Digital Deception: A Multimodal Discourse Analysis of Online Financial Scams in Nigeria


African Humanities Program Dissertation Fellowships


Department of English Studies


This project focuses on linguistic/discourse analysis of deceptive communication enabled by computer-mediated communications (CMC). CMC include instant messaging, e-mails, chat rooms and text messaging. By their nature, CMCs are fast, conveniet and virtually free; and individuals can send messages anonymously. Hence, the Internet (e.g. websites and emails) have provided dynamic platforms for the perpetration and fostering of deception in the virtual sphere. Some previous researches on Nigerian email/419 fraud have focused on the different forms and linguistic features of Nigerian email financial scams (e.g Heyd, 2008; Chiluwa, 2009; Bloomaerts, 2005). The current study not only examines the linguistic and discourse structures of online deceptive discourses but also analyses the non-linguistic and semiotic modes of digital deceptive communication in the form of email frauds, financial scams including Ponzi schemes. The results will highlight some clues to identity of online fraudsters; analyse persuasive/rhetorical strategies of scammers, and suggest the means of detecting some very difficult scams as well as introduce an interdisciplinary approach to studying online scams .