Can You Get Free Government Grants?

Yes, under very carefully controlled circumstances. You qualify for financial aid as a college student, for example, or you are a business owner trying to reach out to specific targeted groups.

The US Government does NOT give grants to little people like you and me to live our daily lives. It also does not give money to start a business, in direct contradiction to many of the “government grant” claims out there. (To get free money with no strings attached you have to be a huge investment bank with high-paid lobbyists. But I digress.)

But don’t take my word for it. Here it is from the maw of the beast:

But the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, says that “money for nothing” grant offers usually are scams, whether you see them in your local paper or a national magazine, or hear about them on the phone.

Some Web sites out there will holler at you that government grants are widely available and easy to get. They even often claim that the government gives grants for starting businesses. This is a direct lie, according to the federal Small Business Administration:

Please Note that the U.S. Small Business Administration does not offer grants to start or expand small businesses, though it does offer a wide variety of loan programs. While the SBA does offer some grant programs, these are generally designed to expand and enhance organizations that provide small business management, technical, or financial assistance. These grants generally support non-profit organizations, intermediary lending institutions, and state and local governments.

Grant Every Day? Um…no

Enter the strange case of That’s the site that Kathryn, the reader from my last post on grants, tangled with and lost to the tune of $100+.

Why “strange case?” Because the site has some good information. The problem is the crap product it promotes: the “Grant Every Day” program. It advertises a “free” CD (+ shipping and handling) with all the information you need to start getting government grants. You can get your first check in as little as one week!

What the heck, right? Three bucks for info. I can handle that. But then I read the fine print and decided not to sign up. Holy Add-ons, Batman! Your “free” CD will cost you $90.89 if you are not careful. Every month.

Here is the fine print:

By submitting this form I am ordering the Grant Resource Information and trial membership. After the seven day trial I will be charged sixty eight thirteen a month thereafter if I do not cancel. I also agree to the fourteen day trial to SBA Connection for thirteen forty two and the twenty one day trial to Kind Remind for nine thirty four, should I choose not to cancel. I have read and agree to the PRIVACY POLICY and Terms & Conditions. Cancel any time by calling 1-800-235-1364 or 1-888-276-8105.

See the parts I bolded? Yeah, those are dollar amounts. Have you ever seen prices written out in words? I don’t think I ever have. In my humble opinion, there is only one reason to do it in the fine print: TO HIDE IT. The promoter knows you’ll scan the fine print, but won’t read it carefully. They don’t want to call attention to all the extras by putting $68.13 right there for you to catch.

And not only that, but these add-ons come completely out of the blue. NOWHERE does the page promoting the free CD mention that you are also signing up for a monthly paid membership (what for??) the “SBA Connection” (what the hell is that??), and “Kind Remind.”

This is deceptive, “gotcha” marketing at its worst. FREE CD! Only $2.95 shipping and handling! Then, hidden at the bottom of the page, lots of extra garbage and recurring charges.

But it gets worse. The Terms and Conditions state that the company can sell your information to whomever it wants, and that it can have its telemarketers call you, even if you have opted out of telemarketing:

By submitting personal information at the Website, you agree that such act constitutes an inquiry and/or application for purposes of the Amended Telemarketing Sales Rule (16 CFR §310 et seq.), as amended from time to time (the “Rule”). Notwithstanding that your telephone number may be listed at the Federal Trade Commission’s Do-Not-Call List, you give us the right to contact you via telemarketing in accordance with the Rule.

The Company may disclose, transfer, and sell Individual Information to entities affiliated with us at our discretion.

Click here to read a customer/victim’s complaint about “Grant Every Day.
And Ripoff Report has more.

Rules of the Road for Government Grants

The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) recommends the following guidelines if you’re interested in government grants:

  • Don’t give out your bank account information to anyone you don’t know. Scammers pressure people to divulge their bank account information so that they can steal the money in the account. Always keep your bank account information confidential. Don’t share it unless you are familiar with the company and know why the information is necessary.
  • Don’t pay any money for a “free” government grant. If you have to pay money to claim a “free” government grant, it isn’t really free. A real government agency won’t ask you to pay a processing fee for a grant that you have already been awarded — or to pay for a list of grant-making institutions. The names of agencies and foundations that award grants are available for free at any public library or on the Internet. The only official access point for all federal grant-making agencies is
  • Look-alikes aren’t the real thing. Just because the caller says he’s from the “Federal Grants Administration” doesn’t mean that he is. There is no such government agency. Take a moment to check the blue pages in your telephone directory to bear out your hunch — or not.
  • Phone numbers can deceive. Some con artists use Internet technology to disguise their area code in caller ID systems. Although it may look like they’re calling from Washington, DC, they could be calling from anywhere in the world.
  • Take control of the calls you receive. If you want to reduce the number of telemarketing calls you receive, place your telephone number on the National Do Not Call Registry. To register online, visit To register by phone, call 1-888-382-1222 (TTY: 1-866-290-4236) from the phone number you wish to register.
  • File a complaint with the FTC. If you think you may have been a victim of a government grant scam, file a complaint with the FTC online at, or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.

