Take the Money and Run

Take the money and run is a song by the Steve Miller Band.  But it can be a song about getting caught in a social media romance scam from Nigeria.

It started when an attractive woman on a popular social media network, sent me an email and some photos. For the record, the photos were fully clothed and very respectable. This person was very cute, with red hair and white skin. Let‘s give her a fictitious of Gertrude  (that’s an oxymoron – a fictitious of a fictitious name) , who claims to work for a well-known international charity named UNICEF.  According to this person, she was doing volunteer work in Nigeria. And she is of claimed legal age, claiming to be in her late twenties.

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Anyway, we corresponded by email for a few days. But she was coming on too strong, for my tastes. I kept telling her to slow down. I thought the psychological aspect of transference was happening. I even told her about this. Anyway, we corresponded like this for about a week.

Then came the big bang.

She claimed to be sick from food poisoning and typhoid fever. She needed money for food and medical care. I used to be a Peace Corps volunteer in Liberia, West Africa. I was familiar with scams and especially those coming from Nigeria. This story has too many loose ends.

For example:

  • Why would a respected international charity not have excellent medical care options in place? I found out later that the organization had excellent medical insurance coverage for volunteers. They also have excellent medical facilities they set up in remote countries. When I asked about this, it was implied they mismanaged things locally.
  • What is the name of the medicine the doctor wanted to prescribe? If this person is working with medical professionals, they should know that stuff.
  • Do you have an ID number from the charity, if I need to reach them? She wouldn’t give me one. But she wants to ask a complete stranger for money.

I asked for how much money was needed and how would I send it? I needed some more info. I was given a city and state in Nigeria and told to send it by Western Union. My respond is that I would reflect on this, for a day or so. In the meanwhile, I would say prayers for healing.

Anyway, the next day I did two things:

  • I went to visit a friend, who had ESP abilities. Now my lifelong Protestant mom – now deceased – was supposedly born with a veil over her eyes. This means she had the gift of prophesy. And the people I know with this gift, don’t go out and charge money and make a fortune on it. They just share it with family and friends. When I relayed this story, he said it was a scam.
  • I have some LinkedIn connections in Nigeria. I asked them to check on this person. To their credit, they are professional people living in Nigeria, who hate scams themselves.

Here’s what was shared by the professionals from Nigeria:

  • Well, one person lived near that area and knew the charity. She couldn’t find that person connected with that charity.
  • Another told me that charity doesn’t work in that area.
  • Another mentioned that there were other inquiries about that person being investigated.
  • Another told me that charity has excellent medical facilities.

I told this person that I couldn’t honor the money request, based upon feedback from ESP and some Nigerian professional contacts. But I would be happy to connect on Facebook and video chat with them. They stopped emailing me.

And here’s what UNICEF says on its website at UNICEF on Nigeria

  • UNICEF provides support to all its staff members and consultants at all times, no matter the situation.
  • Never send money or personal information (including your resume) to anyone you don’t really know.
  • Remember that UNICEF websites and email addresses all use the UNICEF dot org domain.
  • If in doubt, check with UNICEF Nigeria’s communication officer:

Yes, Gertrude, your story was fully of holes.      You used a public email address and not the UNICEF dot org domain, which wasn’t part of your email.  If you claim to work for a charity or any worldwide organization, they give the email for your use.  You didn’t ask for the money to be sent to an official UNICEF site.  You, as a “claimed” nurse, had no clue what medicine the doctor wanted to prescribe.  You also forgot that big international firms also provide medical care and/or health insurance to employees.

Oh, yes. Here is the best part.

You know the cute fully dressed and respectable photos she sent me? I did a search on Google images and they did find a match. They belong to a very popular porn star. I don’t think this person will be contacting me on Facebook video. After all, I don’t think they look like this porn star. Nor can they pay the porn start enough to help them scam me.

Lessons learned

Check everything out, with a fine tooth comb – especially if you never met in person.  This should be true on both sides.  I did this and I saved a couple hundred initial dollars.  Probably more, as this would just be the start of the scam.

You need help?

Obviously, you might not have lived in an African country and grew up with scams  And you might not have access to folks with real ESP ability nor professionals on the ground, to check things out.  Here are a couple of websites that can help:

There’s a good Wiki article on romance scams at Wiki on romance scams.

Here’s an AARP scam quiz you can take at AARP scam quiz

YouTube videos on Scams

Let me leave you with a couple good YouTube videos on scams.  Remember.

  • You never have to pay an up-front, processing fee, for a lottery prize.
  • IRS agents will always contact you by regular, US mail.  And you can verify the status, by getting the real IRS number from your local, public library reference librarian.
  • And if someone gives you a check to deposit, don’t send any money back until the check clears the bank
  •  Don’t open any attachments  or click any links, from people you don’t  know.
  • Nobody gives large sums of money to total strangers.

Apply a little common sense and you will avoid many headaches. ABC News recently shared a scam, where they call folks up at midnight in US motels or hotels.  They ask for a card number or they have to leave the motel or hotel.  What to do?  Just tell them you need time to find the card and will call the front desk back in 5-10 minutes?  IRS or law enforcement?  Call back to an official government number and check out the story.



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