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 Friday, 17 January, 2003, 11:18 GMT
From Russia with love scam foiled
The student doctor needed cash

A Cameroonian student doctor is under police custody in Russia after being arrested for running an internet scam.

He duped several men into giving him money by posing through the internet as a Russian beauty looking for love.

The 28-year-old man, studying medicine at the St Petersburg Paediatric Academy, has now been arrested and faces up to six years in a Russian jail if convicted.

Reports on the internet picked up by the local press say the student copied a photograph of a Russian beauty in a magazine and posted it on the net claiming she wanted love and marriage.

No show

Some men, mostly British, fell for the fake Russian beauty and after a couple of e-mails began sending her money.

He/She even asked some of her British suitors to send her money to process a visa so as to travel to Britain and meet them.

Mouse with hand
British men were fooled into parting with cash
After a long wait for the girl, who never arrived, one of the men reported the matter to the Russian police.

Police investigations found out the Russian beauty queen was in fact a bulky male Cameroonian student.

Reaction

The case has generated a lot of interest here in Cameroon on internet romances.

To avoid the grinding poverty at home dozens of Cameroonian girls have married and travelled abroad with men they met on the internet.

It is not clear how successful these internet marriages have been but there have been stories of some men abandoning the girls after just a few weeks after weddings.

Reactions here in Bamenda, the home town of the student doctor, have been mixed.

While some people say the case has again tarnished the already battered image of the country, some say the student was just trying to survive the harsh economic situation in Russia.

Have you fallen victim to a web scam like this? Here are some of your thoughts and experiences.

I appeal to those who have money to spend on "cyber beauty queens" to rather give out scholarships to people like the Cameroonian.

Emem Koffi, Nigeria

As long as there are stupid people around there will be cleverer ones waiting to take advantage of them. As far as the human race is concerned it's a kind of natural law.
Richard Hince, UK

This really is amusing to the point of screaming. My first reaction after reading this article was: Why detain someone because a few clowns decided to sit on their brains?

You don't need even a first grader's brains to know that you don't part with money without any form of guarantee, worst of all on the internet.

I truly see no reason why this student is being detained. Worse means have been used to steal wealth from people before - for example, the chopping off of people's hands when they did not bring enough rubber in the days of the Belgians in Congo - yet no-one was or is being detained for that.
Hilda Manka, Cameroonian

Yes, I did send money for a girl in Azerbaijan and she also told me that she must travel to apply for a visa. She asked me to send her $1,000 and I was a fool to send it. I also met a Russian girl. She visited me and then went back to finish her studies.
Rudolph, South Africa

I would like to post a happier message. I met my Cameroonian wife via the internet over two years ago. We got married in Cameroon the same year and we have been living together happily ever since. The net is unequalled in its capacity to bring together people who otherwise would never have met. Unfortunately, it also offers unrivalled opportunities for deception, but anyone looking for love on the web should take that into account. The people falling for the beauty queen scam should have used their common sense.
Paaskynen, Finland

People really have to learn not to trust everything they see on the internet. For example, I keep on getting spam e-mails about 'persecuted relatives of deposed leaders in Africa' offering to share their millions with me if... Naturally, it is a scam, but to my amazement some people have to fall for it, or else the spam would not be so widespread.
Roman Lajciak, Bratislava, Slovakia

I agree with Roman Lajciak from Slovakia. A few days back, I was getting the same kind of emails: "Deposed leaders in Africa, offering to share their millions with me if...!" The only thing we can learn from these things is DON'T TRUST ANYONE ON INTERNET.
Shoyeab, India

I myself do not believe in internet romances but I think the people involved in this story got what they asked for. When getting involved over the internet you have to expect that just about everything is a lie because you have no proof to begin with. How could they send money to someone they did not know personally? That's outright stupid. Sad but true folks.
Iris, USA

See also:

08 Oct 02 | Business
22 May 02 | Business
16 Aug 02 | Africa
23 Apr 02 | Africa
13 Sep 02 | Technology
24 Mar 00 | Business
Links to more Africa stories are at the foot of the page.


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