Friday, October 23, 2009

Learning the Hard Way

I was checking mail in a little used, secondary account, and noticed something in the 'Spam' folder. Since these can sometimes be legitimate emails I took a look. The subject line read: "DEAR FRIEND CAN I TRUST YOU".  I don't know about you, but when a stranger says that to me, I start verifying the location of my wallet and look for available exits! All I could do was roll my eyes. This all but screamed out 'SCAM', but curiosity as to the content of the message convinced me to open it. It was, essentially the same scam that has become famous, or infamous if you like, for many years and referred to as the 'African Bank Transfer Fraud' or 'West African Scam', among other names.

It's really an amusing read. You have the bits of French mixed in, such as the date: "jeudi 22 octobre 2009," to give it that old colonial flavor. There is the slightly broken english, to indicate it's this person's second language. There is the vaguely plausible tragedy that leaves $14 Million unclaimed. The financial bit is of course, wildly implausible, but he states that he is "a banker by profession in BURKINA-FASO, WEST AFRICA and currently holding the post of manager in account and auditing department in our bank." So I guess he's trustworthy, right? He offers a 60/40 split of the money with you, which makes sense. After all, he's making the offer, he should get the larger share. Only fair. And all he's asking is for some fairly simple information. Full name, Age and Sex, Contact Address, Telephone & Fax number and your Country of Origin. See, not even asking for any financial info!

My first thought, after laughing for a bit, was to wonder why this scam was still pinging around the internet? One site I found claimed that losses to this scam approach a Million dollars a day in the US. This family of scams has been around for years. It's hard to imagine anyone who hasn't gotten at least one of these emails at some point. And yet the scam continues. This can only mean that, every once in a while, someone is actually responding. As incredible as that is for me to believe, it's the only explanation I can come up with.

So who are these shrubs that take this seriously? I don't mean to sound cruel, but if you are gullible enough to fall for this kind of ham-handed scam, then you are in serious need of a reality check. I can cut slack for an individual who is mentally challenged in some way, but for the vast majority of people there is no excuse. This isn't about being generally trusting or skeptical. This is about engaging your intellect beyond the idle setting. It doesn't require a PH.D in international finance to recognize how ridiculous this offer is. A banker in a West African country wants to split $14 Million with you? Really? And it makes sense that he picked YOU out of billions of other people around the world? And it doesn't strike you at all odd that he doesn't just keep all $14 Million for himself? If he can keep 60% of it, why not the whole thing?

What it all comes down to, is that sometimes the only way for a person to learn is to get burned. I would like to believe that people wouldn't be taken in by something like this, but obviously some are. So all I can say is, while I hope nobody loses serious amounts of money, if that's what it takes to learn to think first, then that's what has to happen. I certainly don't advocate looking at life and assuming that everyone is out to get you, but you have to keep your wits about you. Especially with the plethora of internet scams loose in the wild. When a stranger, or someone you barely know, offers you something wonderful, it's time to step back and think. As the saying goes, if something looks too good to be true, it probably is.

1 comment:

  1. Ah, it would seem that if one needed to learn this lesson, that this kind of thing would be just the ticket. And perhaps falling for it once would be enough.


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