Want to be a cyber-donkey? Romance a Nigerian crime gang
I once sold a laptop on eBay. Got a reasonable bid, but was then offered a very sweet price from a respectable gentleman in Nigeria who wanted the computer for his son. I needed the money and couldn't believe my luck. I almost sent it too, but the deal fell apart when I started looking into the money order receipt. It didn't seem to exist.
I was very nearly another sucker, courtesy of our friends on the African continent. That was half a decade ago; nobody falls for that scam now, do they? Surely there can't be a Nigerian man, woman or child who hasn't worn a fish on their head?
But organised crime in Africa is still raking in the goods from the gullible, according to ITV's Tonight programme, because they've adapted their techniques. Instead of trying to swindle a victim directly, they're now using 'mules'; innocent parties who unknowingly handle the stolen goods on their behalf.
The mules are recruited through fake job adverts, websites and dating sites. The victims are befriended, and are soon handling high value parcels that they send on to addresses in the likes of Nigeria and Ghana. Passing the goods through the mule creates a longer paper trail while minimising the risk of exposure; fewer sellers are going to twig that there's a problem if the mailing address is in the UK. The contents of the parcels have usually been bought online using stolen credit card details, before being delivered to the third party mule.
So all in all, instead of preying on just one individual - the eBay seller or the like - there are now three victims - the owner of the stolen credit card information, the seller and the mule. While it seems unbelievable that people are still vulnerable to this type of fraud, plenty of folks are still new to the wonders of the online world; you don't get a crash course in scams when you buy your first broadband package.