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Nigeria and Ghana's dangerous love of credit cards
Google has recently released a new tool called Insights for Search, which allows users to find out what others are searching for within any location in the world and within any time range, starting in 2004.
I just did a query for Google "credit cards" searches worldwide, from 2004 to present. In a graph showing interest over time, searches for credit cards have remained relatively steady over the last four years, though there has been a decrease starting in 2008. This is not surprising considering that consumers are cutting back on spending and there has been an increase in credit card delinquencies.
What is surprising, however, is the section on regional interest for credit cards. I expected the United Kingdom, India and the United States to top the list of places that search most for credit cards. They were on the list, but in spots three, four and five, respectively. Who took the top two spots? The West African nations of Ghana and Nigeria.
At first I was confused. There's no way these impoverished countries in a developing continent have a greater demand for credit cards than the U.S. or the U.K. Then I Googled "Nigeria Ghana credit cards" to see what's going on there that would make credit card searches so popular.
Here are the titles from my first five results:
Aha -- the huge amount of online activity involving credit cards in Ghana and Nigeria is not due to an increased interest in making purchases on plastic. It appears that these West African countries are hotbeds for credit card scams, and its criminals and con artists must be using the net to obtain cards to use in scams, to contact potential victims and/or learn new fraud techniques. We've all heard about the Nigerian Scam, though that scam generally involves badly spelled appeals to greed, not credit cards. It appears as payment technology has advanced, so have criminals. The neighboring countries of Ghana and Nigeria have been quick to utilize the Internet to propagate credit card scams.
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