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Ghana: Treat unexpected business proposals with caution

The increasing rate of reported – and often unreported – business scams from Ghana and other African countries targeting Swiss companies and other foreign companies requires a more pragmatic approach toward sensitizing and educating the business community to understand the potential risks and possible financial losses. Some Swiss businesses have fallen victim to these scams, which could have been easily avoided if basic due diligence and precautions were taken.

Increasing rate of business scams in Ghana
Increasing rate of business scams in Ghana

Better information would contribute immensely to reducing the soaring rates of businesses that fall victim to these avoidable crimes. Furthermore, it is hoped that the private sector will begin to prevent the perpetration of these specific business scams through education and awareness, exercising extreme vigilance in their business dealings especially with unknown foreign businesses and individuals.

How it works

The modus operandi of scammers varies across different regions, businesses, institutions, and also depending on the individuals. However, recorded cases and experiences of scams aimed at foreign businesses from Africa and especially from Ghana usually have some common identifiable trends. The methods used for such scams can be diverse and subtle, but they are easily avoidable if one is aware of them. Here are some examples:

  • Fraudsters/scammers usually set up fake organizations and websites with a name that resembles one of the regional and economic integration blocs in Africa, or a division thereof, thus confusing unsuspecting businesses and individuals into thinking that they are one of these.
  • The fraudsters/scammers often pose as business facilitators or agents to intermediate a deal between you and these fake organizations. They often promise to give the targeted foreign businesses all the information they might need, and assistance that will enable them to do business in Ghana. To take it a step further, some scammers will present scenarios in which they have close relationships with the heads of these fake organizations and claim to be in privileged positions to influence decisions in your favor.
  • The scammer will solicit your interest in supplying certain products to the fake organizations – products that they already know your company manufactures or trades in (having looked you up online).
  • The fake agent or business facilitator (scammer) will ask you to purchase non-refundable tender forms that will enable you to participate in the tender process on the back of the initial promise that he will influence the final decision in the foreign business’s favor. Sometimes this stage is skipped.

What to do

After receiving such suspicious business proposals from Ghanaian companies or individuals who claim to act as business facilitators and agents, it is crucial to internally scrutinize the information contained therein. Additionally, the points below can be used as a guide to identify for yourself whether the company or individual is legitimate or not.

  • The business proposal involves a transaction amount that is unusually high for your business.
  • No technical details were discussed during the negotiations.
  • No information about the exact intent and purpose of the planned acquisition, or the end user of the products you are about to sell, has been communicated.
  • The counterpart’s bank account is registered under a personal name (in Ghana, it is required by law for all companies to have a bank account registered in the company’s name), or the counterpart requests the payment to be made via Western Union or another money transfer service.
  • The counterpart uses an email address that does not include its company name, but rather is a Yahoo, Hotmail, Gmail, or other email address from a free email provider.

How to proceed

If you are contacted by a Ghanaian company that was previously unknown to you, our recommendation is to never make a pre-payment until you have completely satisfied yourself that it is a genuine business. If the Ghanaian counterpart invites you to go to Ghana to sign a contract, we would suggest that you ask the Ghanaian counterpart to come to Switzerland to sign the contract instead. The incurred travel costs could be deducted from the first payment of the order. If there is no response to this proposal from the Ghanaian side, it is an obvious sign that there is no real interest in a legitimate business relationship.

For more information about unexpected business proposals, read the report in the download section.

Do you have any questions about Ghana? Contact our senior consultant for Africa, Suhail el Obeid. Contact now

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