This article appeared in the Standard-Times of New Bedford, Massachusetts, on 1/7/05,
Page A13, Opinion; Copyright 2004 by Beth David

One has to wonder who falls for this?

From the moment I first read how Tom Sawyer conned his friends into whitewashing that fence, I've been a sucker for scams. Er...I mean, I'm fascinated by them. Ahem.

The best scams, of course, are the ones that are easy to fall for, and maybe aren't ever recognized as scams at all. Are you sure you got such a deal on that driveway sealer?

This fall, an article ran in The Standard-Times warning Fairhaven residents about a caller collecting money for the police association. Unfortunately, the collected money stayed with the caller.

I must admit to a twinge of embarrassment as I remembered giving to the Fairhaven something-or-other. Turns out it wasn't the same name as the scam. Phew! But if by chance I did give to a scam, please don't tell me. When it comes to scams, ignorance is bliss.

Technology has taken us from phone calls, to faxes, to spam (the Internet version of junk mail). And hence, the spam scam.

One of the more entertaining strains of spam scam is the Nigerian abandoned money. It disappears for awhile, and then reappears, each time with a slightly different back-story.

All of these e-mails use the same premise. There are millions of US dollars in a Nigerian bank account. The government is about to seize the unclaimed funds. The e-mailer is prohibited from collecting the money due to an insurmountable problem, so he's chosen me to do it, for some obscure reason. My favorite is that he knows I have money in a foreign bank account.

He needs me to pose as a relative of the deceased owner of the funds. All I have to do is e-mail back that I'm willing. Then we'll work out the details (which will, no doubt, require my Social Security number), and I'll get 20 percent of the take.

One of these gems is supposedly from the son of a mysteriously deceased dictator (who has been wrongly vilified in the press and so I shouldn't believe anything I read about him). The father's enemies are watching this son closely, so he can't go to the bank. Somehow, they don't know about his e-mail account.

I ask you: who falls for this stuff?

Another e-mail asks me to rescue $4 million that belonged to a man who was killed with his wife and only daughter in a plane crash. A link is provided to a Standard-Times article listing the victims of that flight so I can see our particular millionaire's name duly listed. No mention of the wife or daughter. Nice touch, though, using my local paper.

The largest amount in this latest batch is $26.5 million. I only need to send my full name and address. I'm assured that it's legitimate because the details are being handled by an attorney.

Another has a subject line in all capitals saying URGENT -- HELP ME DISTRIBUTE MY $15 MILLION TO CHARITY. I'm sure the sender really is a Nigerian who is dying from cancer. He doesn't trust his relatives with this money. But he trusts me. I can take as much as I want from the $15 million for my trouble. What a guy!

I ask you: who falls for this stuff? The latest con to reach my little office arrived by fax. I'm supposed to believe that this particular transmission was meant for a "Dr. Mitchell." The good doctor allegedly turned off his cell phone, and his financial planner has been trying to call for two hours with a hot stock tip.

The trade symbol is in big letters in several places on the fax. Of course this stock will "tripple" [sic] in price "just like the last stock" that the brilliant broker recommended.

I ask you: who falls for this stuff?


Beth David of Fairhaven is a freelance writer.
This story appeared on Page A13 of The Standard-Times on January 7, 2005.