March 8, 2005
419'ing not allowed
The rooster's crowing woke me up while the moon was still high in the pre-dawn sky today. Accra is a bustling city complete with epic traffic jams and internet cafes on every other corner, but chickens and goats still roam free in the most unlikely urban spaces.
I'm back at Cybercity in the Dansoman 'hood of Accra. They have posted signs today announcing that "419" activity is no longer allowed. "419" (or "Nigerian" or, in the U.S., "Advance Fee Fraud") schemes are those spam emails we all receive from alleged relatives of various deposed African and Middle Eastern presidents. They tell us they have millions and millions of dollars in a bank account, but they can only access the money if we wire them thousands of dollars.
The scheme has been around since the 1920s (obviously in paper format then), as Snopes.com explains, and has morphed with the times. The spread of the Internet to third-world countries has this flip side -- fraud is up and a lot of it reportedly originates in African cybercafes.
It's not clear to me how effective these paper signs will be in stopping the "419" activities here at Cybercity, but one of the staff does seem to be constantly walking around checking everyone's computer screens, so maybe that's the tactic.
When I ask the computer guys about it, they just give me their lovely Ghanaian smiles and sweetly say "It's all okay."
(These scams violate section 419 of Nigeria's penal code, hence the name.)
Posted by Cathryn Poff at March 8, 2005 10:48 AM
Are you sure you don't want to switch to print reporting? Love your writing - it's full of life, full of details. Glad to hear you're having fun and are safe in Ghana. Mil besos, F.
Posted by: Fernanda at March 8, 2005 10:40 PM