How Do Scammer Organizations Work? Nigerian & West African Scammers [UPDATED]

How Do Scammer Organizations Work?

How Scams Work – A Series

A SCARS Insight – Updated July 2022

How Do Scammer Organizations Really Work?

Scammers are organized criminal groups that have team sizes from as few as 8 to as many as 10,000!

This is a very large-scale enterprise. These criminal organizations can bring in many billions of U.S. Dollars alone each year!

Here is a useful diagram that may help you better understand the organizations that scammed you.

The Nigerian Scamming Model

How Do Scammer Organizations Work?

Almost 45% of victims believe they were scammed by a single scammer, yet our data indicates that over 97% of scams are performed by teams. (as of 2022)

What Scam Victims Believe?

How Do Scammer Organizations Work? Nigerian & West African Scammers [UPDATED] 1

Also, unfortunately, almost 13% of victims believe that the face in the photo is the real scammer. They either do not understand that those are stolen photos or they are firmly locked in denial.

How Do Scammer Organizations Work? Nigerian & West African Scammers [UPDATED] 2

Regardless, ignorance is what scammers count on to be able to harvest the richest possible population of victims. Scammers see victims as just another cow to be slaughtered – to be scammed. Victims who live in denial or just want to ignore the problem only make it easier for these criminal organizations to thrive.

The Scammer/Fraudster Organizational Model

There are two basic organizational types in large-scale online financial fraud:

  1. Non-violent white-collar criminals
  2. Violent criminal cartels

It is important to remember that the vast majority of these criminals are non-violent. That is they engage in psychology violence with their victims, not physical violence. However, a small percentage are what we refer to as ‘Thug Scammers,’ these include the Sakawa in Ghana, the Yahoo Yahoo of Nigeria, and the Black Axe also from Nigeria.


One recent study released in July 2022 said this about the environment that scammers come from:

“With an estimated population of 211 million in 2021, close to 70 percent of theNigerian population is made up of youths (United Nations Population Fund,2021). Despite the growing population of the youths, a combination of prolongedeconomic crisis and corrupt political elite have virtually brought the country to itsknees creating in the process an army of unemployed youth whose future isuncertain. Nigerian urban youth gangs threaten the peace and stability of societybecause of their involvement in crime. Criminality by Nigerian urban youth gangstake different forms but what has increasingly come to the fore is their use aspolitical foot soldiers to rig elections and help local politicians to attack theirrivals. At the forefront of this concern is the youth’s involvement in various formsof chaos. Examples include the violence perpetrated by Niger Delta militants inthe past, and in recent times by Boko Haram, Niger Delta Avengers, and Fulaniherdsmen.”

However, we acknowledge the Nigerian (and other local gangs) but this is not as valid as it sounds, since the majority of Nigerian and West African scammers are university undergraduates or graduates. Meaning that they are educated and can get valid work, but instead choose the life of the scammer because it pays so much better! This is a question of greed.

The Single Most Important Thing To Remember

Most non-violent scammers/fraudster gangs work as teams! Not as individual criminals!

Typical Team Model:

  1. Research – obtains lists, identifies potential targets
  2. Graphic Design – steals photos, creates fake documents, IDs, designs profiles
  3. Contactor/Groomer – makes the initial contact and begins the grooming process – usually up to and including the Amygdala Hijacking – setting the stage for manipulation
  4. Manipulator – typically takes over at the point where emotions have been discussed – will take the victim through to the point where money will be asked for
  5. Controller – manages the money harvesting process
  6. Actor – may be a female for use with male victims – so the victim can hear a female voice

Of course, this structure varies from team to team. These scams can be done with as few as two people, but most teams consist of 4 to 6.


We have talked about Sakawa and Yahoo Boys in other articles, but the Black Axe is described here.

The ‘Black AXE’

According to the BBC:

A violent mafia-style gang in Nigeria linked to murder and fraud has infiltrated the country’s political system and launched a global scamming operation well beyond Nigeria’s borders, according to thousands of hacked documents and testimonies seen by the BBC.

The “Black Axe” gang has been operating for decades in Nigeria and is among the country’s most-feared organised crime syndicates. Membership of these syndicates, known as “cults” or “fraternities”, is outlawed in Nigeria.

For the past two years, BBC Africa Eye has been following the Black Axe, speaking to former members and combing through thousands of documents that appear to have been hacked from a number of prominent members of the group. It was not possible to verify the entire cache, but key documents were verified by the BBC.

Among our findings were emails that suggest a prominent Nigerian businessman and 2019 APC party candidate for political office, Augustus Bemigho, was a senior member of Black Axe and was involved in orchestrating fraudulent internet scams netting millions of dollars.

