Documentary Investigates Romance Scammers in Ghana

A documentary film has been released which observes how Ghanain online dating scammers work to extract money from lonely Westerners.

Sakawa takes it name from the word that was coined to describe illegal activities which combine internet fraud with traditional African rituals. Director Ben Asamoah explained that Ghana is a very religious country, so people will often practise voodoo to bring them luck in whatever they do.

The film mainly focuses on the fraudsters, and tells the story of how a lack of infrastructure and job opportunities in Ghana led to its citizens turning to crime to support themselves.

Asamoah said that he found more than 50% of young people making a living out of romance fraud and dedicating all of their time to pursuing victims.

He told the BBC: “They go on dating websites and try to look for a person who is looking for love or, in some cases, lust and engage in a conversation and try to build up a sort of relationship which could take a couple of weeks.

“They invest a lot of time in trying to convince the person about their true intentions. So it is a tedious process to gain money.”

Ghana has become a dumping ground for electronic waste and hardware from the west. Old hard drives are harvested to withdraw valuable information and pictures in order to make the fake profiles more believable.

A BBC Panorama episode interviewed several victims and tracked down one of the scammers to an area in Nigeria.

The Federal Trade Commission revealed that Americans had lost a total of $143 million to romance fraud during 2018.

Watch the interview with Asamoah here.