollars a year to cybercrimes, including a scheme known as the Nigerian 419 fraud, named for a section of the Nigerian criminal code. Now financially squeezed, Americans succumb even more easily to offers of riches, experts say. . . .
The scammers, known as “yahoo-yahoo boys,” are glorified in pop songs such as “Yahoozee,” which gained even more fame after former secretary of state Colin L. Powell danced to it at a London festival last year.“My maga don pay/Shout alleluia!” goes another Nigerian anthem, which celebrates, in slang and pidgin English, that a victim — maga — sent money. . . .
Felix and Banjo said they started as college students. Their campus, one state away from Lagos, teemed with young men with fancy cars, designer clothing and beautiful girlfriends — scammers all.
In the lingo of swindlers, Felix said he went “on the street.” He got “tools”: formats, or “FMs,” for letters; “mailers,” or accounts that send e-mails in bulk; and huge lists of e-mail addresses, bought online.
In good months, he said, he has made $30,000, which he blew on clothes, hotel rooms and Dom Perignon at “VVIP” clubs. These days, he lamented, proceeds are down 40 percent. . . .
In good months, Banjo said, he has made $60,000.
But in these tough times, the scammers said, they are relying more on a crucial tool: voodoo. At times, Banjo said, he has traveled six hours to the forest, where a magician sells scam-boosters. A $300 powder supposedly helps scammers “speak with authority” when demanding payment. A powder, rubbed on the face, reportedly makes victims viewing the scammer through webcams powerless to say no.
“No matter what, they will pay,” said Olumide, a college student, adding that he is boosting his romance scams by wearing a magical, live tortoise hanging from a cord around his neck.