How to spot a 419

Wilson Orhiunu

First Gentleman with Wilson Orhiunu

Email: Twitter: @Babawilly

Four one nine: Advance fee fraud named after Section 419 of Nigeria’s Criminal Code which outlaws the practice

419 is now used as a slang term in Nigeria not just for the advance fee fraud but for all manner of deceptions.

Everyday deceptive scenarios come into our lives and a simple screening process is required to weed them out. But before a good defence against external attacks can be mounted one must study one’s internal make up to troubleshoot for areas of weakness that may produce a vulnerability to deception.

The two questions to ask oneself are – what do I love and what am I desperate to own? For those who love money and are desperate for it, they would jump at any suggestion of a quick buck. Desperation clouds the judgement because the desperate person has fantasised a million times about the object of their desire until it becomes an obsession. A little bait floods their minds with an imagined reality of their own creation and this makes it impossible to disable the emotions and think constructively. Friends who suggest caution are deemed enemies of progress and haters.

Providers of Ponzi schemes know that the pool of money worshippers in the population will never end. What makes things worse are those who believe that they can get a 100% return on investment overnight with minimum effort. That great ambition for wealth without a corresponding impressive work ethic puts people on the fast track to losing borrowed money on Ponzi schemes or armed robbery.

One obsessed with striking it rich and loving the fantasy of a Rolls Royce and designer clothes without having a specialist area of enterprise can never spot a deceiver because they have deceived themselves long before the trickster shows up.

Desperation can take over the thought processes and render them defective. I once was told by a girl that she was looking for someone to spoil her. I was sure that no such person exits on the planet whose main life purpose is to look for a lady to spoil. An unrealistic expectation of what a relationship would bring makes one susceptible to people telling you what you want to hear and next comes the using and dumping. While ambition and hard work are always good virtues, desperation for money, love, status, power or children means you become the target audience for the many people who set up Ponzi schemes weekly. The desperate have no chance; they will all be deceived.

Deception in everyday life

It can be entertaining when someone manipulates you to expect one outcome and surprises you at the end with another outcome. That is why some go to watch magic shows or tellers of jokers. Films with unexpected endings are also entertaining.

In football, the great dribblers have the stadium on its feet by feigning to go left and then suddenly going right; a move which destabilises the defender and might have him on the floor. Penalty kicks taken with guile that sends the keeper the wrong way are greeted with cheers. Skilful players can be deceptive to the opponents and even to the referee. It is just part of life. We all are being deceived daily and we play along with it. So long as it is gentle, flattering and causing no great harm. The hostess who made salted poison is told how great the meal was and the ill-fitting dress is always great (according to the man who does not want trouble in his home). These are the little lies here and there that make life bearable. From the Bacardi adverts with everyone slim, fit and beautiful with no one showing the side effects of alcoholic liver damage to the YouTube infomercials where you are implored to give up your boring 9 to 5 and start doing online marketing from the best beaches in the world, we are bombarded with entertaining views of life saturated with exaggerations and half-truths. Strange how the nice ladies pose with the glasses of Bacardi and never drink it while the men drink it. Those who really look like they have drunk a good amount of alcohol never make it past the auditions. It is models that obviously do not drink or perhaps do not eat that advertise food and drink to the public.

Steps to spot the 419

  1. Sort out your desperation first
  2. If any communication starts with flattery, switch off. Air and water do not flatter us but we keep going after these life-sustaining entities. If you really need it, you do not require flattery to develop an affiliation for it.
  3. Like actors, swindlers are not doing things naturally. They are acting out a script. In all works of life the poor performers are easy to weed out but the Oscar level actors give really believable performances. If it sounds too ‘scripted’, too smooth, too perfect to be true then it is a lie. Take details and promise to get back, and then do your research. Ask for references, if money is involved drop in that you normally get your lawyer and your childhood friend who is the local police superintendent to go over all your initial financial dealings. Ask if they would not mind having your police friend give them a ring. (Of course, if it’s a shady deal, you cannot say this which means you are ripe for deception).
  4. Strange people on social media professing love without meeting you are all liars. Never get flattered. These messages are sent to everyone and those desperate for love and attention fall for it
  5. There are prophets who promise financial breakthrough, visa to foreign lands and marriage partners but no one offers prayers for understanding economic texts, stamina to read and assimilate a book a week, the strength to be physically active or prayers for discipline to lift your weights and do regular runs to improve fitness. The reason there are no fitness breakthrough sessions is that there is no demand for it. The supply goes with the demand. The market for easy fixes is a very large market. A large cohort wanting to hear any ‘good news’.
  6. Good things come to those who work and hone their craft for 10 years or more. Lazy people want to be stars like Beyoncé in three weeks and can be swindled by agents asking for large sums for those professional photographs for a portfolio guaranteed to secure a modelling contract.