The Lone Scammer – Almost No Such Thing
Online Scamming Has Changed A Lot Over The Decades That It Has Existed
Originally published December 2017, Updated February 2021
Online scamming started with the old Compuserve and America Online, and then other services of that type before the web really got started. It came into play in chat rooms and messaging on these services.
As The Web Came Into Its Own, And Dating Websites Came About Starting In 1995 – Scammers Switched Their Tactics
Of course, at that time, the number of scammers was less than 200 in Africa, and about the same number in Russia/Ukraine.
As the years went by, the number and professionalism of scammers increased, but they were still predominantly individuals that worked in “Collectives” that gave them access to computers and the Internet (mostly through Internet Cafes). These were the precursors to the Gangs.
Fast forward to about 2010 – scamming is now dominated by Gangs and their associates. They used Internet Cafes and Safe Houses that they owned with Internet Access. The Gangs are making serious money, and have developed management hierarchies.
The Gangs take a percentage of the earnings of individual scammers, and scammers are grouping together to better cover victims 24/7 – this is the transformation period from Lone Scammers into Teams under the Gang umbrellas.
By late 2013 we see a new structure emerging. This is the period of corporate organizations with hundreds and thousands of scammers working for them. Instead of the scammer paying a Gang for “Services”, the corporation now collects all money and the scammers are paid a commission (just like salespeople).
Of course, the older structures still remain – it is a country-by-country thing. Nigeria evolves into the corporate model, while Ghana remains behind in more of the Gang model. Ivory Coast and elsewhere still are dominated by individuals and small independent teams.
The spread of scams starts to go viral at that time and is spreading fast.
Fast forward to 2017. Over one million people became victims of romance scammers in 2016. Billions of dollars are flowing into the West African countries, and they have become very corporate-like, with office buildings, major telecommunication connections, training, and vast resources. They even OWN some of the Western Union franchises. Their connection with the local police is even tighter.
The corporate scammers, small, medium, and large have huge amounts of cash, so they set up couriers to carry cash from Nigeria to dozens of countries, including Indonesia, Malaysia, Southern Philippines, and throughout Africa where the regulations permit. They even set up a major base in Thailand and Viet Nam.
Lone Scammers do still exist, as well as hard-core criminal gangs, but with over 100,000 scammers in operation in Africa, these are now the minority and largely located in: Ivory Coast, Benin, Senegal, The Guineas, The Congos, Togo, Burkina Faso, Angola, and others. Having been driven out by the larger groups.
How did the Africans adapt to the corporate model so easily and quickly? It was thanks to your cell phone company, and your electric company, and everyone else that set up telemarketing call centers throughout the world. In the 2000s the Contact Center business was thriving, and new centers were being set up, connected, and personnel trained all around the world, including Africa. But by 2013 that industry was collapsing, and the call center businesses were looking for ways to survive. Many turned to scams – such as India going for the IRS/Tax scams, Jamaica with Lotto scams, and Africa with Romance Scams and BEC scams.
So the next time you think you were interacting with, or in a relationship with an individual scammer just remember – in over 90% of the cases YOU WERE NOT! You were being worked by a TEAM.