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Scamming, A Necessary Economic Evil 

By Ernest Ndukong

The phenomenon of scamming or ‘confidence trick’ is fast becoming a ‘legal’ practice, considering the magnitude at which it is performed and the personalities involved. Scamming aims at defrauding a person or group by exploiting the characteristics of the human psyche.

The practice could also be described as a con game, con, hustle, bunko, swindle, trickstering, slickering or bamboozle. It exploits human qualities like greed, dishonesty, vanity, compassion, irresponsibility and naivety.

The over 150-year practice is orchestrated at various levels and in various forms. In Cameroon, university areas or student residential areas are noted to be the principal bases for such practices.

It is, however, very common with persons of the middle age group – the youth group.
The common practice is; someone assures somebody, possibly oversees, of a service and requests for funds and, afterwards, blinds communication after receiving the cash.  The practice is illegal but has its positive facets.

Information and Communication Technology (ICT)

Scamming is facilitated by the emergence of new and sophisticated communication technology. ICT enables in creating, accessing and manipulating of information for dissemination and usage for livelihood. Swindlers have abused it for personal and selfish interests.

Many a Cameroonian has become computer literate as a result of the proliferation of computers. It is fair to establish that about 60 percent of Cameroonian youth can comfortably do some amount of work on a computer and about seven percent own a computer or laptop.

ICT has helped in increasing access to resources. About a decade ago, a student’s access to material ends when the classroom is locked, but, today, the case is different and better. Students can today equally undergo distant learning programmes through videos and podcasts, which are not only exciting but also interactive.

Despite the pleasantries of ICT, it has ills too. First, it is costly for an average Cameroonian who is presumed to live on about a dollar a day. One needs, for example, Internet connectivity to benefit the delightful offerings of ICT. On another weakness, studying is not free-flowing because most teachers are not versed with the issue as it came when the zeal to learn more had died out.

Local Businesses

The circulation of this ‘illegal’ money in the neighbourhoods has fantastic consequences on businesses. Bars have noticed some increase in their daily sales. The first possible stop after receiving an unearned income is a drinking spot to quench out the stress of getting the funds. One can comfortably identify a scammer from the number of quaffed bottles of beer in front of the person.

A friend was apparently right to quip that unearned revenue is spent lavishly. These guys drown their ‘achievements’ in oceans of alcohol, sometimes leading to fighting and accidents as a result of drunkenness. Five scammers consuming two bottles of beer per hour can contribute an extra FCFA 30,000 to a bar’s daily sales in six hours.

In areas where scammers abide, one would count a bar after every five or so houses. This is to proof that there is profit in the business. Internet service providers popularly called cyber cafes have witnessed an upsurge in their daily returns. They now have clients ready to purchase and use connectivity of over twelve hours a day and even by night.

Main suppliers like telephony companies also have more clients knocking to get the service. There are scores of other types of businesses that have noticed amplified turnovers when scammers use their services amongst which we can site restaurants, phone booth operators, computer dealers, car dealers and even landlords.


Like micro businesses, macro businesses have also been affected positively by the practice of scamming. Repatriation of funds is done basically using financial institutions through their money transfer services like Western Union, Money Gram and bank transfers.

There is a commission gained from any amount received or sent by financial houses. A Buea-based bank manager confirms that the number of transactions relating to money transfer has increased tremendously and has caused their bank to create sales points that offer only transfer services. He notes that ‘a simple conversation of about 90 seconds is sufficient for a customer’s funds be paid to him’.

He further maintained that there has been about 1 000 percent increase in the number of money transfer transactions now, compared to what obtained about eight years ago. To this effect, many financial houses and sales points have been created and staffed, thus reducing unemployment.

There has been plenty of innovation in the banking sector resulting, to an extent, from the proceeds derived from the money transfer section. A Western Union operator in a bank, who preferred not to be named, noted that 70 percent of his daily transactions are suspected to belong to scammers.

When asked about the certainty of the assertion, he mentioned the names of the senders, frequency at counters by the individual, physical appearance of beneficiaries and the passwords used as good enough reasons to establish his assertion.

Talking about innovation in the banking sector, it should take at most 90 seconds for a client to be paid transferred funds. Filling of forms and queuing are now history. When this commentator visited a BICEC Western Union sales point, it was observed that an interesting and brief conversation between the operator and the client is just o.k. for cash to be disbursed.

There is also a possibility to withdraw your funds sent from abroad using a bank card or debit card. Transfer agencies now issue cards to clients who can use them to effect transactions when their accounts are credited. The importance of bank cards need not be over-emphasised.

International Trade

There is some level of exchange involved in scamming; be it at the level of ideas, items or cash. This affects the Gross National Income (GNI) of the entire economy. Cash flow into the country, from all sources, is supposed to be recorded somewhere, which is considered when determining trade balances among countries.

Excess inflow will mean a favourable balance and will add greatly to the GNI of the country. This, however, is an illegal representation because a commensurate service is not offered in return. A very prudential analysis would designate FCFA 24 billion that enters the country in a year, considering only 1 000 scammers benefiting FCFA two million a month. How all of this is accounted for is best known by the Bank of Central African States (BEAC) and authorities in the Ministry of Finance.

The Web

The entire process leading to the disbursement of cash could be considered as a web because many other people are scammed along the line.

It is common practice to see young men clinging to their computer sets tracking control numbers of transfer transactions. This means that the eventual beneficiary of the funds may not even be the ‘rightful’ owner of the money. The dubiousness here is how does A collect funds meant for B?

Reacting to what one requires to receive funds sent from elsewhere, a bank operator said one needs a valid identification document and convincing transaction details. He could not determine a percentage to ascertain that a transaction detail is convincing.

Some unscrupulous police officers have resorted to satisfy their egos rather than do their jobs by demanding their own quota of the funds and letting the cons go scot-free. For this reason, policemen are referred to as “cutters”. These deceitful set are friends to criminals and even dine and wine with scammers.

They threaten these young guys and swindle a portion of what the scammer has ‘picked’. Others are doing a commendable job as one would see many cyber criminals in our prisons. Some bank operators are part of this web. They either liaise with other scammers to withdraw funds meant for others or inform some police agents about a possible ‘picking’ venture or even withdraw the funds themselves.

Some bank operators have the full names of scammers and help them to check and pass out information for a commission. What is even more interesting in the whole issue is that when foul play is noticed by one party against another, the former can’t report officially since the entire business is illegitimate.

A friend wondered aloud how on earth these oversee guys still fall victim to the cheap stories they are told, or could it be that these young guys use magical and supernatural powers to convince them about dogs, cats, birds and other items the plan to export over to the whites. Perhaps what they send are proceeds derived from other illegal activities. He ended by saying ‘no harm if a scammer scams another’.

Some people dub such funds ‘blood money’ but these scammers say money has no colour. Some scammers even say they do not regret even for a second about what they do to these white people as, they say, is their punishment for what they did to their grandparents in the days of colonisation.

An American Professor once observed; ‘the US had its development from slave trade; Europe had theirs from colonisation, so, why can Africans not have their own development from scamming?’

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