Sadly, for you and me, there’s no such thing as free money. Don’t fall for the free government grant claims.

An Insider’s View of

We received a tip about on our freelance writing jobs directory page. Halina, who had signed up for TextBroker after reading the comment, has offered to share her experiences since joining the program. Here they are.

I’ve been writing freelance for two years now, starting with Helium, then moving on to Associated Content, Constant Content, and lately, I’ve also written articles for my company and even submitted a few pieces to local Madison newspapers. The pay has been decent but nothing for which I would quit my day job. At this moment, I’ve made over $1400 on Associated Content, about $400 on Constant Content, and exactly $10.87 since joining Textbroker two days ago.

I initially discovered Textbroker because of a comment about it on I decided to give the site a try and signed up. Textbroker requires that you submit a writing sample in order to be assigned an author star rating of 2-5, with 2 stars being considered average, 3 stars good, and 4 stars being excellent writing ability. The 5 star rating is reserved for professional writers, and I’m not yet sure how one obtains that qualification.

Within the same day, I received my author rating of 4 stars. This allowed me to claim and submit articles that requested a writing quality of 2-4 stars. The higher one’s star rating, the more one is paid per word, so it pays to submit your best writing sample. Currently, my pay is 1.5 cents per word.

My first submission was accepted within 12 hours of submission and paid me $4.90 for about 400 words. The next day, I submitted another article, which was also quickly accepted and paid $5.88. I then received two DirectOrders, which is when clients request that you write for them specifically. I have since submitted one DirectOrder, which was then returned to me for editing. I re-submitted the article today. Should I have the latest article accepted, I will make up to $6.00 (the article is 400 words).

Textbroker will also evaluate your accepted articles and assign them a rating. The better your articles, the higher your rating and payment per word.

That I like most about Textbroker is that you do not have to write long articles. Many client requests are for 150-250 word articles. Coupled with the higher than average payment per word, that means I can easily turn out 2-3 articles in one evening and make a quick $15 or so. What I don’t like about Textbroker is that you need to wait a long time for payout; the site pays everyone only once a month, on the 10th of the month (update: as of now, Textbroker pays out weekly. Thanks Jennifer!).

This post was written by Halina. When not hunting out money-making opportunities online, Halina can be found making money on Associated Content at the following site: Associated Content.

An Inside Look at Nigerian Scams, Part 3

[This is the last post in our series about Nigerian scams written by Mr. Chekwube Okeke.
Read Part 1 here.
Read Part 2 here.

Who Wants to Make a High School Boy a Millionaire?

The Nigerian scam affects not only the westerner who gets scammed, but also honest Nigerians who are in search of legitimate work. I have come across work at home jobs that exclude Nigeria from taking part. Clickbank does not accept Nigeria into their programs. PayPal does not allow people to open accounts from Nigeria). When I make inquiries, telling these online programs who I am and where I live, I don’t get any response from them.

What Kinds of Scams Do They Pull?

Here are some products from the Nigerian scam industry:

The Fake Money Order Scam
Back in 2004 in my university days, this scam was the most popular among scammers on campus. The scammer surfs the Internet looking for a date. Depending on the gender of the person he comes across, he poses either as a male or female. For example, if he meets a white or black female, then he’s a white or black male as the case may be, or if meets a white or black male, then the scammer is a white or black female, and the dating begins. The scammer could be chatting with more than one person at the same time to speed up his chances of getting at least one of them to fall for his scam. In one chat box, he might be a white girl, in another chat box, he’s a white male, and still in another, he’s an African American lady.

The stories the scammer tells his dates are the same especially if they happen to be chatting with a white male. He tells his dates that he’s a white lady visiting Africa for the first time on some archaeological expedition, to visit the ruins of ancient Africa and that ‘she’ is a student of UCLA for example, or any other story the scammer can come up with. The dating may last for days, weeks or even months but the main idea is to get the white guy to fall in love with ‘her’. That’s when the real scam kicks in.

