With more than 1 billion people online now, the future looks bright for the Internet. More conversations, more people sharing thoughts, information flows free over undersea cables. But you should also be more careful. The number of Trojan Horses, worms and scammers will multiply.
Lately, the social networks have fallen to pray to the Nigerian 419 scammers. Just last week I read about somebody who wired $150.000 to somebody he had never met. The fortune he was hoping to make never came, and the man is out of all his life savings. How stupid to fall for that easy trick.
Today, however, I read about a story of somebody's Facebook account was hacked, and the scammer convinced a "friend" to wire $900 to him as he was stranded in Londen. The guy found out the account was hacked due to the poor English the scammer used. Good for him.
But if you think about it, the GDP per capita in Nigeria is just over $1,200. The country is one of the poorest countries in the world, while there is a lot of oil coming from the platforms just off the coast and the in country wells. If a teenager can scam somebody for $900 from an Internet cafe, that is almost a year income earned! Let alone if you get lucky as a scammer, and get $150.000 wired over to you.
With just over 5% of Internet penetration (source: Internetworldstats.com), the African continent will play a big catch up game with other parts of the world. The usage growth of the Internet between 2000 & 2008 in Africa reached over 1,000%. What will happen if the Internet penetration will go from 5% to 10% to 25% to 50%. I hope a lot of good things will happen to the people in Africa. Free information flowing to make people in countries like Zimbabwe more aware of their corrupt government.
But with the growth in people online from poor countries, with success stories of scammers making its rounds over the continent, more desperate people will take their chances and try to scam somebody greedy enough for a couple hundred bucks.
Stay tuned and alert...
For some enjoyment, you can always visit the 419 Baiters website, where people have posted hilarious and sometimes embarrassing emails and pictures of the scammers they caught.