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In a tiny flat in Ghana, in west Africa, an aspiring entrepreneur trawls Facebook for divorced and widowed women on the other side of the world.
The 27-year-old, who calls himself Kweiku, is searching for 'clients' — scammer parlance for victims who can be conned online into sending money.
For Kweiku, romance scams are a transaction, not a crime."A client is somebody, a business partner who brings you money, that's why you use the word client," he told Four Corners."Some are divorced and some — their husbands are now dead."Kweiku sells perfume on the streets of Ghana's capital, Accra, to maintain a meagre income between Western Union transfers from a woman he seduces online.
He poses as a US soldier called 'Johnny', an online persona built on stolen photos, fake ID and stock scripts with storylines about urgent emergencies that can be solved with cash."Sometimes I'm in Palestine, sometimes I'm in Iraq and we are helping keep peace in that country because there's a war going on," he said. I want somebody to be my lover, my fiance."Kweiku's current target is a Mexican widow in the US.
There are day-by-day formats for every scam: among the hundreds found by Four Corners were military formats, sick mother scripts, lotto formats, gay sex chat formats, sugar daddy formats and "trust and love" scripts.
It's been long since someone told her sweet things, you understand." In a packed internet cafe in a commercial town west of Accra, we find teenage boys and young men in front of every screen, logged in on dating sites under names like Jessica, Mary and Jennifer.
The teenagers, known in Ghana as 'cafe boys' or 'browsers', are searching for middle-aged and elderly men in the US, Australia and Canada, and luring them to chat on Google Hangouts.
Mohamed, 19, is exchanging messages online with a grey-haired man in Australia."Some of them can give you $US2,000, maybe you tell him you want $US5,000 or 5,000 pounds or ,000 Australian.""Wanna play now? "Wife is late home tonight, I will be here waiting for you.""He wants to play video cam with me to do fun, sex stuff and other things," Mohamed tells Four Corners."He shows me himself naked, full naked.
And I will make sure to make him happy, like he will fall in love with me."Mohamed tells Four Corners he has been doing this since he was 16 to make a living, or sometimes just to earn credit for his phone."Hi babe, just got home and have topped you up with 90 cedis ()," the Australian writes. cant wait for you to come on line."Each time they "play", Mohamed tells his targets his webcam is broken and instead sends videos of the woman he claims to be. I thought we were in the beginning of something long term."It's time for Mohamed to find a new client. With high youth unemployment and cheap internet, online fraud is booming."It's widespread," says Ghana Police cybercrime unit director Dr Herbert Gustav Yankson.
Nana Agradaa takes 100 cedis () a session from cafe boys to deliver them the power to manipulate their victims.