The scammer, when he is sure the white guy has fallen in love with him, comes up with a sad story, telling the guy of something bad that happened to ‘her’ while ‘she’ was on the expedition. Now ‘she’ cant return to the U.S., but ‘she’ came to Africa with some money orders and would like the guy to help ‘her’ cash them and send the money back to ‘her’ so ‘she’ can be able to return home.

An ex-course mate of mine after getting this white guy to say “I love u”, told this guy living in the U.S. that ‘she’ was robbed in her hotel room in Africa and was left with nothing. But wait, the robbers didn’t take her money orders. Could he please cash the money orders for ‘her’ and send the cash back to ‘her’ so ‘she’ can return to the U.S.?

“Why, sure thing!” The white date replied. Why would he allow his ‘beloved’ whom he’s just dying to meet to be stranded in Africa? And so the scammer sent the money orders to him. Another former course mate of mine told me that for this scam to work, the guy would have to take the money orders to the bank and not to the post office. If they are cashed at the bank, the bank in turn will take the money orders to the post office to be cashed. There, they would be detected as fakes and the person who cashed them at the bank arrested. I heard the guy was arrested. He tried to make contact with his ‘beloved’ but it was too late. The scammer scrapped his e-mail address, bought a benze and took friends out for drink to celebrate his success.

The deftness with which these people use information on the net to fool people is impressive. Another ex-course mate of mine pretended to be a girl living in Cuba. After growing irritated and tired of his date asking about the area in Cuba ‘she’ comes from, he simply Googled cities in Cuba and told his date ‘she’ was from Santa Clara!

The Credit Card Scam
Only recently, I saw a credit card for the first time in my life. They are not common the way they are in your country. Before then, though I had never seen them, except in movies, I came to be more knowledgeable about them through this same ex-course mate of mine who received hundreds of them from a hacker friend of his. So many were these credit cards that my friend never had enough time to sift through all of them and check their validity.

He copied the details of each credit card one by one, pasted it on a certain site and tried to make a purchase. If the purchase went through, he would then know the credit card was valid and separated them from the rest. If it didn’t go through he simply deleted the expired or invalid credit card.

Night after night, after I was through studying, we would go the café for some ‘Internet shopping’ and to chat with his ‘dates’ before finally retiring to the hostel.

Back then, I also learnt that most companies do not send items paid for with a credit card to a Nigerian address for obvious reasons. So what my friend did was to give these sites a western address. He has a partner over there who would then send the items to Nigeria. He told me that if he were to sell all he had been ordering at a give away price he would make no less than $25,000.

The Nonexistent Product Scam
“….we are a company looking for distributors and sales agents for our polymeric polyol product. Interested persons should please reply via this mail…..” What you have just read are the lines to a scam invented by this same ex course mate of mine. I call this the non existent product scam. He simply looks for distributors and sales agent telling them his company has a product to sell. He gives them a very large figure of the commission they will make as a way of motivating these distributors and sales agents to get buyers, If these distributors and agents find buyers, they are to pay half the price of the product before receiving the product, and the other half after they receive the product. The buyers pay this advance and ZILCH! ZERO! No product is forthcoming because there was none to begin with!

“What the hell is a polymeric polyol? It won’t work,” I told him. He would only receive replies asking what a polymeric polyol was. He told me I was only being cynical. He was right. He got a sales agent and almost made money from this scam.

The Dating or e-Begging Scam
Are you a westerner searching for love across the Atlantic? You happen to succeed in finding one, and you think you are chatting with an African chick? Think again! You might just be dating a Nigerian hustler who is just waiting for you to say “I love you” so ‘she’ can start making financial demands on you.

Like the fake money order scam, this involves posing as a female. Only here, ‘she’ is not a westerner, but a Nigerian girl. Sometimes, the scammer might send the westerner a picture of the girl he is pretending to be, (even when the westerner didn’t ask for one) just to make it all look real. When the scammer is sure you have really gotten to like ‘her’, it is now time to start asking for money. And would he refuse to send a couple of thousand bucks to the ‘girl’ he loves, who is struggling to make ends meet in a harsh economic environment?

Some westerners might be eager to see their dates through a webcam. “Now the scammer is in for it” you might say. Unfortunately, this is not a problem for the scammer as they are equally prepared for this and can go as far as recruiting their own girlfriends into the scam. “At last” the westerner thinks. He can see his African date through the webcam. What he will not see is the real mastermind behind the scam, sitting right next to the girl, but just out of sight of the webcam, telling the girl what to type on the computer. Finally the chatting ends on a happy note and the westerner goes to bed, satisfied to have seen his Nigerian girlfriend. Poor westerner doesn’t know he is dating a man like himself.

