To a European audience, it may seem obvious that this is a scam. But many Iraqis are apparently falling for it anyway.
Some of the potential buyers – people like al-Halaq – believe the money that is on offer is probably stolen, with the serial numbers noted by international criminal agencies.
But they don’t care. They still hope it could be a get-rich-quick scheme for them. In Iraq, it would be easy to launder the money, spending it on a car or even taking it to unofficial currency exchange shops that line most Iraqi city streets. The lack of enforcement of regulations for small amounts of money like this mean the average person on the street could probably get away with this, undetected.
Other Iraqis familiar with the Facebook advertisements say the whole thing is a swindle. The fraudsters convince unwitting victims to transfer the money for the exchange but then never send the foreign cash. Some Iraqis have apparently even travelled to Jordan or Lebanon to try and pick up the cash in person but they too have returned with nothing for their troubles.
These online scams have always been around, says one Baghdad local, but recently they have been becoming more professional, targeted and therefore more widespread. Over the past two months, it’s become clear that this could be a major new criminal problem for Iraqi authorities. “A lot of Iraqis are naive about these things,” says the Baghdad man.