Over the past decade or so, the United States has cracked down on Nigerian Internet scams.Western Union, for example, would not allow me to wire my Nigerian fixer an advance portion of his pay because, the operator told me, I was likely the victim of fraud.The sad truth is, for every real profile you see on the internet, there are numerous false ones pretending to be your perfect mate and using photographs stolen from modelling or social networking sites.The people in the photographs are as much victims as those who get scammed for hundreds or thousands dollars.But Michael* also grew up a “street boy,” meaning he was able to make fast friends in the slum villages and farming communities we visited.He put himself through college, and after working as a Nigerian soap opera actor and door-to-door men’s clothing salesman, he clawed his way into journalism. In fact, they're someone you could see yourself spending the rest of your life with.
They called these cons “Yahoo” jobs, pronounced Ya-OO.
I told Michael I wanted to interview his scammer friends. But I figured I’d be doing a public service by distracting the scammers from conning old folks for a couple hours.
He said there was no way that his dudes would talk for less than 0. So I offered 0 for a rare glimpse at the human faces behind the syntax-challenged spam. I sat down with Sheye and Danjuma* on the back patio of a fancy duplex in an upscale neighborhood in one of the country’s main cities, and the two dished on their craft, constantly interrupting each other as they downed bottles of Nigerian Star lager and chain-smoked.
Instead of sending spam letters that promise millions for your assistance, these scammers are targeting single men and women who are searching for love online.
They use psychological tricks to lure their victims in, use poetry and even gifts to get them under their spell, and then once you are there, will try to reach for your wallet, all the time declaring their "undying love" for you.
“Maybe the person doesn’t have a husband, and the person is looking for a husband in Nigeria.