The other side to this kind of scam is much easier: I am a Nigerian man. I browse online dating sites and find myself a female date. I don’t need to lie about my gender or my nationality or where I live. I am doing the normal and regular dating everybody else is doing. Only thing is, I am only dating this white girl because I intend to ask her for some cash later on. This may not look like a scam but it is, when you consider that I am in the relationship just for the money. That’s why we call it the e-begging or electronic begging scam.

The Box of Money Scam
This is my favorite scam. I managed to get the picture you see here from a friend who makes up to 500 dollars almost monthly from this scam. Similar to the lottery scam, you receive a message with the picture of a box of money, telling you that you’ve won it, and an ambassador is getting ready to visit your country and hand you your box of money, but that you have to pay a certain amount to redeem your winnings.

This friend also told me that WESTERN UNION MONEY TRANSFER, (the payment channel through which he receives the cash they send) has warned westerners times without number, not to send cash to people they don’t know in Nigeria. But “a fool and his money are soon parted”. So now we have greedy westerners who keep sending money to strangers in Nigeria, knowing very well at the back of their minds that what they are paying for is a scam.

It’s All About Greed

One reason these scammers are so successful is that the people who fall for these scams are themselves greedy. Like I said, they may have it at the back of their minds that the mails they get are scam mails, yet blinded by greed, they lose money to these scammers. Another reason is that they exploit the trust, honesty and forthrightness that is hallmark of most western societies to their advantage.

How to Detect Scams

There are a few ways to detect if a mail is a scam. It’s most likely, a scam mail if

  • It appeals to the emotions
    If the sender is telling you a tragic or pathetic story about something that happened to him and/or his family, then it is most likely a scam. This is meant for you to have compassion for him and let your guard down’ and be moved to help him do whatever it is he is asking you to do in the mail.
  • It has too many grammatical mistakes or is hardly fluent
    The scammers are Nigerians. They may speak English but “English ain’t our mother tongue”. Some of these scammers do not write good English. Why would a senate president, or a bank CEO, or a finance minister, make such grammatical blunders in his mail? Doesn’t he at least have a secretary whose job it is to proof-read what he writes, including his mails before he sends them out?
  • What they are asking you to do is illegal
    Most westerners may not know this, but some of the help these scammers are asking for is illegal. For instance, they might tell you their father who was a secretary to the federal government of Nigeria was murdered by a dictator and left some few millions in a bank somewhere in Nigeria, and he needs your help in getting it out of the country. Question is, how did his dad (a secretary to the government) come about such money? And why is he desperate to get it out of the country?

Really, there is no one way of spotting scams from Nigeria. Some of these scammers have no other job they do except go to café and send scam mails. For some of them, this is the only thing they do to put food on the table and feed their families. So they will keep coming at you with everything they’ve got until they succeed. You westerners just have to be on guard at all times. Some of my fellow Nigerians that may come across this writeup may hate me for spilling my guts here but I can’t help it.

Nigerians are one of the most gifted and innovative people on earth. Sadly, their ingenuity is mostly used to do bad rather than to do good. A certain talk show host in the U.S. said all Nigerians are fraudulent. In a way, that might be true. We have come to accept corruption, fraud and deceit as part and parcel of our daily lives as you might hear some Nigerians say trash like “I like that so and so governor. Even though he stole money, at least he did one or two few things for my state…” Or “…nobody says they (the government) shouldn’t steal money, but while they steal they should try to do something for the citizens….”

Come October 1 2009, Nigeria will be 49. (A fool at almost )50, we are a people who are docile, cowardly, and thoroughly laid back. Not wanting to struggle to do away with the ultra corrupt government that has long been in place, we are smiling and suffering in silence, preferring only to talk about how corrupt politicians are and how bad the economy is, in street corners, in churches, at news stands, in bars, in beer parlors, and in goat stew joints.

An Inside Look at Nigerian Scams, Part 2

Joe: This is part 2 in our series, “An Inside Look at Nigerian Scams,” written by Nigerian guest poster, Chekwube Okeke. Read Part 1 of this series here.

Who Wants to Make a High School Boy a Millionaire?

I once worked for a man who owned a dry-cleaning outfit. He was a car freak and owned a good number of flashy ones. “He can’t be making that much money from his dry-cleaning business to buy such a large number of cars,” I told myself. A colleague was later to tell me the man had one other business he was into. “The laptop our boss brings with him to work is used to correspond with the westerners he intends to scam,” he told me.

