Entered in the dictionary of Petit Robert, the “grazers” at the height of glory | #datingscams | #lovescams | #facebookscams

The “brouteurs” now have a place in the French dictionary. For twenty years, they have implemented a veritable system of online scams.

“Scammer who tricks his victims on the Internet”. The 2023 edition of Petit Robert honors the “grazer”. For web specialists, the concept has been known for many years. And if the press attributes the origin of the term to the Ivorian series “Brouteur.com”, broadcast for almost ten years on TV5 Monde, it actually dates from the beginning of the 2000s. The “brouteur” who acts on the internet would thus have was designated “in reference to the sheep, which feeds without effort”, already indicated Le Figaro in 2013. Already at the time, the business was flourishing: the “grazers”, in 2010, had succeeded in pocketing more than 20 million euros.

Born in Côte d’Ivoire, the “grazers” have given local authorities a hard time. In 2011, the Ivorian Ministry of the Interior wanted to put an end to this practice by creating a special cell to fight against cybercrime. But without real results. So much so that the practice has spread to the rest of Africa, and in particular to Nigeria, the new cradle of “grazing”.

Even Interpol is concerned about this practice. It must be said that reports show a proliferation of online scams. In 2012, the National Observatory of Delinquency and Criminal Responses (ONDRP) indicated in a report that “Black Africa (…) is developing a real culture of online scams”. But the “grazers”, unlike other cyber-scammers, use a particularity to achieve their ends: empathy. And for some, it’s love that earns them hundreds, even thousands, of dollars. Of the “romance scams” which are more and more numerous.

Complaints not followed up

“To arouse empathy and adhesion, the cybercrooks also mobilize a pathology present in the daily life of the populations of the North: the theme of cancer nevertheless reveals one of the flaws in the plot. At times, the grazers lose control of the game of mirrors and no longer show dying French people, but African patients, struggling with care difficulties. Under the well-established meshes of the swindle, arise true stories of oneself and one’s own”, summarizes Nahema Hanafi, lecturer in modern and contemporary history at the University of Angers.

One of the characteristics of “grazing” is also its ability to adapt to technical developments. In the past, scams took place via e-mail. Then Facebook and Messenger became the playgrounds of “grazers”. The usual channels then evolved: Twitter or Snapchat, platforms that have become popular, have therefore been taken over by “grazers” who are now everywhere.

And above all, they very often slip through the cracks. In France, a majority of complaints remain unanswered, despite the work of associations that try to do prevention. As for the profile of the victims, it is often the same: single or divorced people, whose age is approaching sixty, who are generally flattered to be approached by young women and men in search of love.

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