Sunday, June 5, 2016


It’s four-thirty in the morning and I am responding to a Facebook scam because it’s a dreary Sunday and I have no better thing to do. No, that’s not true, there are a hundred things I could and should be doing, but I’m tired and listless but I can't sleep, and I'm sort of blue so this seems like a good option to pass the time. Better, at least, than binge- watching Dexter, which I may do later anyway.
I’m not sure if the person messaging befriended me or vice versa. I suspect the former, since I have a relatively few FB friends and my texting on that site is pretty much limited to one person. Regardless, the FB friend who sent me the “Hello, how are you?” message appears to be an all-American girl with a toothy smile who’s in… wait. Ghana? Ghana, West Africa?
I’ve been to Ghana. It’s a lovely place with fabulous people. I really liked it there. I spent a few weeks in-country and can attest that there are relatively few Ghanaians who look like all-American girls.
She tells me she is actually from Miami but four years ago her father died and her mother decided to move to Tamale, Ghana, and open a grocery store. Her English appears awkward; she says “Ok” a lot.
I’m willing to admit a certain attraction to relocating from Florida to West Africa. Within seconds, I get a text asking about my marital status. Do I have kids? A pretty wife perhaps? Do I smoke, drink, or take drugs? How old am I and what do I do? And how are my lovely friends?
For her part, my Ghanaian correspondent is very brief in her answers to my queries. When I ask what she does, she tells me she is five feet seven and athletic, unmarried, 31, no kids.
“But what do you do?” I ask.
“I am five feet seven and athletic, unmarried, 31, no kids.”
Alrightee then.
A couple of months ago I received a somewhat similar series of texts from a woman in France who claimed to be a good friend of Nicholas, my older nephew. Nicholas, I am very proud to say, is the French ambassador to Toronto, so imagine my surprise when Nicholas’ friend sent me a scantily clad photo of herself and asked if I had a video camera.
Back in 2000, it was Nigerian princes, Chadian ladies who had somehow been bequeathed fortunes, and wives of Christian missionaries in Laos who needed my help getting large sums of money out of the country.
One time, I thought there might be a good newspaper or magazine article to be written, so a scammer from Senegal and I exchanged emails for a about a week during which I was queried about bank account numbers and what I would do if I suddenly received $12.5 million with no strings attached.
My writer was patient. When I finally emailed and said I knew what the con was, I got a response from my offended pen pal and potential business partner. “You are not a very nice man,” he said, using many exclamation points. That may have been true.
Three years ago I thought I might make some extra money giving French language lessons, and I announced my intentions on Craig’s List. The next day, I received a note from a man who wanted to sign up his 18-year-old daughter for a month’s worth of daily lessons. He sent a photo of a pretty all-American girl with a nice smile . I quoted him a price so advantageous, the man said, that he wanted to contract immediately for two months of lessons. Could he have my address? He would send me a bank draft and we would attend to details later.
Sure enough, within forty-eight hours, in the mail was a check for $6000 made out to me on a James Madison University account. Then I received a flurry of emails with convoluted instructions. My man had lost his wallet and credit cards. His daughter was distressed by the prospect of losing the lessons she'd so been looking forward to. Would I, could I deposit the check immediately and, if I didn’t mind, use part of the funds to open a bank account she could access for living expenses while she was taking lessons?
So, okay, I am not financially savvy. I am fully aware of this. Too often my idea of a good business deal is to buy high and sell low. But still… My suspicions were further aroused when the check-sender, having heard of my excellent (he actually used the word superlative) reputation as a teacher of French, offered to up the ante. There’d be another check in the mail, this one for $8000. It arrived two days later. Now here’s a fact: I speak French fluently and I’m a pretty good instructor, but $14,000 for French lessons is excessive.
A little research clarified the scam. I would deposit the check. My bank would then immediately credit this to my account and wait for reimbursement from the James Madison bank. I would draw on my new-found assets. The James Madison check would bounce in a week or two. By that time, the 18-year-old daughter would have exhausted her living expense funds and I’d be tagged by my bank for reimbursement.
This type of rip-off happened twice more, once when I was selling a rather expensive Italian car online, and another time when I listed two fairly expensive Erté lithographs on eBay.
Oy. I think I’m safer not dealing with online propositions. And anyway, Dexter is calling.


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