Older Than You Think

Another story that “can’t” go into the newsletter since it will trigger filters. This one isn’t “adult” in nature, but you’ll understand the filter issue when you read the story.

This “would have been” included in the 9 June 2019 issue:

I’ll Be Damned — It’s True!

After five years of legal maneuvers, investigators have unraveled a “shell company” controlled by Sani Abacha, an Army general who seized power over Nigeria as dictator in 1993, and served as president until his mysterious death in 1998 at age 54. The company, called Doraville, had a bank account on the Bailiwick of Jersey where Abacha funneled money — now worth more than 210 million pounds (US$267 million). The money will be split among Nigeria, Jersey, and the United States, but is thought to be just a small portion of billions of dollars that Gen. Abacha laundered and squirreled away for himself. Last year, US$300 million Abacha embezzled from public funds was returned to Nigeria from banks in Switzerland. (RC/BBC) …And if you will help us get the rest out of the country by using your bank account as a holding place, we will happily let you keep 20 percent for your trouble.

Not the First Time

Just a little of the money from one raid on Nigerian scammers.

I’ve had to use the blog for several such stories over the years, such as the story behind this huge pile of money — which is only a portion of the cash recovered in a raid on Nigerian “419” scammers.

Like what?

Well, there’s the mind-boggling story behind the photo here, from the post This Can’t Go In the Newsletter in 2017. And there’s a page I put up in 2012 so readers could point it out to gullible friends and family, The Nigerian “419” Scam.

As usual, it all comes down to thinking before biting on something that’s too good to be true …since while you’re trying to get their “free money,” you’re really risking your own hard-earned money.

Older Than You Think

It’s an old scam. I don’t mean it goes back to the days of fax machines (and it does — think about that!). Rather, this is what I mean: in 1898, the New York Times called this kind of scam An Old Swindle Revived!

A clip from the 20 March 1898 New York Times. You can read the whole story on their site (subscription required).

But it still works for the scammers, because you know what? There’s a sucker born every minute.

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11 Comments on “Older Than You Think

  1. The fax machine was invented in 1843, though. Maybe the old scam came along with the fax?

    There is a difference between “invented” and “widely adopted”….

  2. Was easier in 1898 when you could target isolated populations that had no access to news or good information.

    • Just the same now. Rural America held to just one or two cable operators and people isolating themselves in social media echo chambers.

  3. Why do you just post a teaser — to read the story, we’d have to subscribe to the NYT!

    It’s not proper to copy someone else’s work to your own web site. Headline/teaser is the web standard for linking. You’d prefer I didn’t link it at all? -rc

  4. I received a phone call in April of 2019 from someone calling me ‘grandpa’ and claiming to be my grandson (without using my real grandson’s name). The caller claimed he was in Washington DC and had a car accident and needed cash to get his car back from a towing company — just send him $500 via Western Union telegram.

    I had a long conversation with this person. I thought it was an entertaining variation on the Spanish Prisoner scam and told the caller just that.

    • I think it was in 2017 or early 2018 when I was staffing an information booth at a job fair, and I got an urgent phone call from my mother halfway across the country. She said she’d gotten a phone call from someone claiming to be her granddaughter (my daughter is the only grandchild) and that she was calling Grandma to help her because she had been abducted, was in some other state, and was being held for ransom.

      My mom’s no fool (and she’s clergy to boot so hears a lot of interesting stories, as do I in the vocational rehabilitation field), and my daughter was in high school at the time. My kid, I’m proud to say, not only outshoots me and my husband with her rifle, but is also quite good with her bow and arrow and regular basic self-defense moves. (With two Army veterans for parents, we made sure she knows multiple ways to defend herself, and early.)

      So when my mother called me, I sighed, called the high school where I had just dropped my daughter off about two hours earlier, verified that she was indeed currently taking the math test she had been stressing out about on the ride to school that morning and hadn’t magically or via wormhole transported herself to any other state, and called my mom back to let her know all was well. She was relieved but not in the slightest bit surprised. Then Mom said she would go ahead and, as usual, report the call and the number and scan attempt to the FBI’s scam hotline.

      Mom then apparently used this situation in one of her sermons a week or two later to illustrate the potential consequences of gullibility and to alert her older parishioners about scams like this.

