This is getting out of hand. When I opened this morning's e-mail and sipped my first cup of coffee, here's what I found:
There was a message from a Mrs. Monica Adams of Kuwait. Her husband died recently and left her with $3 million in a London bank. She's had a stroke and is now fighting cancer and needs my help in spending her millions in a "godly" way. She's offered to make me beneficiary of the account so that I can disperse it to charities as I see fit. Bless her terminal little heart.
Moving right along ...
There's a Western Union transfer of $1 million just waiting for me if I call Mr. Andreas Georgetown and claim my funds. Although I've never been out of the Northern Hemisphere, I've somehow been selected to help Bangkok's government track fraudulent money transfers or, as they put it, "This is to help us check-mate all the fraudulent activities going on here in Thailand and Asia at large. You shall be paid bit by bit until your total sum is completely received paid to right at the Counter of Western Union Money Transfer right in your Country." Say what?
I think I also received a similar offer in Italian but that's not my second language so I can't be sure.
Next click revealed a message that initially looked legit. It was someone asking about an item I have listed for sale on eBay. Closer inspection revealed that the e-mail didn't come from eBay.com but rather eby.com. Slick, very slick. Had I responded, they would have learned my eBay password and from that juncture there's no telling what damage they could have done.
Then I found where I can order my husband's midlife motorcycle: "I would like to present you a very good company and its Web site. It can offer all kinds of electronic products that you need to be in May, such as laptops, GPS, LCD TVs, cell phones, ps3, MP3 /4, motorcycles etc. You can take some time to have a control? It, there must be something interesting you want to buy."
Just show me where to type in my credit card number.
Then I opened what I initially thought was an e-mail from my gas credit card company, Chevron Oil. Silly me. The e-mail read (the caps, punctuation and spelling are theirs, not mine): "From CHERVON OIL COMPANY we have your e-mail address as a winner in our end of year e-mail ballotting promotion to celebrate the 50th anniversary and we have deposited a certified Bank draft of one millon, United States Dollars this e-mail is to notification to contact the FEDEX COURIER COMPANY IN WEST AFRICA for collection of your winning parcel."
It goes on to instruct me to send $100 ("ONLY one Hundred United States Dollars") as a fee to claim my million.
I even received an e-mail, supposedly from the director of the FBI, reassuring me that if I got any letters from the Bank of Nigeria I should "know that we have taken out time in screening through this project as stipulated on our protocols of operation and have finally confirmed that your contract payment is 100% genuine and hitch free from all facet and of which you have the lawful right to claim your fund without any further delay."
Gee thanks, Director Mueller. That's mighty nice of you.
The clincher came in the form of what purported to be an offer from a Sgt. Jarvis Reeves, who is supposedly deployed with an engineering unit in Iraq. He and his "partners" need my help to move $25 million in oil money out of the country. They can send it "to your house directly or a bank of your choice using diplomatic jet service."
There were more e-mails but at that point I quit reading and started hitting the delete key.
These computer carrion are preying on the desperate, the naive and, certainly, the greedy. I suspect they're making out like the bandits, they are.
An acquaintance fell for the Nigerian scam which promised she would receive millions if she sent a service fee of only a few thousand dollars. That was just the beginning.
She wired thousands of dollars to Nigeria and Spain. Then she was contacted by yet another scammer offering to get her money back for a hefty fee. More money was sent to Jamaica. She wiped out her savings, maxed out her credit cards and then began trying to borrow from family and friends.
Her family even orchestrated an intervention involving an agent from the Department of Homeland Security who tried to convince her that she was dealing with scammers and her money was gone for good.
She still desperately holds on to the hope that if she sends in one more payment, she'll get back all her money and much, much more. It's just pathetic.
If I've learned anything, it's that very few good things in life come easy. Or free. Or uninvited via the Internet. There are lots of robbers along the information superhighway. Lock your doors and hold on to your wallet.
Originally published in the Gainesville Times april 17, 2009