Crime in Burkina Faso poses some measure of risk for visitors. Recent incidents of violent crime against visitors have included harassment, robbery, sexual assault, and rape. Non-violent crimes directed against visitors have been theft, burglary, and various confidence scams. Most reported incidents involve purse-snatchers, pickpockets, and street scam artists who target wallets, jewelry, cell phones, and other valuables. Thieves are especially active during international meetings or events which draw large crowds to the capital. The areas near and around the U.N. Circle, Avenue Kwame N’Krumah, and the Central Market in Ouagadougou experience the highest incidence of street crime. Travelers should stay alert, remain in groups, and avoid poorly lit areas. Be especially cautious at night when most reported incidents have taken place.
Although violent criminals typically operate at night, there have been daytime attacks. Several attacks have been directed at intercity public buses. U.S. citizen travelers should avoid all intercity and highway travel at night. It is best to check the Embassy website for the latest security information before setting out on your journey.
Perpetrators of business fraud often target foreigners, including U.S. citizens. Recent scams that have victimized U.S. citizens have taken many forms, including fraudulent transactions for gold and antiquities. Such fraud schemes are now prevalent throughout West Africa, including Burkina Faso. The scams pose a danger of both financial loss and physical harm. A typical indicator of a business scam is the demand for advance payments on contracts. Persons contemplating business deals in Burkina Faso should contact the commercial section of the U.S. Embassy in Ouagadougou if they have any doubts about the legitimacy of a potential business client or partner.
Normally, fraud schemes begin with an unsolicited communication (usually by e-mail) from an unknown individual who describes a situation that promises quick financial gain, often by assisting in the transfer of a large sum of money or gold dust out of the country. A series of "advance fees" must then be paid in order to conclude the transaction. In fact, the final payoff does not exist; the purpose of the scam is simply to collect the advance fees. Common variations of this scheme involve individuals claiming to be refugees, victims of various African conflicts, or former political leaders in need of help in transferring large sums of money. Sometimes perpetrators manage to induce victims to provide bank account and credit card information, and financial authorizations that allow them to incur large debts against the victim’s credit. In some instances, victims have lost their life savings.
The best way to avoid becoming a victim of advance-fee fraud is common sense. If a proposition looks too good to be true, it probably is. Research thoroughly any unsolicited business proposal originating from Burkina Faso or any other source before committing funds, providing goods or services, or undertaking travel.
Do not purchase counterfeit and pirated goods such as CDs, DVDs, or computer software even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal in the United States, but if purchased, you may also be breaking local law.
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