Beware of the phony bounty
Tariq A. Al-Maeena-If you are like most people, chances are that you may have at one time or the other been solicited by offers of massive generosity in an email addressed to you by total strangers. All of them are willing to share their wealth with you unconditionally, and all you have to do is answer a few simple questions.
I have had my fair share of such offers and solicitations some which end up in my inbox rather than my spam folders. I hit the delete button right away, sending these scam messages into Internet oblivion. But for the fun of it, I decided to hang on to a few of these preposterous lures.
Sent primarily from various sources purportedly in Africa and Asia, I have received several proposals that would have made me a very rich man and with little effort. The senders deemed me worthy and noble enough to be entrusted with some very large fortunes.
The first one was from a Soha Al-Rasheed from Libya. Apparently her husband had been killed when Gaddafi fell, leaving behind the sum of $182 million that she would like to put toward a noble cause. She had recently discovered that she was dying of cancer and wanted to do something good. Believing me to be an honest soul, I would be her channel in setting up such a course of transaction, and for my efforts I would be rewarded 25 percent of the total amount. That’s over $45 million for a few days’ work folks!
A solicitor from the UK was left with 122 million pounds on his hands, courtesy of the death of Idi Amin. The money he was holding had be dispensed somehow. And since “banking ethics” as he puts it do not allow such money to remain in the UK unclaimed for over five years, he was prepared to split the funds 70/30. Very generous of him, since he gets to keep the lion’s share. I was to play the part of the next of kin. I did a double take in the mirror to see if I could pass off as one of Idi Amin’s lost cousins. For 36 million pounds, I could impersonate a Chinese acrobat!
General Susan Hicks, an American serving in Iraq had somehow managed to take off with a sizable portion of Saddam Hussein’s fortune, most of it in 1-kilo gold bars. Before she and her troops were pulled out and ordered to return home, she deposited this loot in several safety deposit boxes in three separate local banks in Baghdad. However, she needed my services as an Arab to get it out of Iraq. With the current global prices of gold, she estimated that my services would net me approximately $19 million.
A corporate lawyer from Singapore was very persistent. He told me that I had been issued an ATM card from one of their banks with a generous donation of dollars in that account from some very large Chinese corporations. He insisted that I speedily forward him the required information such as my name, passport number, nationality and bank account number to process this generous gift from Chinese industry tycoons. Why would he need my name if the ATM card had already been issued?
And finally, from Anisa Makhluf, the widow of the late President of Syria, Hafez Al-Assad. She must have really been smitten by my character, as she had sent me five emails within three days. Pity her husband isn’t alive. Maybe she would have persuaded him to appoint me minister of finance or something. With a fortune totaling $382 million, she is so convinced of my integrity that she is prepared to turn over 20 percent of her funds and a steel plant in Russia if I agree to be of assistance. I suppose being a steel magnate and with a bank account of over $76 million is the next best thing to becoming a finance minister.
These “get rich” offers are, of course, nothing but a scam. Often referred to as 419 scams, such offers begin with an unsolicited email sent to many in the guise of a very handsome offer. Quite often, facts from actual events such as a plane crash or a revolution are interspersed in the contents. Invariably, they ask you to send them personal details such as your passport or ID number and bank account details which are then used to fleece your personal accounts.
Readers beware of these generous emails. In 2003, a study conducted in Sweden discovered that some 10 to 15 percent of people scammed by such offers fall prey to these get-rich-quick schemes with the result that crooks defraud them of their entire savings.
— The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @talmaeena