Friday 26 June 2020

All scams are a variation of the same con

The comic I tore

I was walking down to school when I was a student at the Yaba College of Technology in 1983 when a man approached me asking for directions. Our little engagement was what he needed because there was very little I remembered of our encounter apart from the fact that I never got to school, I made my way back home and the money that was in my wallet had somehow become an old comic book.
I had met with a confidence trickster probably with the ability to mesmerise, I can only say that it was providence that guided my having my money in more than one place or I would have had a 7 kilometre walk ahead of me.
Red mercury trickster
Six years on, I was working at IT Systems, a computer services firm when I was called out to fix a problem at a supposed client’s office. Unbeknownst to me, I walked into a meeting where a man was making a business proposal to clear goods at the airport that comprised of suitcases of presumably unprocessed currency that needed to be cleaned up with red mercury. [BBC News: 'Red mercury': Why does this strange myth persist?]
He needed 40,000 Naira to collect his cargo and obtain enough red mercury to process the currency amounting to about 10,000,000 Naira. He was going to cut me in on the deal, but it felt too good to be true. It was a Friday and there followed two sleepless nights in which I agonised about getting the police involved. In the end, I let it go because it would have been trouble, I did not need. Providence was looking on me.
Printing money instead
This was around the time that a classmate of mine who ran a printing press decided the better option was to cut to the chase and print money instead. We all found out when they were paraded on television, I do wonder what happened to him after that.
Many years after that, I met with another old classmate, wily and cunning, he was from when we first met, we were supposed to be friends, but he was trouble, big trouble. Having arrived in England, he applied his wiles to credit card fraud and at a traffic stop, he was cornered by the police who on searching his vehicle found a treasure trove of evidence that sent him to prison.
In prison, he came to and sorted himself out with the outcome of studying law. He, however, was refused leave to practice in the UK that in the end it returned to Nigeria to establish himself and dabble in politics.
None is harmless fun
None of what these people did was harmless, they inveigled their way into confidences and trust, beguiled, suborned and deceived people, some of us gullible and even stupid, through their tricks people have lost savings and fortunes, none of these crimes are victimless.
I only have to look in my spam folder to find someone selling something or offering a cut of some phantom sums of money that have come into their possession by illicit means, they are usually soliciting help to launder the funds if they exist, but once they have reeled you into their enterprise, you will probably be sending them money instead, and by the time you know what is going on, they are gone, gone, gone, with your money, and playing the same tricks on another hapless customer.
Much as I have been a bit unsympathetic to those who have fallen to scams, I guess my early experience taught me to be wary of snake oil salesmen. There is no easy money to be made, except in a bequest or the luck of a lottery, but don’t be fooled because there are people out there who can make fools of us and when they do, sadly, a fool and his money are quite soon parted.
My blogs about scams

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