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Are The Black Axe Scammers Finally Getting The Chop?


Are The Black Axe Scammers Finally Getting The Chop?

If you’ve ever been the victim of any kind of scam, you will no doubt have been thrilled at the news of the recent arrest of Perry Osagiede, the alleged founder of the Cape Town arm of the notorious Black Axe.

(The Black Axe is highly organised global organisation believed to have originated in Nigeria. It has long been associated with such nefarious activities as drug smuggling, human trafficking and, more recently, online dating and busines email scams that have seen victims around the world lose hundreds of millions of Rands).

Together with seven other alleged internet dating fraudsters, Osagiede stands accused of creating fake online profiles and using a variety of stories to seduce lonely, unsuspecting victims into sending large sums of money.

To those of us fortunate enough to never have been in the situation where we fell for one of these scams, it can seem hard to believe that anyone would do so.

Why would anyone send thousands of Dollars to someone they’ve never met (often after only meeting online a few weeks’ previously)?

Sadly, the Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns, shielding, self-isolating and the massive work from home movement has meant thousands of people have lost daily social interaction with their work colleagues.

Separated from family, friends and loved ones, life suddenly got very lonely for thousands of people.

Finding someone online who seemed caring, interested and looking for a real connection is pretty hard to resist when you feel cut off from the rest of the world.

It is this loneliness that Osagiede and others in his organisation counted on and exploited.

What Do These Scams Look Like?

Taken individually, each story seems to play out in its own tragic way. It’s only when you compare stories from the Black Axe’s victims that tell-tale similarities surface.

Fraudulent narratives often involve claims that they needed money for travel, items of value, or a medical emergency.

And even when the victims, all of whom genuinely believed they were in a real romantic relationship, expressed hesitancy when asked to send money, they were manipulated into doing so using threats such as publicising personal photographs online.

Sometimes the stories get pretty bizarre – such as claiming they were stuck on an oil rig and needed money to pay food. But by then, the victims are so deep into the deception they believe the lies and send the money.

How Do They Find Us?

The scammers are frightening thorough and very clever.

They research their intended victims thoroughly on social media, particularly Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. They also trawl online gaming sites and dating apps.

Once they’ve made contact, they begin extracting all kinds of personal information from their targets, all disguised as caring, “getting to know you” kinds of questions.

By asking questions about their victim’s past, and what their hopes are for the future, they gather all the information they need to create a fictional but irresistible picture of what a life together could look like.

It’s all exceptionally callous and calculating.

But it’s also frighteningly effective.

Hiding behind VPNs, they use tools like Google Talk to obtain free, untraceable phone numbers all over the world. This way, their victims never know where they live or where they’re calling them from.

They also use Google Earth to see the kinds of homes their victims live in. This gives them a better idea of how wealthy they are, so they know how much they are likely to get away with asking for.

They are experts at deep diving the dark web, obtaining all kinds of information about their victims, and using it to establish trust and create a romantic bond.

How To Spot A Scammer

Scammers are clever, so to outwit them and beat them at their own game, we have to stay one step ahead.

Although they use many manipulative methods to extract money from their victims, there are usually a couple of tell-tale signs common to most scams:

  • They profess their love for you quickly.
  • They say they are overseas – perhaps in the military. The aforementioned oil rig scenario is quite common.
  • They always ask for money at some point and always have a sob story to explain why.
  • Their plans to visit you and meet in person are always derailed by an “emergency.”
  • They never, ever have their camera on during a chat.

How To Avoid Being Scammed

  • Never agree to accept money from someone on the proviso that you forward it on to someone else.
  • Never open a bank account on their behalf.
  • Never agree to accept goods from online stores and then send them to the scammer.
  • Never send compromising photos of yourself to anyone you haven’t met in person.
  • Make your social media pages private so only your friends can see them.
  • Never accept a friend request from someone you don’t know.
  • Hide your contact and other personal information on all your social media platforms.
  • Never give anyone any personal information unless you know and trust them.

If you think you’ve been the victim of a scam, please contact the SAPS or Hawks.

And please be careful out there.