Wednesday, November 02, 2005

"i go chop your dollar"

I'm still laughing to myself after seeing the hilarious video for 'i go chop your dollar', by Osuofia of 'Osuofia in London' fame.The video itself is rather poorly done, with little in the way of innovation, poor cinematography and a set of not very enthusiastic dancers. It is the song itself I find funny, since the video was the first time I heard the song. Osuofia sings about '419' crimes, or advanced fee fraud. He talks about 'the white man' as the victim, and is resolute in his plans to continue perpetrating such fraud. He makes amusing statements about the amount of power he has and the resources at his disposal - not dissimilar from the claims in these '419' messages. Central to the song though is the claim that '419 it no be crime, it's just a game, everybody dey play am.' I was highly amused when a friend sent me this, and indeed still am, but it raises a few questions i think are pretty serious.

A UK presentation at the 2002 International Conference on Advanced Fee (419) Fraud claimed that global losses to this fraud may total $1.5 billion. That's some pretty serious money. The song is meant to be taken lightly, but is it really taken lightly by everyone who hears it? Or does it provide some sort of justification for perpetrators of this fraud, and exacerbate an already bad situation. After all, the song begins with Osuofia bemoaning his suffering in his former penurious state, and in that way justifying the crime as a source of income. If I was a low-income person ( as I would imangine mostof these criminals are) considering perpetrating such a crime, that would certainly make me see it as slightly more reasonable.

Another justification used is that 'the white man' is too greedy. Admittedly there is something somehwat avaricious about someone who beleives they have been randomly selected to help with some secret transaction, often with a promised reward in the millions of dollars for little to no effort on their part. Not to mention the fact that many of these letters make no bones of the fact that it is an illegal transaction; trying to avoid government scrutiny or the payment of some form of fees. That being said it is not (in my opinion) justification for committing such crimes, although the song gives the impression it is.To cut a long story short, is this seemingly harmless song actually encouraging the continuation of 419 scams?

On another note, in one attempt to combat the spate of these crimes, which to a large extent originate in Nigeria, the Nigerian government has considered outlawing spamming. While the hefty fines might serve as a deterrent to an extent, how much of a dent can this really make in the crimes? There is the problem of enforcement to begin with, and perhaps this is not the best use of Nigeria's resources( ie the tracking of spammers). In addition to this, is this the way to tacke the problem? Some of the 419 emails are quite ingenious, to say the least, and take some amount of brain power to cook up, not to mention following through till the money is collected. Given an estimated success rate of 1%, very few scammers are making money (even though the payoff can be tremendous when they do). That being said, might not another way to address the problem be to channel the energies of these people elsewhere? Perhaps training schemes to encourage people to set up in private enterprise? Or business plan compeittions as an incentive to use their brain power for something more beneficial?
Just a piece of my mind....

And to end, here is my favourite 419 email of all time :-)
Dear Mr. Sir,


I am Dr. Bakare Tunde, the cousin of Nigerian Astronaut, Air Force Major Abacha Tunde. He was the first African in
space when he made a secret flight to the Salyut 6 space station in 1979. He was on a later Soviet spaceflight, Soyuz T-16Z to the secret Soviet military space station Salyut 8T in 1989. He was stranded there in 1990 when the Soviet Union was dissolved. His other Soviet crew members returned to earth on the Soyuz T-16Z, but his place was taken up by return cargo. There have been occasional Progrez supply flights to keep him going since that time. He is in good humor, but wants to come home.

In the 14-years since he has been on the
station, he has accumulated flight pay and interest amounting to almost $ 15,000,000 American Dollars. This is held in a trust at the Lagos National Savings and Trust Association. If we can obtain access to this money, we can place a down payment with the Russian Space Authorities for a Soyuz return flight to bring him back to Earth. I am told this will cost $ 3,000,000 American Dollars. In order to access the his trust fund we need your assistance.

Consequently, my colleagues and I are willing to transfer the total amount to your account or subsequent disbursement, since we as civil servants are prohibited by the Code of Conduct Bureau (Civil Service Laws) from opening and/ or operating foreign accounts in our names.

Needless to say, the trust reposed on you at this juncture is enormous. In return, we have agreed to offer you 20 percent of the transferred sum, while 10 percent shall be set aside for incidental expenses (internal and external) between the parties in the course of the transaction. You will be mandated to remit the balance 70 percent to other accounts in due course.

Kindly expedite action as we are behind schedule to enable us include downpayment in this financial quarter.

Please acknowledge the receipt of this message via my direct number 234 (0) 9-234-2220 only.

Yours Sincerely, Dr. Bakare Tunde Astronautics Project Manager
Tags: nigeria, africa, 419

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