Sunday, March 11, 2007

Ahead of the trend curve

As I've rambled about before, it seems 419 fraud isn't what it used to be -- in fact, it's having a large effect on India, whereas one might imagine that the scammers would target more affluent nations.

The Hindustan Times validates my hunch, reporting:

The 419 scam is best known for the ubiquitous spam offering jobs or money in return for small advance payments that crowd everyone’s cellphones and computers. India is becoming increasingly entangled in this network. Besides becoming a target for 419 conmen, India is becoming a hub for 419 fraud activity in two other ways.

First, India is home to an increasing number of rings that operate the fraud in other countries. ... This year’s Ultrascan survey of 419 fraud estimates there were at least seven rings based in India last year, up from three in 2005. The seven rings probably had a little over 100 individual operatives.

Second, some small Indian call centres are being used to handle the information gathering that victims are often asked to provide to collect their supposed reward. For example, a call centre will be hired to ask the victim for his name, fax and phone number to lull him into believing these are from a legitimate organization. Engelsman recommends: “Call centres should check if their client and his company really exist. Google the names of both together with the word ‘scam’.”

Hilarious and intriguing as I find this entire thing, the way the story has been reported in the Indian media leaves something to be desired. The "Nigerian" is on the verge of becoming a hulking bogeyman, not only waiting to defraud naive businessmen, but also corrupting the youth -- supplying drugs! To raves! That our children have been duped into attending! Granted, I fully condemn international drug trafficking, but if the police are basing their investigation on one Nigerian having 10 grams of cocaine and "[leading] a lavish lifestyle suggest[ing] he might have some links to the Pune bash," the connection seems tenuous, at best, exploitative at worst.

Bottom line, again, folks: There's no such thing as a free meal. What's the appropriate Hindi idiom for that?

(Note: Photo is from the notorious scam baiters at 419 Eater. Read, laugh, awesome.)

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