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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Scammers: A Love Story

The following is a cautionary tale. This is a True Story and I am only changing a few identifying facts about the people involved, in order to protect their identities. This is not an email I got and am mindlessly reposting. I tried to find anything about it on Scopes, but wasn't able to. About the scammer in question, I change nothing!

A good friend of mine was recently involved with a scammer, and it came as something of a surprise to her, and I'd like to share her story. This friend of mine is a good friend, we talk on the phone a couple times a week, in brief snatches between tending to our children (we both have children under the age of 5). Conversations are often disjointed and picked up and carried on at a later date. We don't live in the same part of the country, and we only see each other about once a year. We email very short emails and pictures of the kids, but we don't send long emails catching up on our daily lives. While I seem to spend my entire life online, my friend is somewhat less of a computer addict. Email and IM have come late to her life, and blogs are not something she reads. She rarely makes online purchases and is not part of any social networking sites. I have known her my entire life.

A year or so ago, my friend (let's call her "M") ended her long term relationship. The town she lives in does not have many promising bachelors, so she signed up for a couple of online dating sites. Now, I'm no stranger to people falling in love online. I don't find it creepy or scary or wierd or dangerous. I think people should be cautious, but I think people should be cautious in ANY new relationship. Anyway, due to M's background and education, she was drawn to one particular fellow who was mute. This is not an problem to M, they could still communicate, just not by phone. He lived about 3 hours from her but M wasn't rushing things and wasn't in a hurry to meet. They exchanged pictures, which she sent to me, and he was pretty average looking. They started to correspond almost 2 months ago.

This guy's letters (I know, let's call him SCAMMER) we're occasionally hard to read, disjointed, and full of overblown romantic crap. Some people (M) like that though, so whatever. She said his IMs were much more ordinary. They talked about his job (construction, I think), his car (a Nissan), his kid, how their days went, etc. They had normal getting-to-know-you conversations. They occasionally texted from their cell phones.

Now, in addition to being mute from birth, SCAMMER apparently had been married. His wife had been a social worker (I think) and had died while they were on a mission to Africa. Their son had stayed in Africa (I want to say Kenya, but I am not certain) because he was in a boarding school there and wanted to graduate from it. (Yes, this should have rang some alarms, it didn't. M was hazy on the details and I assumed it was because SHE was hazy, not because it didn't make sense.) ANYWAY, 3 weeks or so ago, SCAMMER finds out his son was in an accident, and flies over to be with him. His guardian or whoever he was with there, says it's very serious, the son might not live. SCAMMER gets there a couple weeks ago and hands over his passport. And they refuse to give it back until he pays his sons medical bills.

Do you see where this is going? Cause this is where it clicked in for me. I was slow.

SCAMMER doesn't have access to his money. BUT! His friend does! BUT! his friend can't wire it over to him. SO, what if the friend writes M a check? and M deposits it into her account? and then WIRES THE MONEY TO SCAMMER. Even my internet dating novice of a friend saw the light at this point. She reported him to everyone she could think of (not that it'll do any good.) Having never done the Internet dating thing, it never even occurred to me to be cautious of THIS kind of problem. I was shocked that someone would invest this much time (2 months or so) and energy into bilking people out of their money. Perhaps it's super common, I just don't know, but I'm posting about it in case you have never heard of it either.

And next time, I'll pay more attention to what she's telling me about the guys she finds interesting.

Mute? or just don't want you to hear their real voice?
Kid in Africa without a parent? Really?
Overly romantic, somewhat confusing letters? Illiterate? or foreign?



  1. That's a scary story. I'm sure the guy was working more than one woman at the time.

  2. O that is super scary. I'm glad M had enough common sense though to figure it out. Wow. I agree with bermudaonion that it was probably a mass scam.

  3. Wow. That's quite an involved scam. And even more scary really than the one time e-mails from a stranger asking for help because the scammer actually worms his way into your life. Earns your trust. I am glad your friend didn't get taken in the end.


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