Geoff BrowneBy Saleem Rana

Geoff Browne, a film director and cinematographer, will talk to Allen Cardoza on March 3rd on Answers for the Family, a weekly talk show hosted on L.A. Talk Radio, about the Nigerian scams that are propagating throughout the Internet and financially destroying families in the US and in Nigeria. Geoff travelled to Nigeria to research a script he is turning into a film based on the Nigerian email scams.

About Geoff Browne

Geoff’s Browne’s career spans more than twenty years on global locations ranging from the steaming jungles of Nigeria and Belize to the most remote areas of Tibet, India and Malaysia.  He has lived in a cave in a village in China and spent long days filming a voyage at sea that took him across the Atlantic Ocean from the Southern tip of Argentina to Cape Town South Africa.  In one of his films, “Call it Karma,” he travelled alone into remote regions of Tibet and stayed in a remote village with nomads and Buddhist monks to create his award winning film.

His most recent works include producing and doing cinematography on a feature with Tom Sizemore and Michael Pare. Another “Beyond Justice,” with Misha Barton, Danny Trejo, Vinnie Jones and Luke Goss, “Legend, with Vern Troyer.”   He was a cinematographer on the National Geographic series Drugs Inc, and has also directed PSA’s with Tom Hanks, Rita Wilson, Roberta Flack and David Steinberg.

Recently, he has been on location in Nigeria developing a film on the Nigerian scams called ‘The Letter.’ In a fascinating twist, he tells the story from the Nigerian side.  It’s about a Nigerian teenager who wants to move his family out of the Niger Delta but he can’t get work with the local Oil corporations so he decides to join a group of email scammers to pull off a scam that will forever change his life.

The story is based on the true scams and their victims.

The Story Behind the Nigerian Scams

Geoff Browne’s film ‘The Letter,’ will reveal how scams are the second biggest source of revenue for Nigeria after oil. The country earns over $300 million a year from it and some scammers have personally earned millions of dollars. The scams are done by individuals, groups, and even mafia-like criminal networks. Victims are often educated people, taken in by the use of formal language associated with the correspondence of bankers, military men and government officials.

The intrepid film-maker has been to Nigeria twice, met with scammers in the Niger Delta, and has a profound understanding of the socioeconomic forces both perpetuating the fraudulent industry and the government officials trying to put an end to it.

The Nigerian scam predates email. Long before the Internet, confidence men in West Africa duped people through fax and paper letter. Some of the first scams showed up in Western Europe by telex in 1989 and 1990, when British businessmen were informed that the cargo of a tanker of Nigerian crude could be claimed for bargain prices if cash was paid.

However, the Advance-fee or 419 scams as outlined in the Nigerian criminal code went international when oil prices and the national economy crashed under the military ruler, Ibrahim Babangida, who overthrew Major General Muhammad Buhari in a 1985 coup. After three years of high inflation, English speaking Nigerians needed foreign money because their own currency had little buying power. Some turned to 419 scams. What has made these scams particularly effective is the use of the insignias and official language of financial officers.

This fraudulent misuse of official insignias actually dates back to the British colonial rule in 1914, when fake tax collectors in government uniforms collected tax “on behalf of the empire.” As for the advance-fee scam, it originated in the 19th century and plagued the British Empire throughout the century. It was referred to as either “The Spanish Swindle” or as “The Spanish Prisoner Trick. “

The radio interview on Answers for the Family with Allen Cardoza will talk about how the scams work, why they are so effective in bilking large sums of money from unsuspecting people, and why this multi-million dollar is not likely to go away anytime soon.

Listeners will learn about the people behind those scams, how the children of Nigeria are trying to change their country, and what types of unsolicited messages to watch out for in your own inbox, fax machine or mailbox. Besides learning about how the scams work, you’ll also enjoy the additional benefit of learning how to avoid getting duped.

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