I regularly get e-mails telling me I've won a lottery, usually in Great Britain, or that I have the "opportunity" to come into millions of dollars simply by helping someone, usually in Nigeria, who requires my participation in order that we might share a huge inheritance. There's always a convincing reason why I've been included and can be trusted: either I have the same last name as the deceased or my name appeared on some random website.
"Dateline" did a show and managed to interview a scammer, who admitted (not sheepishly enough for me) that he's taking advantage of innocent people. What perplexes me is that the public has not been sufficiently warned so we all know not to respond to these e-mails. We're told when spinach is tainted spinach, Audis are defective, and vitamins have been proven to be useless. Why don't we hear about the Nigerian scams? "Dateline" suggested we have little recourse but to avoid responding - though we might waste the spammers' time (an activity that appeals to me) by responding and keeping them engaged with us to reduce the time they have to e-mail others. Here's my response:
Subj: CAN I CONFIDE IN YOU?
To: Attorney for dead Nigerian family
In response to your e-mail, please be assured I was not at all surprised to receive your offer of sharing US$12.5Million dollars with me, a total stranger. This is hardly unprecedented. Apparently I’ve been identified in Nigeria and elsewhere as reliable and discrete, the point person should an extremely rich person die suddenly and tragically, leave no next of kin. How else might I explain regularly receiving e-mails similar to yours, even more than I get from MoveOn.org? You requested an immediate response, and I hope I’ve made the deadline (no pun intended).
Though I’ve never responded to previous proposals, your split of 50% is too generous to ignore. I was also inspired by your compassion, that you opened by asking, “How are you today?, and how are your family?,hope you are all doing fine?,if so glory be to God.” That was far more personal than, “Dearest Beloved, Please kindly go through this letter before you pass judgment because I am in need of assistance” or “I am (name withheld) the personal accounting officer to (name withheld) a foreign nationality, who used to work with shell Development Company, herein after referred to as my client”.
The grammatical and spelling errors supported my conviction that you’re not a shameless schemer who’d scam a stranger, but truly a foreigner in need of a financial partner. Having said that, I should let you know that spellcheck would have corrected “appologise”and “uncliamed”. When I googled your client, I discovered an identical e-mail, with the very same spelling and grammatical errors, signed by a different Nigerian barrister. Could it be that your client had been cheating on you by having two barristers? Or do you have a partner who's moonlighting behind your back?
It’s admirable that you devoted a full three years trying to locate relatives of your client, but (at the risk of losing my portion) I’d like to ask if you’re convinced you've exhausted all your resources. I’m puzzled that so many incredibly wealthy Nigerians die without a will. In America (don’t judge us all by the late Anna Nicole Smith, whose story I trust got coverage there), we stipulate to whom our money, underage children and belongings will go. We often revise our wills if there’s been a change in circumstances, such as being dissed by being seated at a bad table at a family event.
Your client worked for a major corporation. Didn’t he have a Blackberry, a buddy list on his computer, a colleague he confided in at the coffee machine about a relative, a close friend, a loved one or charity? Again I’m going against my own interests, but someone with such a sizable estate could have his name on a hospital wing or college dorm. If you choose to consider honoring the memory that way, I’d urge you to contact the Tisch family.
I’ve never been to Nigeria and, in all honesty, I’m not at all tempted; life there is unbelievably risky. I know that because among other offers, I've been asked to be next of kin to an ill-fated businessman who’d died of a heart-related illness almost immediately after his wife and children were killed in a bomb explosion as well as hosts of other highly phenomenally wealthy Nigerians, some cattle farmers and others gold or cocoa merchants, unrelated yet all poisoned by greedy rivals or assassinated for political reasons. Several times a week I get e-mails offering me huge amounts because of incidents like these.
No, I’m not booking any trips until things quiet down over there. Your client’s family was wiped out in a car accident, and I can’t imagine people with such means were tugging along in a beaten-up, old car with bald tires. It was a blessing that he survived but so sad that he subsequently developed heart problems and died. That happens less frequently in America. Here if a man outlives his wife, typically he remarries in a short amount of time someone considerably younger than he is, giving rise to the term, “arm candy”. We’re not proud of this custom, but it is what it is.
I’m happy to assist you on one condition: my husband must never hear of this. He has a suspicious nature and has expressed concern about identify theft. He’s looked over my shoulder while I’m online, insisting I delete all sorts of opportunities -- an e-mail offering me $22 million in return for helping a former Haitian ruler, one from the richest oil tycoon in Russia where I’d have received close to $40 million, a proposal that I work for the Malaysian government (which would have garnered me $57 billion) and the request from a research scientist living in Ireland asking that I work for him for three weeks, a good faith business proposal to be a partner in a London insurance company, the plea from the agitated son of a farmer whose parents had been poisoned by his foreign business partners in Paris. He’s even stopped me from claiming one million pounds sterling I’d won in a number of United Kingdom lotteries.
To be fair, my husband may have had a point with regard to the e-mails from John Bolton whose client, Michael Sage, died leaving four million, six hundred thousand British pounds as well as the one from Barrister Avim Palanga, personal attorney to Mr. J. B. Adelman Sage, who’d earned his $20.5 million fortune by working as a contractor before his fatal car accident. These last two offers were directed to me because of our name being “Sage". My husband's father had changed the family name from Shochetman to Sage, so we’re not related to other Sages, let alone Adelman Sages.
One of my husband's concerns may be that coming into such a substantial windfall would create resentment in the family as well as lead to my wanting to renovate the kitchen, which isn't essential and would throw our lives into upheaval. The job always evolves into something much longer and more consuming than you'd anticipated. I’m firing this off while he’s in the shower and unable to sabotage our potentially productive partnership.
If you feel you want to proceed, despite my concerns, you can respond to me by e-mail. You asked for my mobile phone number, but I rarely turn it on as it invariably rings at the most inopportune times, like while I’m driving up the West Side Highway for a weekly shop at Fairway (when you come here, I’ll take you to the refrigerated room). And as for our fax number, getting through would be a nightmare, even for someone as determined as you as we’re continually barraged by promotional offers for free oceanfront vacation packages in Cancun, shop-at-home services for custom window treatments and chances to capitalize on companies promoting fossil energy.
I look forward to hearing from you and perhaps meeting.