You know, it was sometime in 2002, while working in Charlie Land as a town crier, I had this Orbroni (Ghanaian local dialect pronunciation for white people) friend. He had come as an intern from the Queen’s village, I mean Uncle Sam Cousin’s village.
So one day while sitting in the office the Orbroni said to me: “hey guess what, someone just emailed me from Cote d’Ivoire that their dad has a diamond creek, and she wants me to do a diamond business with her.”
At that time the 419 scam was not as popular as it is now and the use of internet was just gaining momentum in Charlie Land at the time. And so I could understand why my Orbroni friend was excited. But later I had to explain to him that it was a scam. But it took me time to actually convince the Queen’s grandson about this.
Today, in our village, Father, “419” has taken so many forms. Today you meet a girl and if she wants to beg you for money the first thing she will tell you: “Oh, this coming Friday da my birthday oo.” What she is simply doing is begging you for money directly but has just done so in disguise. This sort of scam can take so many forms, for example some use an upcoming popular event.
This brings me to a story one of my lecturers shared with us the other day. He said he had gone on one of the local beaches to hang out with two strangers, who are his friends. And so while sitting there, three young ladies came and spoke. And when they did they told him that they were graduating from our Hill of Learning.
So this lecturer asked which college? One of them replied: “The University of Liberia,” he as first thought they did not understand, so he repeated the question. And the young lady replied the same-University of Liberia. Then he said. “Which Department,” the Lecturer pushed further. “Business,” She replied.
The lecturer sensing that these young ladies did not even know the difference between their colleges and departments thought to himself that something was wrong and just ended the conversation there according to him. But Father, one is cleared, these girls were not graduating.
So here is the situation the Hill of Learning is the biggest public and highest institution of learning in our village. Its graduation programs are in themselves a festive event that attracts a lot of activities. Many students use the opportunity to solicit funds from people all in the name of the graduation. And indeed some really raise funds, with every member of the family chipping in here and there. You can imagine.
Similarly, others use this occasion to scam. And so you would find at most entertainment centers, during this time people talking about the graduation to friends and new encounters.
This is not just with the graduation though. In churches too, especially Charismatic Churches to do these 21 Days Fasts and prayers, there some who would come to you and say my brother, umm, the fast is not easy oo, please give me small thing to break my fast. Meanwhile, if you find out such a person has not even fasted. But they use the occasion to beg.
There are some who just go to these places of worship just to beg nothing more. They target those that come in these flashy vehicles and looking well-dressed. They will explain some stories that you cannot resist helping, but they are scammers.
So, you see how the “419” scam has evolved over time. Though these various scams have been around but in actually fact they lured you into giving them gifts by lying to you about their situations and needs.
Not every beggar really needs help. For some it’s a kind of business and only the gullible will always fall for these scammers.