The cache of documents contained more than 18,000 pages from an email account linked to Mr Bemigho, including emails that suggest he sent guidance on scamming to a network of collaborators on 62 occasions and communicated with others about specific scamming targets.

“We have removed him close to 1M dollar,” says one email sent to Mr Bemigho, referring to a victim. The email contains the victim’s full name, email address and number, and instructions on how to progress the scam.

The BBC used Mr Bemigho’s emails to track down two apparent scamming victims, who said they were defrauded of approximately $3.3m (£2.4m). Operations by international law enforcement agencies indicate that Black Axe’s scamming profits may run into the billions. The BBC contacted Mr Bemigho, but he did not respond to the allegations.

Some of the material in the leaked documents – showing the graphic results of the gang’s activities – is too horrifying to publish. But the data paints a unique portrait of Black Axe operations between 2009 and 2019, and suggests the gang has penetrated Nigerian politics in its home region of Edo State to a shocking extent.

Two documents state that in Benin City, 35 million naira ($85,000; £64,000) was funnelled to the Neo-Black Movement of Africa (NBM) – a registered company in Nigeria considered by some western law enforcement to be synonymous with Black Axe – to “protect votes” and secure victory in a governorship election in 2012.

In exchange for the support, the files suggest that “80 slots [were] allocated to NBM Benin Zone for immediate employment by the state government”.

Kurtis Ogebebor, an activist in Benin City who works to try and stop young people being recruited into cults like Black Axe, told the BBC that Nigeria’s politics had become a “mafia politics”.

“Cultism seems to be at all levels of our government, from the lowest to the highest,” he added. “You find them everywhere.”

The Neo-Black Movement of Africa strongly denies links to the Black Axe, and the group’s lawyers told the BBC that any Black Axe members found among its ranks were “expelled immediately”. The NBM claims to have three million members around the world, and regularly publicises charitable activity – donations to orphanages, schools and the police, both in Nigeria and abroad.

“NBM is not Black Axe. NBM has nothing to do with criminality,” Ese Kakor, the president of the organisation, told the BBC.
But international law enforcement agencies have taken a different view. The US justice department has labelled the NBM a “criminal organisation” and says it is “part of the Black Axe”, and Canadian authorities have said that the Black Axe and NBM “are the same”.

In recent months, joint operations targeting Black Axe by the US Secret Service, the FBI and Interpol resulted in the arrest of more than 35 NBM members in the US and South Africa on charges related to multi-million dollar internet fraud schemes. The NBM told the BBC all these members have since been suspended.

In 2017, Canadian authorities broke up a money-laundering scheme linked to Black Axe worth in excess of $5bn – hinting at the scale of the gang’s global financial operations. Nobody knows how many similar schemes are out there, the leaked documents show members communicating between Lagos, London, Tokyo, Dubai, and a dozen other countries.

In Nigeria, the Black Axe is better known for its street level crime and brutality and alleged links to politics and business. But the nature of the connections has long been murky and unsubstantiated.

A former member of the Edo State government, speaking to the international media for the first time, told the BBC Black Axe membership is widespread within the halls of power.

“If you sat me down and say: ‘Can you identify Black Axe in government?’ I will identify,” said Tony Kabaka, who told the BBC he had survived repeated assassination attempts since leaving government and whose house and front gate are littered with bullet holes.

“Most politicians, almost everybody is involved,” he said.

We sent the government of Edo State the allegations that they have ties to the Black Axe, but they did not respond.

The above was published by the BBC on December 21, 2021 – our thanks to the BBC


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  1. Misty April 24, 2018 at 9:44 pm - Reply

    I think my Mom is being scammed. She met a man named Brad and is sending money to him (even though she says he is rich) because he gor into some kind of trouble and is in jail. But He loves her and wants to marry her. She wont give me any details though so i dont know how to report this. She doesnt have money to be giving away, she is taking out loans! This is an older gentleman, my Mom is 66 years old.

  2. Pamela Hall April 23, 2018 at 4:01 pm - Reply

    Thank you so much !! For all the information on military it help me to see my daughtwrs were telling me the truth.

  3. Adriana Punongbayan March 16, 2018 at 1:48 pm - Reply

    I’m a scam survivor. Thanks for educating us. I was in denial for a long time and that’s bad. I had to learn to open my eyes.

  4. Karen Coles March 14, 2018 at 6:32 am - Reply

    I think a man called Hansli Benson is trying to scam me, He says he is in the military and is a orthopedic surgeon, he has been saying that he loves me, says he is widowed and has a 17yr old son, and is currently working in jordan has any one heard of this man

  5. Elina Juusola March 14, 2018 at 5:35 am - Reply

    Thank you very much for this information. It is very useful indeed and explains a lot for people who are educating themselves about romance scams and Internet fraud in general. It is very useful to me as an educator, researcher and scam survivor.

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