Love, Janessa is a BBC World Service and the CBC seven-part podcast investigating probably the biggest romance scam ever. At its height, over 100,000 people were being scammed out of millions of Pounds.
Journalist Hannah Ajala hosts the podcast. The podcast tells the story of a porn star, Janessa Brazil, whose photos have repeatedly been used to scam people. Ajala talks to numerous victims who have been conned out of hundreds of thousands of pounds/dollars. Many of these victims maintain they spoke to the real porn star
As the program states, there was not just a handful of scammers using Janessa’s picture but hundreds. Janessa’s images were readily available on the internet and on her private porn site. At no time did the people scammed out of large amounts of money do an image search that would have immediately told them they were being taken for a ride.
During the podcast, it becomes apparent that this is not a very sophisticated scam. There’s a bit of sweet talk, everyday flirtation followed by demands for money, mainly car repairs, to mend a broken phone or hospital costs. As the con develops, the amount of money demanded grows larger. To be fooled by this deception, you must be either stupid, gullible, or both. Unfortunately, thousands of men have been fooled by this low-brow scam.
Apart from the real Janessa, (see left) the show’s star is Roberto, an eco-entrepreneur from Sardinia who reportedly handed over $250,000 to various scammers in Ghana. He is treated with utmost sympathy by the show’s host. Not once was his staggering level of stupidity challenged. Not content with handing over large amounts of money to scammers, he traveled the world waiting at airports hoping to meet the real Janessa, who would never turn up. Again at no point was this high-level delusion challenged, let alone condemned. Roberto was not the only person scammed to hop on a plane to look for the love of his life. A Nova Scotian divorcee got on a plane to Ghana to meet the man of her dreams,
Most scams connected to the porn star Janessa were based in either Nigeria or Ghana. The British journalist Hannah Ajala, currently based in Ghana, met and interviewed one of the many romance scammers, known locally as “Sakawa boys”.These scammers are professional criminals and are a major part of a billion-dollar industry. These Sakawa boys have multiple scams on the go at once, and they keep a spreadsheet to keep track of the lies he tells their victims. His wife and children know nothing of his work. Ajala treats these criminals with a courtesy they don’t deserve as if they were some kind of celebrity. The podcast’s conclusion is a bit of anti-climax as everybody lives happily ever after.