And trying to convince friends to leave such things is out of the question. Especially when you consider the fact that some of them grew up in poverty (the economic hardship having taken its toll on them). Since they have no other legitimate means of feeding themselves and their families, you don’t know how or where to begin to make them see reason.

Some of the reasons these Nigerians give for indulging in scams range from the palatable to the outright absurd. They may tell you that “the white man came to Africa, enslaved us and stole our resources to develop their own place, so we are only taking back what the white man took from us.” Or “Hey, we just want a few thousand bucks from these westerners. After all, their economy is better than ours so it won’t hurt them.”

What Is It Like to Scam in Nigeria?

For me, the sooner I get a PC with an Internet connection, the better. Surfing from a café is a risk in itself. It makes me a sitting duck for the cops who, once in a while, raid cafés and arrest scammers, including, if you are unlucky, people who came to do honest work.

I was once nearly a victim of one such raid. They raided one café after another. They stormed into the café where I was. They bent close to your monitor and if what they saw on the screen didn’t seem right to them, they moved you out into a police van waiting just outside the café to join other scam suspects who were rounded up from other cafés. They ordered me to get up and I was frisked (didn’t know what the hell they were looking for). Luckily for me I was not yet sitting behind a monitor as I was waiting for a free space, because who knows? The Nigerian police are an unpredictable lot and had I been sitting behind a monitor I might have been taken away with the others.

One customer quickly hid the flash drive he had with him (must have contained some scam material). Unfortunately for him, one cop thought he saw him hide the flash drive, but didn’t know exactly where and immediately a hunt for the flash drive started. The cops looked behind monitors, under the café tables, behind CPUs, under the chairs. All the while, the cop was angry at his junior partner (who was closer to the customer when he hid the flash drive) for not being fast enough to “catch these boys,” and at the same time exchanging words with the customer himself, who kept insisting he wasn’t even holding a flash drive to begin with. He kept saying he was in the youth corps and only came to check his mails.

Alas! After some minutes the cop found the flash drive. He was right after all! He did see the scammer hide a flash drive! And in the joy of triumph the cop lands the scammer a very hard slap on the cheek, telling him: “Youth corps, huh? I’ll show you I’ve dealt with your likes before!” The scammer is dragged away and into the police van outside. (The youth corps is a one year mandatory service to the country performed by graduates right after they leave the university.)

Can’t The Authorities Do Something?

Justice was served? Not really. Fortunately for these scammers and unfortunately for the rest of society, the police are also not insulated from the economic hardship and grinding poverty in the country. So they carry out such raids mostly when they are in dire need of money themselves, to feed themselves and their families as they are not being sufficiently paid by the Nigerian government. These scammers are taken to the station where, for as little as 30 dollars or more, they buy back their freedom and our scammers are back at the café doing what they know how to do best!

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), a federal government agency charged with apprehending and prosecuting corrupt government officials and scammers, as soon as it was established, read out a riot act to the cafes that aid and abet scams. So when approaching a café in Nigeria, it is not uncommon to see notices like the ones below pasted at the entrance or on the walls within the café itself:

[Joe editorial note: I love that! “Personally embarrass you.” Oh, the humanity!]


These notices have become so common that even scammers no longer take notice of them. And café owners, some of whom are scammers themselves, turn a blind eye to what goes on in their cafes either because they have become used to the raids and no longer give a damn because they know the authorities are not serious about dealing with scammers and they have to stay in business, or because they make good money from these customers.

And what do the numbers 419 mean? It’s a reference to section 419 of the Nigerian constitution that deals with advance fee fraud. So when you hear a Nigerian say “I was 419ed”, he means he got scammed. Or you hear him say “that guy is a 419” or “he’s a 419er”, it means the person is a scammer. The numbers have since become a synonym for lies, cheating, deceit, fraud etc.

These people also do clean up after themselves. After they are done with the computer, they restart it before leaving the café. I asked a friend why he does this and he said restarting the computer destroys any evidence of scam, making his work untraceable. Simply put, by restarting the computers the scammers are covering their tracks.

Why Isn’t Everyone Doing It?

Please don’t get the impression that’s it’s been a holiday for all scammers. I know people who have been into scam for years, sunk all they had into it and are yet to make it. There are scammers that have been tried and are in the can.

