Swindler’s List

I’ve never understood how some people fall for scams that cause them to lose their hard earned money.

Long before it made local news, I would open business mail that came from a high-placed government official in Africa – most times from Nigeria – who needed to use my bank account to transfer excess money from the sale of equipment, jewelry, oil, or some other precious resource – and my reward would be a cut of the funds.

The more “honest” letter writers, or the ones who couldn’t be bothered to make up a story about where the funds came from, would just ask for the use of my bank account in which to place an obscene amount of money – and my reward would be a cut of the funds.

The only thing more annoying than the letter writer’s assumption about my stupidity and willingness to ignore the padded contracts, was the awful grammar, syntax and punctuation that was weaved throughout the correspondence. I’m no English teacher but I did consider making the corrections and sending the letter back.

I was reminded of this scam when I viewed a parody of these types of letters that a person was receiving via email. The person showed us (hilariously) how to get the letters to stop, and that’s when I realized that the scammers, not surprisingly, had moved on from paper letters to electronic mail. Unfortunately, the spelling’s still bad.

And that’s another thing I didn’t understand. Didn’t all those grammatical errors give the readers some pause? I mean, for that alone I wouldn’t give them any information. Suppose they didn’t transcribe it correctly? Then where would my promised money go?

A few weeks ago I received a call to my cell phone from a woman who told me that the package I ordered had arrived and that she needed to get my address which she should have had (emphasis mine) – to facilitate delivery. The grammar was good, but the accent was a dead giveaway.

What she didn’t know is that despite all the online shopping that’s taking place here, she picked the one person who hasn’t ordered anything in years. Nonetheless, I played along and asked her for the name on her delivery slip. She asked me to hold on, and I waited while she rustled a few papers, called out to someone who may or may not have been nearby, and murmured to herself. She attempted to invent some legitimacy by repeating my phone number, as if that was just what I needed to hear to give her more information.

She was unable to find a name and assured me that she would call me back.

I know. I should have put her out of her misery sooner.



Wrong Number

Image credit: prairieecothrifter.com
Image credit: prairieecothrifter.com

Recently I wrote about Google’s unfounded suspicion that I was a robot up to some harmful shenanigans. I didn’t take it personally because every other day we hear of businesses – large and small that have been hit by hackers. And every other day somebody on Facebook sends out an alert, warning their friends against accepting any new friend requests. 

A few years back I had to send out one of those “Sorry, it wasn’t me” notices to everyone in my address book when it came to my attention that somebody had been using my email account to send some pictures – or at least that’s what they said. I was mortified! Anybody who knew me would have known that I wouldn’t be the one sending any pictures via that medium and certainly not by prefacing it with the caption “Look at my pics”. 

Anyway, after sufficient time had passed I decided against changing my address since the damage had already been done, and although I had informed my contacts of this, some of them clearly didn’t want to take the chance and have not opened a single thing that I’ve sent since then.

I’ve grown quite fond of my smart phone, but now I’m inundated with messages from people I don’t know – although they act as If they know me. They start the “conversation” off with a “Hello dear”, which is probably designed to catch me off-guard, or to get me to respond with an “Excuse me, but how do I know you again?”

I once got a message from someone who introduced himself as the person who I met on the bus – except that I haven’t used that mode of transportation in years. I quickly put a block on that number because it was clear that the person who had been travelling on the bus didn’t want to talk to him. Unfortunately I was stuck with delivering the message she seemed unwilling (at the time) to send. 

Given these experiences, and with the thought of infiltration in the forefront of my mind I’m always wary of communication I receive from any number that I don’t recognize. Not long after the bus rider attempted to hook up with me, I got a series of texts from another unfamiliar number. Certain that it was an attempt to hijack my phone along with the racy photos that I’ve got stored up in the cloud, I was about to shut it down completely when the fourth and final message came in with a single word. “Sorry”. 

Maybe Google isn’t the only one who’s paranoid.