Living with credit, Protecting yourself

Nigeria and Ghana’s dangerous love of credit cards

Emily Crone

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.

regional_credit_card_interest.jpgWhat 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:
1)    Credit card fraud from Ghana/Nigeria.
2)    Credit card fraud from Ghana/Nigeria.
3)    Online Scam Warning — Nigeria, Ghana and Philippines.
4)    Ecobank Visa Gold Cedi Credit Card. First in Ghana.
5) – View topic – IP Relay Scams/Originating from Nigeria, Ghana.

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.

Have you ever been victim of a credit card scam in Africa?

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  • H. Okoronkwo

    Your ignorance is very reassuring to the public. Nigeria’s Financial Industry is one of the fastest growing in the world. The fact that Nigeria and Ghana appear on the top five list of “credit card searches” — whatever that means — is probably a reflection of that fact.
    Nigerian scams actually rarely use credit cards as a method in their activities. They prefer other untraceable methods.
    Do not use your ignorance of the financial sector in Africa to espouse further ignorance on the part of your fellow Americans.

  • H.,
    My views are based on facts. Please see the following links to the U.S. State Department:
    The department says Nigeria is still a cash economy, and due to rampant credit card fraud, using plastic there is discouraged. It also says use of credit cards in Ghana should be avoided due to so many travelers being victimized by credit card fraud.
    Thanks for reading,

  • Kwame

    Nothing good has ever been written about Africa. Just go down there and see for yourself how fast these 2 countries you mentioned as impoverished are growing economically. In Ghana, there are banks coming up at each corner your turn. The Ghana cedi is slightly stronger than the dollar. That is not to say it’s still not a developing country. But you see, Africa has been stereotyped for far too long and I don’t think that is fair. A civil war erupts in one African country and to the media, the whole of Africa is in turmoil. It is as if everything is orchestrated to drive peoples negative perception about the beautiful continent. The above article can’t be deemed fair. Certainly not. Not when fraud happens in all parts of the world. These 2 countries are not the only place that fraud takes place and your picking on them makes your agenda all too clear.

  • abdi

    credit cards are new in nigeria and ghana.that is the reason you have high interest in this two assume that over 130million nigerians
    are interested in fraud is showing how stereotypical your mind set is.fraud happens everywhere,and it is more in US,UK than it is in ghana and don’t assume search in US and UK to be fraud related but assume ghana and NIGERIAN searches to be fraud related.

  • an african bushman

    Even if there are scammers researching scam opportunities among that number, credit cards are still a relatively recent addition to the Nigerian economy (2 yrs or so if I remember correctly), so it’s not surprising that Nigeria is showing up at the top of the list.
    I know next to nothing about the Ghanaian economy but if I lived in a cash economy and was offered a piece of plastic to use instead of money, I would research the hell out of it too. After all, how am I supposed to make sure the credit company isn’t trying to scam me?

  • anonymous African

    Miss Gerson,
    Your views are poorly researched and outdated.Credit card application is on an exponential surge in these countries;as their economies grow and financial sectors florish.The state department data is frightening !!! America is in trouble if these are the people you all are paying taxpayers money to advise you.their views are so skewed.

  • Nigerian in the UK

    ‘Impoverished’ Bet you’ve not been to Africa or Ghana. Scams.. the whole of the UK and US were built on the exploitation of Africans, who’s the scam artist? I hate fraud but this lady should think twice.. you are biased, like most of the western media.

  • Online Merchant

    I would just like to add to your conversation, that I AM A VICTIM of credit card scams on my online store. In the past 2 weeks, I’ve received over 20 orders from IP addresses from India, Ghana, and Nigeria. All orders have fake email addresses and phone numbers. Some of the names and addresses are used on multiple orders. Some with the same name but different address. Before I realized I need to check the IP addresses of these orders, I lost about $1500 in merchandise. None of these sales were used with a legit credit card. I have proof that the sales were in these foreign countries…the IP ADDRESS. I am new online merchant and it sickens me on how big of a problem this is. I have not had one fraudulent U.S. transaction. What’s funny is even after canceling my credit card processing account, these moronic fraudsters still attempt to buy items from my store with the same name! I don’t need to country bash because I know where the people are located when they are placing orders!

  • tommie

    this just shows are stupid and ignorant some people can be. nigeria and ghana has one of the fastest growing economies in the world, and did it ever occur to u that if people see credit cards for the first time, they would want to know whats its about…….i am so sick of the way the media portrays africa.

  • Nosa Obaseki

    I am still at a loss as to how you arrived at your preposterous claim that two impoverished countries could be leading the world in credit card scams. I read the report by your state department – presumably the same one that declared there where WMD’s in Iraq, but whose views you and your hypnotized American public still hold in high regard – but could not find anything to support your claim other than ‘Scams are often initiated through internet cafes……or can involve credit card’. That tenuous statement and your questionable Google search somehow translated to Nigeria and Ghana being the leaders in credit card scam. Yes, there are a few internet scammers in Nigeria, I concede that much. But like most respondents have said, it is NOT through the credit card.
    I have, in the past few months conducted searches on how to make online purchases with the credit card LEGITIMATELY need I add. Could that not have contributed to the results you alleged to have obtained from Google?