And like every other industry, the Nigerian scam industry has spawned its own terminology. When you hear a scammer use the word ‘MAGA’ (pronounced mahgah) or the word MUGU (pronounced moogoo) he is referring to the westerner he is about to scam or has already scammed. The word ‘HAMMER’ has come to mean to “make it big” among scammers.

Part 3 will discuss specific examples of Nigerian scams Mr. Okeke has witnessed.

An Insider’s View of Nigerian Scams, Part 1

[Preface by Joe: We are pleased to offer this series about Nigerian scams from an honest-to-goodness Nigerian, Mr. Chekwube Okeke. He has a degree in business administration and notes that his first name means “Put your trust in God.” He has generously offered us this information free of charge, and I know you’ll be interested in what he reveals. I have lightly edited the text for correctness and organization.]

Who Wants to Make a High School Boy a Millionaire?

Here I am doing this piece in an Internet café. The guy occupying the space right next to me is preparing a scam e-mail. It contains the picture of a famous bank CEO and the logo of the bank itself. He is posing as the bank CEO. Whoever is unfortunate enough to receive the mail (most probably, a westerner) will get the false impression that he is corresponding with a bank CEO in Nigeria.

What I am describing is nothing uncommon among scammers in Nigeria. All over the café there are people preparing scam mails, posing as bank CEOs, central bank governors, ambassadors, businessmen, accountants, senate presidents, pastors, priests, etc. Among these scammers are students in their school uniforms. I am not exaggerating and this is also nothing new.

Just a few yards from the café is a police post. “It should deter these scammers from coming to the café, you would say. It doesn’t. “Why not?” you ask. Please keep reading this piece and you will find out.

The View from My World

Surfing from a café in Nigeria, you get to witness a lot of drama. I have seen a scammer smash his handset in ecstasy on confirming the cash he had long been waiting for had arrived. I have seen scammers faking their accents and intonation pretending to be white men on the phone with their intended victims. I have seen scammers pretending to be white ladies visiting Africa for the first time when they meet a male westerner online. I have seen scammers pretending to be females looking for a date online, or pretending to be white males, depending on the gender of the person they meet online. (More on these later.)

The Nigerian scam has turned out to be very lucrative for its perpetrators. Yes, it was once the third largest industry in Nigeria. A Nigerian paper once reported that America loses about 100,000 dollars to these scammers daily.

The westerners who receive and fall for this scam mails ought to know that the tens of thousands of bucks they lose to these scammers might very well translate to millions in my country’s currency. In other words, they are making millionaires out of these scammers, some of whom have become bread winners of their family.

Scamming has become a phenomenon being celebrated by some Nigerians. Oh yes! A well known former U.S. government official unwittingly danced to a popular Nigerian scam song on stage along with the performers at a function held in the U.K. recently.

Again, in another part of Europe, another Nigerian artist performed another popular Nigerian scam song on stage while the Nigerians among the crowd danced and sang along with the artist. After he was done performing, he was asked by the host of the ceremony what the lyrics of the song meant. There were giggles, chuckles, and sniggers coming from the Nigerian crowd as the artist, knowing the embarrassment the truth would cause every one at the ceremony, had to lie to the host about the meaning of the lyrics.

I Know Scammers

This might sound awful to the westerners reading this piece. The truth is, in Nigeria, if you are not a scammer, you must know somebody who is (some Nigerians who may come across this piece may disagree and even argue with me on this one). Just months ago, a friend of mine hit it big, making over 40,000 dollars. Now he is living big and has since moved his family to a better apartment.

“A friend?” Oh yes. A childhood friend for that matter. Everyone knows someone. The person might be your next door neighbor, or that tithe giver who is a church member of yours, or your course mate in the university, or your classmate in high school or your colleague at work, or your boss who may only be using his company as a front to hide the true source of his wealth, or your brother, or your uncle, or your aunt, or your cousin, or your nephew, or even your mom and/or your dad who have been supporting the family with the extra income.

And if you do find out the person is a scammer, it is not talked about in his presence. You maintain the relationship you had with him before you made your discovery. No mention is made of it. Not unless you are a scammer friend of his too or a very close pal. It is just like what you see in mafia movies: here’s this guy who is well known in the neighborhood. He’s the nice guy who is like a friend to all, who tries to help his neighborhood every now and then. But he’s a gangster and thing is, while you are with him you have to act like you don’t know he’s a gangster. You don’t bring up any discussion that’s anywhere near that fact. Not unless you are a fellow gangster or a very close friend.

[Joe: In Part 2 of this series, you’ll hear about Mr. Okeke’s experiences in a Nigerian Internet cafe.]