Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Ghanaian man poses as Iraq soldier, defrauds US woman of $10,000

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

A Ghanaian man posing as a US soldier in Iraq has defrauded an American woman of $10,000 by false pretences, the Gateway News has reported.

The publication quoting an April 20, 2009 police report, said the woman a resident of Streetsboro in Ohio gave the money to the scammer believing she was helping a US soldier in Iraq.

According to the report the woman, who was not named, began an online relationship with the man in January. The man claimed he is in the army stationed in Iraq.

The woman told police that in the next four months, after they met, she gave the man $10,000.

The woman, according to the report told police that the man told her that he had been discharged from the army and was trying to leave Iraq with a “large sum” of money.

The man, she said, kept reporting “problems along the way” as he tried to return to America and needed more money from her.

According to the police report, the man requested that the money was to be sent to his “associate” in Ghana.

After she gave him the $10,000 he kept asking her for more money, but the woman said she could not afford to send him any more money.

Soon after that, the man started calling her saying “his life was in danger” and he needed more money, according to the police report. At this point, co-workers advised her to go to the police, and that was when she made a report to the police.

Meanwhile, a U.S. Army agent, who helped police with the investigation told police that he had found that a soldier with the same picture given to the woman had been in Iraq.

The report indicated that Police contacted the soldier, who said the photos were from a social networking Web site, but he had never visited the Web site the woman said she met the man on.

However, the soldier said he had been contacted by a different woman asking him “personal questions”, but thought it was a scam and did not reply to her. The solider said in the report that the woman may have been lured into a similar fraud using his likeness.

The incident was filed with the Internet Crime Complaint Center for further investigation, the report stated.

Internet scams known in Ghana as ‘sakawa’ have reached what authorities call “alarming proportions”. About 82 cyber crimes are said to occur in Ghana every month, and Ghana and Nigeria have been blacklisted by some retail shops in the US and Canada.

Today, May 13, 2009, the Daily Graphic carried a story about the Ghana Education Service calling for an “emergency national response” to salvage the future of hundreds of school children who are increasingly being lured into the phenomenon of ‘sakawa’. The report indicated that internet fraud has gained notoriety in the country lately.

According to the report, it is not clear when ’sakawa’ began in Ghana but the cyber fraud, which is akin to the notorious Nigerian ‘419′ scam, is believed to have taken deep roots in Agona Swedru in the Central region, from where, like an epidemic, it spread to other parts of the country in no time.

Enquiries made indicate that mainly in the ghettos of some of the major towns in the country such as Kumasi, Koforidua, Sunyani and Accra, ’sakawa’ is becoming a major cause of pupil truancy involving many schoolchildren aged between 12 and 18 as they abandon the classrooms for Internet cafes, it said.

The Daily Graphic also indicated that cyber crime is linked to occultism and the modus operandi of those who engage in it includes the use of their victims’ credit cards to purchase items including expensive vehicles and household items on the Internet which are subsequently shipped to Ghana.

Sometimes the operators pose as females, manage to secure relationships on the Internet with male foreigners and subsequently discuss the possibility of marriage with them. But after convincing their victims to send them money for visa and other travelling documents to join them abroad, they hit a jackpot and abscond.

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