The American Picker Scam

Aun Collective
5 min readAug 22, 2023

Or How An Increasing Number of Westerners are Scamming the Scammers (Or So They Believe)

Monetary transactions, even those with complete legitimacy, occuring between a Western nation and the typical African nation always feel at least slightly unclean. When dealing with Nigeria specifically, it’s a nightmare to try to convert paper USD in America to paper naira in the hands of a Nigerian friend. Can’t just buy naira as a relative nobody who is an outsider. Wire transfers aren’t always guaranteed. MTN Mobile Money doesn’t work as streamlined as other nations (i.e. Ghana). Cashapp, Paypal, Chime, Venmo, and a plethora of other fintool applications just aren’t available to Nigerians. If you are a young adult in America sending money to a young adult in Nigeria, chances are you’ll be sending BTC. The Nigerian will sell the BTC to some other semi-random Nigerian who is offering vendor services. Rates aren’t static and there’s nothing preventing a vendor from taking your BTC and leaving.

Many of these transactions from America to Nigeria are questionable. Some are fraudulent. How does the fraud typically work?

A Nigerian or other individual (who we’ll refer to as “owner” given it will be the term used to describe the person who is believed to own the criminal proceeds) implements a scam targetting a variety of individuals in wealthier countries. The ones who take the bait for the scam are referred to as clients. For this example, the scam is a rental scam where the owner is trying to collect a $1000 deposit for a property they don’t actually own. Client is the first American to be willing to pay the security deposit. How will client pay owner?

In many cases, the client and owner do not share anything in common for sharing money that will also adhere to the owner’s requirement of obfuscating their identity. In many cases, the owner doesn’t even have anyone who can provide them readily available access to tools like Cashapp or Zelle. The owner must seek out a vendor.

A vendor agrees to broker the transaction for a specific rate. For the case above, the rate will be assumed to be 600 naira per $1 USD to be paid to the owner. The remainder will cover platform fees and pay the vendor. If we take the rate of naira to USD as being 750 naira to $1 USD, the owner will be expecting at least the equivalent of about $800 USD (600k naira) from the vendor. Per the unofficial hustler code of ethics in…

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Aun Collective

We are a game preservationist, archivist, design and writing collective, focusing on multiplayer and massively multiplayer games. Also music preservation!