by andre briggs

In Defense of Nigerian Scammers

From time to time I will see an online comment or overhear a poor joke about Nigerians and scamming. I really have no empathy for people who get scammed by infamous 419 style fraud but admit that the act is objectionable. If you believe what’s written on the Internet, social engineered scamming that claims to have originated from Nigeria is so popular these days that any type of scamming is labelled Nigerian Scamming. Kind of how certain crimes are attributed to certain gender and ethnic groups by the US media.

If you are dumb enough to believe that a Prince in a Zamunda wants to split his fortune with you if you simply send him some bank notes first then you are simply gullible and greedy. The Darwinian description of Natural Selection is certainly being re-enforced.

I’m not the only internet joker who has attempted to apply some logic to this trope. Someone at MS Research produced an overly wordy white paper on why attackers claim to be form Nigeria. In the end, the paper doesn’t really seem to answer the question.

“There are really people out there like this”

The funny thing is that years ago when I was looking for roommate on Craigslist I received a response from an eager solicitor. Being desperate at the time I lowered my roommate standards for my month to month offer. After a few email exchanges from the seemingly domestic patron I received some travelers cheques. Immediately my suspicions were confirmed. From then on I continued to toy with the grifter in a curious cat like manner. “There are really people out there attempting to swindle people” I thought to myself.

…some people are have unconsciously incorporated a sense of superiority over other cultures.

I have my own theory. People fear the unknown. They fear what’s not in front of them. It’s easier to lay blame on someone “over in Africa” then take responsibility for your own actions. Moreover Americans are so far removed from the realities of developing regions such as West Africa that it’s easy to project the stereotypes and motifs of failed Colonialism. What I’m getting at is that some people are have unconsciously incorporated a sense of superiority over other cultures. The 419 suckers feel they are getting such a good deal and that they are entitled to free money. It’s a strangely perverse outlook. Maybe the narrative of a generation?

Nigerians are far from the only ethic group who have fallen victim to ethnically based clichés. Jewish greed stereotypes are rightfully seen as distasteful theses days. You won’t read such epithets in any corporate email distribution lists. Maybe one day Americans will grant Nigerians the same privilege.

In Nigerian there are music videos from pop artists with hooks like “419 is just a game…” and several back up dancers in choreographed movement. When I saw those videos I had to chuckle to myself. It’s truly entertainment to them.

UPDATE: Apparently I’m ahead of the curve. Vice just posted a short film titled Internet Scamming in West Africa. Another interesting perspective.