I received my first offer of access to fabulous African wealth back in the early ’90’s. It came as a type-written letter. Born a sceptic, I contacted the RCMP (the Mounties) and sent the letter along to them. Over the course of the next few years, I semi-regularly was the recipient of offers from "the son of the late [insert dead African dictator here]" to a "finders fee" or "10%" of 45 or 25 or 15 million US dollars if I could just help them move their ill-gotten gains out of [insert corrupt African country here]. Tim Berners-Lee‘s creation of mass access to the internet provided a less expensive way to transmit their "gullibility hooks." (No postage required.)
Today, I get about 10 of these a week.
MISS. JULIANA MANETI
8TH MAY, 2006
You may be surprised to receive this letter from me since you don’t know me personally. I am Miss Juliana Maneti,the eldest daughter of Late Patrick Maneti,who was mudered recently in a land dispute in Zimbabwe.Some details will be found on(http://newsimg.bbc.co.uk/1/low/world/africa/1530075.stm)
I got your contact through an internet trade journal here in Italy and I decided to contact you as a matter of fact.I did not know your person but I relied on faith to see me through.
My spam filter, Spam Sieve, discards them with ease. I didn’t really believe that people could be sucked into these scams. I was very wrong. Jordan Cooper pointed out this New Yorker story of ordained pastor and Christian psychotherapist, John Worley who got sucked into the Nigerian 419 Scam vortex. The outcome: two years in prison and the required restitution of over half a million dollars. And the saddest part of the story:
Despite everything, he insisted that he still believed he had been dealing with the real Maryam and Mohammed Abacha. “I think they were legitimately trying to use me and my resources to get their funds out of Nigeria into a safe place where they could have access to them,” he said. Worley wasn’t sure whom to blame for the bad checks, though Nduka was suspect. “Somehow there was a buyoff, a payoff, or something that went on there, and then it got switched to the point where I was then dealing with fraudsters,” he said.
When I asked Worley what he wished he had done differently, he didn’t answer directly. Instead, he spoke about hoping that the Abachas would get back in touch with him. However, before they could resume work on the multimillion-dollar transfer, he expected them to send the six hundred thousand dollars that he needs for restitution.
“What if they sent you a check?” Barbara demanded. “Would you put it in the bank to see if it cleared again?”
“John!” she said.
“I don’t know,” Worley said finally, sounding defeated. “I have to have time to think about what I would do in that situation.”
“My husband is naïve,” she explained to me. “He trusts people.”
Was it Barnum or Bailey who said* that there’s "a sucker born every minute?" One rarely expects them to show up in the guise of a renowned psychotherapist…but they do.
*(It was actually David Hannum making a false statement about PT Barnum.)