The same week the Ikorodu bois got international recognition for their exceptionally brilliant remake of Chris Hemsworth’s movie trailer, Extraction, another group of Nigerians got disgraced for allegations of fraud by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). A moment to celebrate the ingenuity of Nigerian youth was dented by the corrupt practices of a few. With six of the FBI’s most wanted men of Nigerian descent, Nigerian internet fraudsters have carved out a niche for themselves and are renowned globally and locally for advanced fee, romance and business email compromise scams.
According to the FBI, victims of Internet fraud lost over $3.5 billion in 2019, up from $2.7 billion in 2018. The bulk of the victims of these schemes are over the age of 60 (FBI, 2019). Considering the widespread popularity of these scams, one is inclined to assume the bulk of the global and local population should be immune to falling victim. These scams, however, are still very effective because they play on people’s greed, desire to be the hero or desire to help someone else (CNBC, 2019). In 2019, ADT Security Services reported that the ‘Nigerian prince’ style scams still rake in $700,000 a year. As long as these scams keep working, Nigerians will continue to use them.
Internet fraud has had profound negative effects on the reputation of Nigeria and Nigerians across the world. A range of companies do not ship products to Nigeria, payment platforms do not accept Nigerian cards and Nigerians earning a decent living abroad are constantly eyed with suspicion. Locally, the perpetuation of fraud has weakened the widespread adoption of digital payment alternatives.
Nigeria needs to solve its internet fraud problem, but the question remains, how?