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Juju-enhanced Internet scamming.
April 12, 2011 11:12 AM   Subscribe

The Sakawa Boys: Inside the Bizarre Criminal World of Ghana’s Cyber-Juju Email Scam Gangs is a short documentary about Sakawa, the Nigerian mix of African black magic and Internet scamming that has grown into its own cultural phenomenon, complete with clothing brands, music, and "Nollywood" movies. Previously, we have seen I Go Chop Your Dollar, whose star was subsequently arrested. See also this (PDF alert!) academic paper on the subject
posted by Obscure Reference (14 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite

 
So at what point do we stop saying, "It's like we're living in a William Gibson novel" and just accept that we're living in a William Gibson novel?
posted by charred husk at 11:23 AM on April 12, 2011 [9 favorites]


So at what point do we stop saying, "It's like we're living in a William Gibson novel" and just accept that we're living in a William Gibson novel?

Man, that William Gibson guy is such an obvious author self-insert.
posted by kmz at 11:41 AM on April 12, 2011


That video report was like the Hipster version of Frontline. I enjoyed it, though it could have used some editing.
posted by jimmymcvee at 11:44 AM on April 12, 2011


Cyber-Juju Email Scam Gangs

How do we nominate phrases to be the best phrase of the year? Is there a committee or something?
posted by GuyZero at 11:49 AM on April 12, 2011 [5 favorites]


Metafilter: Cyber-Juju Email Scam Gangs
posted by amoebius at 12:07 PM on April 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


jimmymcvee: That video report was like the Hipster version of Frontline.

Motherboard.tv is an offshoot of Vice(TV), their "lustrous answer to the drab diaper that is the media's technology coverage."
posted by filthy light thief at 12:13 PM on April 12, 2011


The pervasiveness of calculated cyber-fraud always filled me with fury, but inexplicably, that music video made me deliriously happy.

Between that and the dimunitive Darkside protégé, it's Horrible/Delightful Mashup Day on Metafilter.
posted by CynicalKnight at 12:26 PM on April 12, 2011


The pervasiveness of calculated cyber-fraud always filled me with fury

And it always filled me with ambivalence. Outright fraud as in stealing cc # or defrauding online stores, is no question a bad thing. But the classic 419 email scam? I don't know. So much of it depends on the victims becoming co-conspirators in what they think is a scam to defraud tax authorities in African countries or taking outrageous "advantage" of someones alleged ill-fortune. I mean, it's like two thieves conspiring to steal from someone, only it transpires one thief intended to rob the other all-along. It's hard to feel sorry for some of these victims. It's not even a question of stupidity or naivete - they ask you to break banking/tax/inheritance laws in their country, and you, out of greed are willing to do so, and then you are sore that there the scam was actually against you.

Meanwhile, most of these scammers are not hard core criminals - these are desperate people who often have no other way of making a living. It's not a laudable thing by any means, but the solution is in building the kind of economy where you don't have massive unemployment with no safety net.
posted by VikingSword at 12:45 PM on April 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


Fascinating topic. Thank you for the post, Obscure Reference. It's an excellent head's up to really, really destroy the inner working of any to be disposed of computer. amazing to learn this new word, sakawa.

Having sold African art for 15 years in the 1980's and 90's I got to meet a lot of Ghanaians in NYC. I love the Ghanaian tribal sculptures, like Ashanti and Fante akuabas (protection symbols).

Had to google more: 'Female sakawa hits Accra' | Sakawa rituals paralyses student | Sakawa Boys Adopt New Tricks | MTV's the Vice Guide to Everything about sakawa.

To the best of my knowledge, the Akan tribe in what is now called Ghana, was the first West African tribe to innovate a writing system, which took the form of pictograms and ideograms in many art forms, like their gold weights or in their weaving.

In Ghana there is a wonderful national trickster folk hero, called Anansi (the spider). This computer scamming thing seems to combine both the new language of the web and the mischief of Anansi and his web.
posted by nickyskye at 1:26 PM on April 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


So much of it depends on the victims becoming co-conspirators

This is characteristic not just of 419 email scams, but of confidence games in general. It was key element, in fact, because it made your victim much less likely to go the authorities and report you. They'd be too afraid of getting in trouble themselves
posted by Ipsifendus at 1:59 PM on April 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thanks for posting the pdf file. It's exceptionally well written. I'm sure that I'm a minority for being interested in academic links, but it really is appreciated.

As others have said, the topic is fascinating, and it's very closely related to the research I did for my MA thesis, so it's of real personal interest to me.

Even more fun, I just read Zoo City, which is sort of thematically related if you're into cyberpunk.
posted by Stagger Lee at 2:51 PM on April 12, 2011


Is there a good English language article on the subject? This sounds utterly fascinating but its hard for me to watch videos.
Reminds me of something you'd see in an old Mage: The Ascension sourcebook. Hell these guys would be perfect PCs.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 3:46 PM on April 12, 2011


Enjoyed the post, thanks.

I chuckled, though, as I watched a lot of those Sakawa folks in front of their flat panel displays at each computer. I have multiple computers hooked through two KVM switch boxes to two CRT monitors. Oh well, I like the heat of the monitors in the winter months.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 4:49 PM on April 12, 2011




Is there a good English language article on the subject? This sounds utterly fascinating but its hard for me to watch videos.
Reminds me of something you'd see in an old Mage: The Ascension sourcebook. Hell these guys would be perfect PCs.


Read the academic pdf. It's relatively accessible and very good.
posted by Stagger Lee at 8:43 AM on April 13, 2011


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