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Banks Managers, The Police And Scamming 

By Joseph Weno & Tazo Agbor*

CameroonPostline.com — Scamming, which today is an economically, prosperous, nay, sleazy enterprise into which many Cameroonian youths have ventured, is being aided by police officers and banks, The Post has learnt on good authority. The practice has undoubtedly sullied Cameroon’s international image, ranking it among the top 10 countries in the world where cyber criminality is most prevalent. According to the website www.cameroonvoice.com, Cameroon comes third in Africa after Nigeria and Ghana, as far as scamming is concerned.

It is fast becoming a source of livelihood to many young Cameroonians. Cyber criminality in Cameroon mostly takes the form of dishonest e-commerce, perpetrated by some fraudulent fellows who pose as businessmen. They create websites for fictitious and non existent goods, often times succeeding in defrauding unsuspecting victims of huge sums of money in exchange of goods and services that are never delivered.

A ranking police officer in Buea, who would not want to be named, told The Post that the scammers usually “trade” in goods like pet dogs, horses, wood pellets, oil, copper scrap, gold copper wire and chicken feed. The cop recalled a case in which a scammer fleeced an Italian businessman of FCFA 100 million, after posing as the owner of some C.D.C banana and palm plantations. The police eventually nabbed the said fraudster when his victim presented himself in Cameroon, after waiting in vain for the purported goods to be shipped.

He explained that scamming in Cameroon has become an organised crime, given the new modus operandi adopted by those who go for it. According to him, scammers now avoid cyber cafes for fear of being monitored by the police. They rather make use of wireless internet connections or install live boxes in their homes. He said scamming is so organised now that groups of villains work together, making use of division and specialisation of labour.

According to a young man based in Molyko, Buea, whose only name The Post got as Bertrand and who admitted to engaging in this dastardly practice, their ‘company’ is made up of those who specialise in putting up adverts and sourcing for contacts on the internet; others who are in charge of replying mails and making and receiving calls from ‘customers’; those who package and send samples of goods if necessary, as well as picking up payments when they are eventually made. Our source revealed that these scammers have fake documents, bearing stamps, signatures and letter-heads of many Ministers and other top-notchers in Cameroon.

Asked what the police is doing to curb cyber criminality in Cameroon, our source at the Buea Central Police Station explained that seminars are often organised to train law enforcement officers on how cyber criminality operates, and how best to track down its perpetrators. He, however, said the police face lots of difficulties in curbing this vice, because the population is often hesitant in collaborating with the police.

Every Scammer Has Their Bank

Our police source noted that banks are often unwilling to collaborate with the law enforcement agencies, and by the same token denouncing scammers. According to him, the bank is the end game of scamming, and instead of assisting the police, bank Managers accuse police officers investigating a purported scammer of disturbing and sending away viable or potential customers, and also attempting to infringe on the principle of confidentiality of customers’ information.

To this cop, the bank places more premium on how much they fetch by way of charges through these apparently lucrative back-door transactions than by naming, shaming the white collar criminals and handing them over to face the law. Our security source equally pointed out that “every scammer has their bank, and a bank protects them”. He said that it suffices for a bank, any bank, to call the attention of the police to suspicious transactions, and scamming would be eradicated in a matter of six months.

The Manager of a bank in Buea, who reluctantly opened up to The Post on the promise that he would not be named, acknowledged that certain bank cashiers are in the know of who know these miscreants are, adding that they effectively work in complicity with them for a small fee.
He, nonetheless, explained that this is when the sum of money involved is not very large. According to him, when a suspicious-looking young man comes for a Western Union or Moneygram cash withdrawal involving a large sum of money, the bank simply refuses to pay, and advises the person in question to try another bank.

The Bank Manager indicated that in as much as the police are out to burst the gang, some unscrupulous officers may have been aiding and abetting the perpetration of the despicable practice.  Explained further, he said that most scammers, who come for “pick-up” money, show up with national identity card receipts produced by the police, bearing fictitious names.

He quoted an instance in which a scammer had approached him with a police officer in tow, complaining that money sent to him through Western Union by a ‘customer’ had been ‘picked up’ at his bank by someone else who presented the control number, the sender’s name, and had answers to the test questions.

The scammer in question, with the help of the police officer had, therefore, come to pressurise him (Manager), into revealing the identity of the scammer who had double-crossed the others. Asked what the banks could do to curb cyber criminality, the Manager said that all banks need to work in synergy with Western Union and other international money transfer agencies, so that money transfers are not paid directly to individuals, but to bank accounts.

Bertrand, who inadvertently admitted to being a scammer himself, noted that such thieving would have been impossible if some police officers and bank personnel were not lending a greedy hand. He added that they (scammers), make use of soft wares like; Virtual Private Network (VPN), Magic Jack and Internet Protocol address (IP address) to communicate with their victims, yet keeping their location and identities hidden.

Bertrand further explained that to avoid detection, they go as far as opening student accounts in banks out of their town of residence, which they close down immediately a victim pays up for a deal. This much our security source concurred. Quizzed on whether he uses fake documents to dupe his victims, Bertrand responded: “I have two fake national identity cards with different names on me now. I use them to collect money from the bank after the payments by my victims”.

Police Frustrated

Meanwhile, when the police apprehend a suspected scammer, they are forced to release him or grant him bail if there is no complainant. The problem of the complainant arises because the victims of scamming are most often out of Cameroon and do not know where their defrauders are based. In the meantime, observers believe it will require the combined efforts of the population, financial institutions and the police, for scamming to be curbed.

*(University of Buea, UB, & National Polytechnic Bamenda Journalism Student On Internship)
First published in The Post print edition no 01447

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