I’ve just finished reading a novel about the scamming game. It’s a 2012 Giller award novel called “419” by Calgary author, Will Ferguson. The term “419” happens to be the euphemism for setting up a scam or hooking someone into a scheme. In reality, 419 is a number in the Nigerian criminal code.
In Ferguson’s novel, a retired Calgary school teacher falls for one of the Nigerian “419” schemes. He receives an email from someone wanting help to get a woman out of Nigeria. This woman happens to have a lot of money, which will accompany her when she is freed. For some reason, this retired school teacher decides to help, but tells no one what he is doing.
Over a period of time, he sends money, and there is always an excuse as to why more money needs to be sent. In the end, he depletes his bank accounts, remortgages his house, and maxes out his credit cards. When he realizes finally what he has been led into doing, he drives over a cliff, committing suicide.
His family is left with nothing. His wife will lose her home, and his grown-up son and daughter are in anguish as to how such a thing could happen. The novel goes on to trace the daughter’s attempts to find the people who have destroyed her father.
Coincidentally, the day I finished the novel, I received a letter from the United Kingdom indicating I had won “two million British pounds.” It was listed as a Nokia lottery, and the lottery apparently picked my email as one of five from around the world.
I knew immediately it was a scam because of the fractured English and unnecessary capitals on various words throughout the document. I was certain I shouldn’t respond with glee when the letter asked for my full name, postal address, phone numbers, age, occupation, nationality, and country of residence.
Clearly, I understood not to phone the phone number attached or reply to the “hotmail” email address. Can you imagine a major lottery using hotmail with millions of dollars to give out?
My final clue to it being a “scam” hit me when the letter asked if I wanted the award delivered by courier or by bank transfer. If I responded, in the future I would be asked to pay courier fees, handling charges, lawyer’s invoices, and you name it. In addition, I would be asked for my bank account numbers to more easily transfer the award.
A day later, I received an email stating I had won the Chevron Texaco award of “one million Great Britain pounds.” Apparently, my “email emerged and won” me this amount of money. Again, the contact was through hotmail.
A week later, I received an email supposedly from my friend Wayne who is currently teaching in Finland. It used his exact email address and, after greeting me by name, went on to say he was in the Philippines “with his family” and had been robbed in a park near his hotel. Apparently, he had been able to deal with everything except for the $1,900 hotel bill. He didn’t want to offend me or mess up our friendship, but could I help out?
I knew it was fraudulent because Wayne doesn’t have a family, and beyond that, he is an English teacher who would never write a message so badly. I informed him of the scam, and he has since changed his email address and passwords.
Anyway, these scam criminals are out there, sending us notes from Nigeria, the Philippines, and elsewhere. Don’t let them into your lives.