      It’s a shame that some people either feel the need to or get such enjoyment out of misleading and stealing from others, but particularly those who are the most vulnerable and least likely to have the resources to recover quickly and easily from a potentially substantial financial loss if they fall for such tricks. Especially those who don’t have a good relationship — or ANY relationship — with their grandchildren or relatives so that they wouldn’t recognize a voice, or might be losing memory function, or, as in the case of my daughter and mother, they see each other seldom due to distance but text often. That’s why my mother called me to verify because the voice *might* have been close, if my daughter had a head cold or something, but didn’t sound quite right to my mom.

      Once you become familiar with the basic types of scams out there, and there aren’t that many new ones, honestly, it’s just a matter of identifying the new variations and delivery of said scam attempts. Yours was a grandkid being in a car accident needing money; ours was a grandkid being abducted and held for ransom. Either way, an attempt to fleece an older citizen — deliberately targeted, and as I’ve learned, often selected from those mailing lists that get sold hither and yon — which I find downright disgusting. I spread the word to be on the alert and take appropriate measures if you’re not sure. Honest folk won’t mind you verifying their legitimacy, and the dishonest ones either don’t stick around long enough to do so or provide information that is unverifiable and thus should either be more fully explored if you think it worthwhile* or reported to the appropriate authorities.

      * An example of this one was a “too good to be true” scenario I found myself in, which DID turn out to be true, in the end. I had played an online quick daily sweepstakes game for months and got an email saying I’d won. It included a legal-looking contract and said no money was required, but did require me to provide my Social Security number due to the large monetary value of the prize, a high-end soon-to-be-released-on-the-market new digital camera. I REALLY wanted that camera, otherwise I wouldn’t have played the game, but that contract and giving out my SSN was quite suspect to me. I sent a copy of the contract and associated instructions to my father to review, since he’d done a lot of contract work. He said it appeared legit to him, but took it to a friend of his who was a lawyer to validate as well. The lawyer friend reviewed it carefully, made a couple inquiries to verify the company and their industry, etc. and said it was above-board. So I filled out the papers and within a week had myself a new camera, the first sweepstakes type of prize I’d ever won. Had it not been *just* credible enough to warrant further investigation, I might have deleted that email right away, but with proper verification — because I felt it worthwhile to do so — I ended up with my prize and in no legal or financial distress and no strings attached to my winnings. That was probably around 7 years ago though. Techniques used these days are more sophisticated and it’s even harder to verify some of this stuff, so as always, “Buyer (or player) beware.”

      So many say “Well, I did enter that sweepstakes/lottery/whatever, so a notice that I won is legit!” when that’s not the case. It could be a scammer playing off a big lottery looking for suckers, or the sweepstakes itself could be fake, and everyone “wins” the chance to get their identity stolen. So yes, I can see why you were supernaturally careful — and you were damned smart to be that careful. -rc

    • I was riding the bus and over heard a conversation between the two women behind me.

      “I got a phone call yesterday from somebody who said they were holding my grandson for ransom. I asked them if it was Randall, and they said Yes. I told them they could just keep him, then. The kid is nothing but trouble, always has been, and I hung up.”

      “You don’t have a grandson named Randall, do you?”

      “Nah. I don’t have $3,000, either.”

  5. I have been reading your column since the 90s, and it’s always been worth the money. I started with the free edition, but the cost of the Premium was reasonable enough to switch.

    I will continue to read it till one of us dies.

    I greatly appreciate your support, Lenny. -rc

  6. What’s sad is even the Average idiot has a good chance of being suspicious, But the older people who are losing their faculties get suckered in.

    • Well that’s why the crooks target them, isn’t it.

      My customers are mostly “little old ladies” who have technical challenges with computers, iPads, smartphones, satellite TV set-top boxes and whatnot, and many of them have had contact in one way or another with the other popular scam, the “Windows support” call centre artists who get them to first look at all the red warnings in the Windows event log, then convince them it’s all about hackers, and finally extract a credit card number and security code from them to “help” them “erase” the “viruses”.

      Con artists have no shame, or scruples, or conscience. It’s bad enough to exploit greed as in “419” scams but there has to be a special corner of hell for those preying on people’s ignorance and fear like this.

      And Get Out of Hell Free cards don’t work for them. -rc


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