Beware the scammers who, using an unfamiliar name, send an e-mail out of the blue saying they need help urgently. The scams always beg for help, claim to be from someone, and insist that only an immediate infusion of a few thousands dollars can solve the problem. And the writers always ask that the money be sent via Western Union.
A little online research reveals the scams are really cases of identity theft, and most of them can be traced to internet cafes in Nigeria.
Last Saturday, I received one such urgent request from someone I had never even heard of. Here is a brief summary of our e-mail conversation:
Scammer: “I’m writing this with tears in my eyes. I and my family came down here to London, United Kingdom for a short vacation unfortunately we got mugged at the park of the hotel where we stayed, all cash, wallet, credit card and cell were stolen off us, but luckily for us we still have our passport back in our hotel room. We’ve been to the embassy and the Police here but they’re not helping issues at all and our flight is leaving in few hours from now but we’re having problems settling our hotel bills and the hotel manager won’t let us leave until we settle the bills. We’re freak out at the moment. Thank you, Nancy.
My reply: Oh no! How much do you need?
Scammer: Glad you replied back, We have nothing left on us right now but we’re lucky to have our passports with us, it would have been worst if they had made away with our passports. Our return flight is leaving in the next few hours from now as I earlier told you and we don’t want to miss it, all we owe the hotel is just $2,850 USD to settle our bills at the hotel and get a cab to the Airport including feeding, but we’ll appreciate whatsoever you can afford to loan us right now. Once the bills have been taken care of then we will quickly catch our return flight back home safely. You can have it wired to my name via Western union b’cos I’ll have to show my passport as an ID to pick it up here and Western Union is 3 blocks away from the hotel where we’re staying. I promise to refund back as soon as we made it home safely. Here’s my info below... …Once you’re done with it, kindly get back with the MTCN confirmation number including sender’s first and last name and amount you sent, so our mind can be at rest. We owe you alot. Reply ASAP. Thank You. Nancy.
My reply: You say you need “feeding.” Does that mean you haven’t had any food? How about the children? Are they with you? Please just call me collect, you poor dear. I will do whatever you need.
Scammer: Glad you replied, the children are okay just that we’re having problem with the hotel.... Let me know once you’re heading out to the western union. Hope to read from you soonest. Nancy.
My reply: I have a cousin in London. Where are you? He will come by with cash. Give me an address.
Scammer: OMG!!! Why all this? All we need now is some bucks to settle the hotel bills and our flight is leaving soon. Let me know if you’re helping us out or not. Nancy.
My reply: I have a cousin in London. Where are you? He will come by with cash. Give me your address. What hotel? He can come by and settle it. Else give me a phone number and he will call with his credit card.
Scammer: Are you helping me or not. Nancy.