Nigeria’s online fraudsters have a new weapon: Nigeria’s first lady

Patience is not amused.
Patience is not amused.
Image: Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde
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Nigeria doesn’t have the best reputation online, thanks to years of fraudulent emails that claim to come from assorted princes, ambassadors and kings. Since the emails aren’t really fooling people anymore, scamsters have developed a new ploy: fooling their countrymen on social media. Fraudsters have set up at least 16 Facebook accounts and 24 Twitter accounts in the name of Patience Jonathan, wife of president Goodluck Jonathan, the Nigerian newspaper Punch reports.

People seem to be falling for it. One Facebook account in Jonathan’s name claims nearly 5,000 friends despite obvious typos in the bio; others have between 1,000 and 2,000 friends. Scamsters on Twitter have had less success, though one account managed to convince over 3,000 people of its legitimacy. Most Twitter accounts however are clearly fake.

At least two accounts appear to be publicly offering jobs, a common means of extracting payment in exchange for non-existent work placements. One account promises free money: “To restore the spirit of christmas, am giving out the sum of #6,000,000. Inbox me now, lucky 6persons, Good morning Nigeria.” Dozens of responses indicate that the announcement was not met with the caution it deserves.

Punch notes that even though social networks are keen to minimize the number of accounts that impersonate famous people, they need somebody to report the matter before taking action. “In spite of this, many important personalities, serving and former political office holders, who fell victim to identity thieves on social media at one time in the past, have failed to report the matter online,” according to the paper.

A simpler way to deal with the fakes would be for Patience Jonathan to set up her own, official account, something that her husband, the president, did in 2010. His verified Facebook account has over a million “likes.”