Sunday, February 18, 2018

The persistent con artists

I recently had to confer with legal counsel and fellow columnist Martin Daly on one of those Internet rackets that I have frequently encountered in recent months. On his advice, I have shut down at least two persistent attempts at the grand con but this doesn’t seem to discourage others, who almost weekly send me these “sob’’ story messages, usually from Africa, and usually supported by a Rev Somebody or The Other.

The latest one came last week from a young lady who had originally written to me about her plight in a refugee camp in Senegal or was it Liberia? I’ve begun to lose track of the sob stories and their origins. But they all follow a familiar pattern.

Inevitably, these young women report their parents have been killed in outbreaks of some kind of civil war or simply been murdered.

Without fail, their fathers have left large sums of money in bank accounts in various far flung places and they request that I make contact with the bank in question, acting on their behalf, to help them recover the account, which they then offer to share with me.

Usually, these young women also send photographs of themselves to accompany their urgent pleas. And inevitably these are photographs of very attractive young women (an additional incentive, of course, to the con).

I have sent repeated “no thank you” messages in reply to these con artists. But one persistent young lady sent me a message last week saying that she had managed to find a partner in Paraguay, where she was now living, and had had her father’s money transferred to an account there.

In view, however, of my initial attempts to assist her (simply, I presume, by acknowledging her initial e-mail and informing her that I had no interest in pursuing her claims) she said she had left a cheque for me for some $400,000 with a Rev Emmanuel Paul in the African country which she had written from and if I would contact him, he would forward the cheque to me.

“Well,” I thought to myself. “This is a new angle. Let me see it through for what it’s worth,” a cheque for $400,000 being nothing to dismiss so easily in these lean times.

I had some initial difficulty making contact with Rev Paul. But when I informed the young lady of this, she sent him my e-mail address and he promptly wrote me, confirming that, yes, she had left him with a $400,000 cheque for me and if I would verify certain ID details, he would make the cheque available to me.

I could smell the rat a mile off but decided, for pure curiosity sake, let’s see where this goes.

So I provided Rev Paul with the basic details. And of course the next message from him was that I should send him US$200, by wire transfer, as this was required as “transfer charges” for the bank to forward the money to me.

At which point of course I informed Rev Paul that he would not be receiving a single cent from me.

After all, he could simply deduct the “transfer fees” from the original cheque and send me the balance.

His next message of course was—no transfer funds, no cheque.

Needless to say, had I been foolish enough to wire him US$200 I would never have heard from him again.

Friends have told me it is a familiar scheme, generally known as the Nigerian scam.

When next I replied to the dear Rev Paul, I suggested that it seemed to me he was trying to extract money from me under false pretences, whereupon he mounted a high horse and declared that since I was not prepared to send him the required “transfer funds”, I should stop writing to him.

At which point I wondered to what authority I could report such a scam so that not only would some action be taken to put a stop to it but also steps would be taken to bring the perpetrators to book.

For I can well imagine that any number of innocent victims might have fallen for this scam and wired the “transfer funds” to “Rev Paul”.

Take my word for it. The whole thing is an elaborate con, using the attractiveness of providing you with a large cheque payment if you would simply provide some basic “transfer fees”. Were you to make such an error, that would be the last you would hear of this transaction and you would have little or no means to recover your outlay of funds.