The ‘rube’ nickname might become permanent. Up until very recently, I never considered myself to be easily conned. But that hasn’t stopped the shysters from trying.
By now, I’m sure you’ve seen the emails. They have a sort of familiarity about them – not to mention setting your spider sense to tingling. Here is an example you may have seen in your inbox:
Your relative recently died and while settling his affairs, a bank account containing $678,000 American dollars was uncovered. As a barrister here in Lagos, Nigeria, I have been tasked by the courts to return this monies to a deceased relative’s heir. Please send $250 to the address at the bottom of this letter to cover the DHL shipment costs.
Eli Montambi III
court specified barrister
Recognize the swindle? This one started making the rounds to every email box in the U.S. back in 1993 when we all had AOL and dial-up modems. Through viral propagation, it is still going strong. Internet service providers are wise to this particular scam and automatically route it to your ‘junk’ mailbox. But, there are other, more enticing, traps being propagated by some of the same people. Here is a sample;
Salutations and Congratulations,
Your email address has been selected, at random, as the winner of the great prize of $500,000 in the Mecrosoffit lottery. No purchase was necessary to be entered in the drawing, however; there is a small delivery charge of $250 you must pay to receive your prize winnings. Please open the attachment and follow the instructions. You will need to provide your full legal name, address, home phone number and social security identification number for tax purposes. This is a limited time offer, and you must respond in the next 24-hours to claim your prize, or it will be forfeit. A package containing your prize of $500,00 will be sent to you immediately after we receive the delivery fee.
Mecrosoffit lottery prize committee chairman,
Oh sure, you say, ‘I didn’t fall off the cabbage wagon yesterday. I would never be tricked by such an obvious scam.’ But you wonder, ‘wouldn’t it be nice to have half a million dollars’. Actually, a number of Americans have fallen for these and similar frauds. So many so that a whole new hook-line has turned up. Here is one of the newer pitches;
Have you been a victim of internet fraud? Have you responded to fake emails offering thousands of dollars in prizes or inheritance, only to find that your bank account has been emptied, or your $250 delivery fee brought you an empty box from Nigeria? Recently, President Burok Obbama created a fund to distribute money, seized by the U.S. Customs and Revenue Department, to the victims of these scams. Please send us, at the United States Department of Fraud, your full legal name, address, home phone number, mother’s maiden name and bank account number so we can compensate you for your loss.
Under Secratary of the U.S. Dept. of Fraudt
Pretty clever, despite the misspellings. This scam netted its originators millions, all of which was stolen from the victim’s bank accounts. It is doubly tragic, since it victimizes the victims.
As they say on the infomercials, ‘But wait, there’s more’. A new scam is being perpetrated upon the American public. On the surface, it looks innocuous, since it does not promise vast riches, which is a hallmark of past schemes. It is a contest, ostensibly, and promises a modest $50 prize. Like all frauds, it relies on the gullibility of a specific group of normally savvy folks, like you and me. The catch with this scam is that you have to pay an entry fee, and you have to be a member of ‘the club’. This is how the scammers make their money. The annual membership fee is $20, and the contest entry fee is also $20. The scammers will take payment by certified check, debit card, or through pay pal. All three methods allow you little or no remedy to recover your cash outlay.
Here is how it works. The club, which I shall call only by its initials, O.W.F.I., sets itself up as an established, legitimate organization for people who like composing stories. They say they hold an annual contest where its members can enter literary compositions. Their website said I could pay the fees through pay pal, which is good, since my cards are getting close to their maximum. They also say; I can enter my stories on-line and avoid the cost of postage. Unfortunately, their on-line system doesn’t work. So I had the additional cost of $4.81 in postage. I sent printed copies of my 3 entries to the address specified on their website. I should be thankful O.W.F.I. didn’t require I send my package by DHL, and thus invoke a $250 courier fee.
I mailed my entries a few days before the contest deadline of February 1st. Everything was fine until this last Friday (Feb. 14th) when I found an envelope containing my 3 entries crammed into my curbside mailbox. No, I hadn’t won. I wasn’t allowed to enter. The envelope was, “REF– USED”. Of course, O.W.F.I. didn’t refuse my payment. O.W.F.I. emphatically expressed their refusal by plastering a rubber stamped, red-lettered sticker across their address. The contest organizers must be refusing a large number of entries; otherwise, they wouldn’t need a rubber stamp.
So, what was the reason for O.W.F.I.’s refusal? No explanation was given. The contest organizer never opened the envelope, or wrote an explanation on it before they sent it back. Surely, they could not have refused my entry because of the quality of my prose. I hear, entries are routinely rejected for using the wrong font and for printing on both sides of the paper. It appears the O.W.F.I. counts format over creative content. Perhaps I had used the wrong color of the envelope? A more likely explanation is that my name wasn’t on the list of the club’s elitist, self-indulgent, English majors. I had only joined 2 weeks before the contest deadline, and the mail screener may not have gotten an up-to-date list. I suspect the contest organizers could tell I wasn’t in their click by the non-calligraphic, hand letter address on the envelope. O.W.F.I.’s refusal can’t be for non-payment of the club dues or the entry fee. Had the perpetrators of this fraud taken the time to actually open the envelope, disregarding its color, they would have found the pay pal receipts.
I was scammed – plain and simple. I am trying to recover my losses, but pay pal is not very sympathetic in such matters. After all, they get a cut of my $40.
As you see, not all scams are initiated by someone name Eli Moogumbo from Nigeria, and not all victims of scams are ignorant rubes who just fell off the cabbage wagon. I must admit, the O.W.F.I scam caught me hook, line and sinker. I really could use the 40 bucks. More valuable than the lost 40 bucks, are the hundreds of hours I spent writing my stories.
Should I enter this article in next year’s OWFI contest? Interesting thought. Let me check and see if another cabbage wagon will be rolling-by anytime soon.