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The scam works because some tourists do come Accra to pay money for sex, and because some of these folks stay at nice hotels. I was thinking about this story because Global Voices ran a fantastic piece on a disturbing new phenomenon happening online in Ghana and Kenya — gay personal ads designed to recruit robbery and kidnapping victims.
A website for gay and lesbian traveller to Ghana, quoted in the story, explains that this has become a lucrative business for internet scammers:. On the Internet, anybody can be anything, so you really do not know who you are chatting with.
Some scams focus on building online relationships, then asking for money for help in an emergency. Others try to entice foreigners to Ghana, engage in sex with their victims, then call the police, sometimes presenting the used condoms as evidence — the scammer might ask the victim for a payment to avoid police involvement, or might share the bribe provided to the police. As Haute Haiku suggests in the post on Global Voices, this type of scam is particularly likely to ensare gay people who are just coming out and trying to discover the gay scene.
A number of websites discuss this phenomenon in Ghana and Kenya and offer worthwhile, practical advice. Other take a more direct approach — Fakers2Go offers a photo gallery and profiles of men believed to be scammers posting their profiles on gay dating sites, and asks anyone else victimized to post information on the website as well. It strikes me that this story can be read either as an extremely depressing narrative about how human beings treat one another over the Internet, or as a testament to the power of virtual communities.
Imagine if eBay had begun without a feedback mechanism and a community, say of record collectors, began monitoring bad trades and developing a website to identify scammers. Is this a mostly satisfactory transaction? A completely bad one? Disagreement on condition between buyer and seller or a form of fraud? A community based rating system might address these issues…. What would be more disappointing — but certainly possible — is dating sites eliminating profiles from Kenya and Ghana in the hopes of protecting people from scams at the expense of actual gay individuals in these countries looking to meet people.