The Case of the 419 (or something like that)

Photo is from a recent visit to the University of Abuja to talk with political science students about the work IRI is doing in Nigeria.

Let me start with the most important issue of the day, it’s August 16…which means today I’m another year older and wiser! Yes, I am celebrating 38 years of life on this earth. Exactly at 2:09pm Central Standard Time (CST) I entered this crazy world and what a crazy ride it has been. In a new tradition that we started last year, we took a weekend trip to Lagos to celebrate our upcoming birthdays. Last year, we celebrated our birthdays with a trip to Ghana (it was officially a work trip but we turned it into a quick weekend vacation). This past weekend, we had an amazing time in Lagos Nigeria enjoying the few attractions in Lagos and attending a Kirk Franklin Concert at the House of the Rock in Lekki (Lagos). In addition, I have celebrated my birthday in four countries over the past six birthdays (US in 2012, South Sudan in 2013, Nigeria in 2014/2015/2017 and Ghana in 2016).

But let’s get back to the “case of the 419.” If you are a Nigerian, then you understand what I mean when I say “case of the 419” but let me take a moment to explain a 419.

A 419 is a scam where the sender requests help in facilitating the transfer of money. These requests are usually made by email and many of us remember receiving these request from a Nigerian prince who needs an advance to access a large sum of money from his father, uncle, etc. These scams have become quite the joke and famously called 419s by Nigerians.

The section of the Nigerian criminal code that address this type of fraud is 419, which is why Nigerians refer to these scams as 419. While Nigerian princes made this scam popular (and comedic), this is an international scam perpetrated by criminals around the world. I received an email from my parent’s account explaining that they were having issues accessing cash in the Philippines. Now, I had just talked with my mom the night before and they were surely in Alabama. AND, the last time my parents traveled internationally, it was a big deal! There was no way my parents would jump up and fly to the Philippines of all places.

FB Phil MAR 31

FB Phil Apr 1

FB PHIL April 1 reponse

My situation is not a 419 by definition, it can be described as a case of old fashion fraud. Someone, somewhere stole my debit card information and was trying to withdraw money and make purchases in New York City. Thankfully, my financial institution thought these transactions were irregular and didn’t fit my spending pattern and declined the transaction. The thieves tried to make purchases of $3,500 on my debit card. CRAZY! However, my financial institution saved the day and alerted me of the transactions. Sadly, I had to close the account and destroy the card which means at the moment, I don’t have access to my cash. Will be a difficult few weeks in Abuja but Sheila and I will find a way to survive.

At least today is my birthday!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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