  • anonymous

    nigerian are not as discribed, there are some corrupt ones who will hack your credit card,and also many guys are out there in USA, Great Britain and many more who are even worst than these guys

  • Ben

    I am very surprised at the level of ignorance demonstrated by this article. I am a former “Citibanker”, where i worked in the Credit Cards unit of their Global Consumer Group for 2.5 years. I have since relocated to Africa working in Ghana and Nigeria in the cards industry. I am surprised the article didn’t touch on how innovation and payment platform usage is growing in Africa, with its attendant growth in the need for cards, but rather a hasty generalisation and conclusion that high searches on credit cards is primarily for fraudulent purposes. These economies are growing very fast and the nascent cards industry is growing very fast both in Ghana and Nigeria, which could be a justification for the searches. I will quote Okornkwo and advise that you avoid using your ignorance of the financial sector in Africa to espouse further ignorance on the part of your fellow Americans.

  • Pam

    I work for a company that publishes books. We have international sales from many countries outside the US. 99% of the orders we’ve had from African countries were fraudulent. After processing the order and shipping the books to a location in Nigeria or Benin or Ghana, we received chargebacks from the bank for the credit card stating is was fraud. 100% of our orders from other countries have been legitimate with no payment problems. This is not my opinion or bias, it is simply fact. My company no longer accepts credit card orders from anyone in Africa. It is sad, but unfortunately necessary to protect our assets.

  • david uwaifo

    well thank you guys for educating that big ignorant of a lady ,statistic shows that there are more then two hundred and fifthy thousnad credit card fruid in the USA every year and is the highest in the world .so why dont she write about that all is it the case of if america did it is not a crime

  • Jim West

    The bottom line is the African continent is burning itself through these credit-card scams, and NO ONE is going to deal with them before too long.
    Don’t like it? Too bad then. It is what it is, and all the quotes from this or that doesn’t change the FACT that less and less people are dealing with others from those areas, period.

  • Jamie Jones

    GET REAL PEOPLE!!! She is only doing her job, I work for an online company that places orders via the internet. EVERYDAY we get people that are from Ghana that want to place an order using a different billing address & a different shipping address. It is real, nobody is “picking” on anyone, grow up & face it, they are scammers without a conscience. Perhaps you will feel differently when it is YOUR card they are using!!

  • Candace

    We take online orders to and 95% of the orders are bogus from both Ghana and Nigeria. We now have a full process for reviewing orders from these locations to ensure they are not bogus as yes, we do understand that not everyone there is a criminal.
    There is just more rampant unchecked fraud within these two locations that are not properly caught and punished for their crimes. Once these countries evolve to the point of being able to catch these criminals that are taking the business away from these countries. Once more people within the countries are educated with the knowledge on how to combat this, the faster these countries will evolve.

  • Jay

    In my line of business I see these credit card scams from Accra, Ghana every day. The best method I have found for prevention is an IP trace. Every scam order I have found has been from an IP in Ghana. Hope this helps.

  • Seyi

    Not all ip address discrepancies are frauds. Some U.S. services charge africans for using U.S. Virtual billing addresses which would naturally conflict with i.p.
    Aren’t such U.S. Services fraudulent too then?

  • Blizjshaw

    I CANNOT believe you called those countries ‘impoverished’. You writing that says a lot about your character and knowledge of those places. Before you wrote this, you did very, very little research of this subject.
    Also, people, if media faced the fact that the United States is the world leader for credit card fraud/scams, researchers would find some way to attribute it to the AFRICAN descendants. Instead, they would concentrate on the minority groups rather than people like Bernie Madoff and Marc Dreier who SCAMMED more than $50 billion and $27 million, respectively, more than what Ghanaian or Nigerians may have ever “scammed.”
    End of discussion!

  • Jorj93

    I am a Ghanaian living in the US. I got to this site because I was looking for a way of purchasing an item in the US by a friend in Ghana. Wiring the money to me has almost been impossible due to requirements and charges. I therefore made a search if it would be possible to obtain a credit card from a bank in Ghana to help him buy it direct from there.
    Would my search not help in thinking that Ghanaians are looking for credit card? Is it bad?
    There’s a negative on my credit score because I could not have the opportunity to pay online $19 to a store in the US when I went to Ghana. Their website was blocked because of “fraud”. Remember there are scammers in the US too.

    • Steve Roach

      There is this person from Ghana, that had sent me something FedEx, now they want me to send it back to them. Am I being scammed? It’s a cell phone.

  • Rtruth

    I think we all have to grow up. sorry guys. no offense. But Please don’t blame the lady for what she post, when one say something and you believe is wrong please also research on the actual fact before condemning or commenting on her view.
    Sorry Emily, but you have to know when you comment about a country you are passing your view over millions of people. and you have to research more before bringing out fact.
    Below are actual fact from Financial Fraud UK.
    this is an actual research not biased or based on search.
    It is recorded since 2001 – 2011 UK have recorded as the most fraudulent activity occurance than the whole abroad combined.
    Please check the reports here.We are all learning
    And here are TOP 5 Countries in the world for fraud.
    Please tell me if you see an African country in it. 2008 – 2011 I am not an african but upon reading what most of what the Africans said. It sounds like is through. “Blame the African”
    Another conclusive report made by IC3, Report by Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C)
    View TOP 10 countries on page 9. The only African country is South Africa which is on the 7th. Top 3 is US, UK and Canada.
    I Think you own the Ghanaians and Nigerians an Apology.

  • reuben

    You sound very stupid and foolish calling two whole countries impoverished. You must be a beast in human clothing.

  • Michael

    The western world have always blamed the Africans for everything! you made africans to sleep with dogs to acquire AIDS now you spread EBOLA to us and tell us that you will find the VACCINES for us, you came to our countries STOLE our GOLD to build your Economies and even still ruled us from there after giving us the independence.

  • Shawn Graham

    Someone tried to get credit card information from me to get their pension check going.