And now to Blessing. Ah, Blessing. He’s a special scammer. Our conversation started like so many others, with a game on Words With Friends. My initial contact was with “Roy Haskins”, former US military man currently serving with a UN peace-keeping force in Syria. We eventually moved on to my dedicated account on Hangouts and continued the conversation there. But then things got interesting.
As scammers tend to do, “General Haskins” soon bombarded me with a number of photos to establish his identity. Except, that “General Haskins” made a very foolish mistake. He sent me a photo of a mature, Caucasian, decorated military man. Then he sent a photo of a young black man staring at a cell phone. Then came another photo of an older white man in uniform.
Oh, honey. Oh, no you didn’t!
This fool sent me a photo of his actual self, sandwiched between two photos of his fictitious persona. I couldn’t believe it. That was just unimaginably careless. How could he have done that? I stared at my screen for minutes, literally, trying to understand what had just happened. But he made no mention of the mistake, so I followed suit. We just continued on chatting as if the sky hadn’t just fallen on his head. I did, however, send his photo to a certain acquaintance of mine who is dialed into this community and said, “Please tell me you know him. Please!!” Unfortunately, my friend didn’t recognize him, but we did agree he was a rank amateur. But what to do? Oh, so many possibilities!
Overnight, “Roy Haskins” sent me quite a long email expressing his desire to find a special woman to spend the rest of his life with, blah, blah, blah — standard scammer fare. I don’t usually encounter it in email form, so it was a nice change in this case; it’s tough going when it comes across piecemeal in chats. (More on that in a future post.) But the lengthy email did give me a clue as to how I could make my scammer’s life more interesting:
Then I sent him back his own photo. You can just imagine what happened then.
Long story short, later that day, “General Haskins” had been abandoned (with thanks from me for playing matchmaker) and Blessing and I were chatting away on Hangouts. By the time we had signed off that night, I had his English and last names, his email address, several photos of him, and the approximate area in Nigeria in which he lives. By the end of our conversation, I would also have his cell phone number.
The moral of this story? Scammers are as easy to scam as some targets are, if not easier. The common trait that we share is unabashed optimism. We want to believe the lovely words and promises are true. They HAVE to think that this target could be the one that works out. They HAVE to follow all leads in the hopes that this one will be the big pay off. But the one trait that they seem to lack utterly is skepticism. I have only had contact with one scammer who seemed to push back at all on my counter-scamming. All of the others have just followed along, seemingly trusting that everything that I was typing was completely sincere. I’m very curious to know whether there is any awareness on their part that there are some people who will intentionally waste their time. I’ll do some research and see what I can find out.
But, back to Blessing: yes, there is much more to this story. I really ran this poor kid through the wringer. I call him a “poor kid” because he was completely out of his depth. There were scams he tried to run on me that he just had no idea how to go about it. Also, I am highly skeptical that we has anywhere near 33 years old. And, yes, there was one thing that I did that I am ashamed of. I did cross a line. It has nothing to do with whether he deserved it. I shouldn’t have done it; I certainly won’t do it again. But, that story will have to wait. Be sure to follow my blog so you don’t miss out on “My Blessing; The Counter-Scam”.