Monday, August 25, 2008

Stupidity is now a crime

Nigerian high commissioner Olu Agbi has made stupidity a crime. Okay, he blames greed.

You've probably received a letter dealing with millions in frozen accounts and your help is necessary to access the money. You pay a small fee (small in comparison with the millions in the account) and the person who sent you the email promises you a percentage in return for your favor.

The scam predates the internet and has had high profile victims recently. This article mentions some:

New revelations in the trial of Mary Winkler, the young American woman who shot and killed her pastor husband at point-blank range, show that the couple had been caught up in a Nigerian scam that no doubt boosted marital tensions. Winkler was in contact with the scammers, who eventually sent her checks totalling US$17,500 from both Canada and Nigeria. When the checks arrived, she was supposed to send thousands of dollars back to the scammers in "processing fees." She apparently did so without waiting for the checks to clear; of course, they bounced.

In New Zealand, a recent Labour Party candidate named David Maka is in disgrace after being caught up in a similar scam, though he took it one step further by soliciting cash from friends in order to "free up" millions of dollars in an offshore account. The 49-year old pleaded guilty in court and is due for sentencing in the next few months. Maka eventually paid all the money back, though he had to sell his home to do so.

Here in the US, a Florida lawyer stole US$300,000 from a client's estate, but when hauled into court to face judgment, claimed that she had lost most of the money in a Nigerian 419 scam. She told the court that the scammer "had a contract with the [Nigerian] government of $38.6 million, and he needed my participation... I was not thinking clearly." Indeed.

These and other similar scams related to Nigeria (apparently there are many fake Nigerian mail-order/internet brides as well, just like Russians) have made it tough for the country to attract investments:

Nigeria. This has, unsurprisingly, cast Nigeria in a negative light. Olu Agbi said that Nigeria's reputation for being involved with the scams has even hurt the country's ability to land business deals. "[T]hose who want to transact business with us are always very suspicious," he told the newspaper.

The newspaper article mentions that Australians

lose at least $36 million a year to the online scams,

serving as a sign of their stupidity.

Despite their losses of a lot of money, he posits that they as just as guilty as the scammers and should be jailed. He told the paper,

He likened victims to gambling addicts. People were in denial about the scams even after being warned because the thrill of a possible windfall at the end raised their excitement and they became emotionally involved.

By this logic, he contends

THE Nigerian high commissioner says people who are ripped off by so-called Nigerian scams are just as guilty as the fraudsters and should be jailed.

Good luck trying to get other countries to jail their citizens for stupidity. I'm not sure any addiction is strictly illegal (though possession of drugs may be, depending on what country you're in -- but that's not jailing you for your addiction per se either).

And here is the rest of it.

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