No Kidding... Really.

I want to start out by saying that I don't use the term "Nigerian" in a racist manner.  In fact, I hardly use it all; ever.  But this person claimed to be in Lagos, Nigeria, and I factually traced the originating point of their email to a physical IP address that belonged to Africa.  ( Because I was trying to diagnose the weirdness of the connection we seemed to have, over Yahoo messenger. )

I'm sharing this (rather humiliating) story because this took me totally off guard, even though I've heard of Nigerian scam letters before, and even knew some details about them -- like one can lose their life from following up on one.  This was not like that.  In almost every way.  To start, there was no letter.

I met the person on a dating site.  They were listed for Austin, TX, my home city.  I IM'ed them, through the 'naturally selective' process of poring through profiles and finding someone that was a closer match to my personality type (than not).  Naturally, their profile didn't include favorite past times of tricking people out of their money, brutalizing others, or the occasional murder of convenience.  Or I could have just browsed happily over her.

The first thing I noticed that was a little unusual was that the body type of their respective partner didn't matter.  ( In hindsight, I guess evil accepts you just the way you are. )  This was starkly different from the occasional "If you're not at least as tall as I am, don't bother;  No woman wants to be self conscious about her size.", "No fatties, please.", and "If you're 10 years older than me, stop reading my profile right now.  Really.  Stop."  It could be said that those are reasonable requests.  But here was someone who set none of those kinds of boundaries.  I'll leave it for an exercise for the reader to determine if someone real can exist like that or not.  ( I'm tired of debating it with myself. )

So, let me pick up the pace, a bit.

In the beginning, she informed me that she was in Africa to take a class.  This seemed reasonable.  We chatted for 3 months.  Mostly small talk was involved.  I was interested in the person I saw / read about on the profile, so I made it a point to try to get to know her, as best I could, despite the time difference.  After the third month, she told me that her class had ended, but that she had some things to sort out before she could leave.  She wouldn't tell me what was going on -- just told me that I wouldn't understand.  Two weeks later, she told me that she had come down on scholarship, but failed to make the grade required to graduate, and that she was still working on getting things worked out.  Finally, last Friday, she asked if I could help out in some way.

According to most information I've read about scammers, the situations presented are high pressure, time limited events wherein some rich someone-or-other is involved and generously wants to share tons of money with someone, for some reason.  This was none of that.

When I offered to help ( because I hadn't connected the dots, because the events were spaced so far apart, I suspect ), she then told me that she had worked as an interior designer at a company that hadn't paid her by the time she left, and that she had talked to them, and they had agreed to send her a check, but that she couldn't deposit it there in Africa, because all they had there were community-like banks.

I remember thinking to myself, "For ****'s sake.  She's a scammer...", and then I decided, that maybe she wasn't;  Maybe it was plausible that she was a real person and could have really gotten herself in that situation.

The first suggestion I made was to deposit the check into a US account in her name.  She was from Austin;  She must have a bank, here, right?

This was the most sensible idea that I would come up with.  Sadly, I would not let myself see the reality of the situation until much later.
  Conversely, her answer, was the biggest, brightest red flag that she would raise.  She told me she closed her account before she came to Africa.  That should have been the last answer that I needed.  I should have been able to just print out the chat logs, and file them under "Cheri.spn" for the messiest real-life relationship ever, on the account of the fact it was with a ******* scammer.

But I didn't.  Driven by loneliness, the endorphines of potential danger, the intellectual game of chatting with one of two types of people at any given time and being all too clever with my words when I did so -- I was speaking in double-entendre from that point forward, always considering how the scammer would pretend to respond as the girl, and how the girl would respond to the words, at the same time, as if there was still a possibility that she could be real -- or just flat out stupidity, like a moth to a flame, I continued the game.

And there was a dash of irony in the game.  The scammer had a weakness for Chess.  So when I asked Cheri what game she would like to play, one day, when I was feeling adventurous, she offered "Chess."  And when I played Cheri, though I'm no Chess player, I am an intellectual person with an appreciation of strategy, and I could see how well the pieces were manipulated, so that even my attacks put me on the defense.  The first time, I figured that Cheri was just one of those people that were naturally good at one thing.  Because she really didn't talk like a mastermind Chess strategist.  There is a coldness in strategy, and Cheri's conversations were more warm and mysterious than cold.  Perhaps I'm wrong about this point.  I guess I've never been intimate with a master Chess player.  ... But that's how my intellect works.  When it is thinking about strategies, it is not thinking about how people will feel when they are implemented.  Perhaps that's a short coming on my part, though.

After I had agreed to see what I could do when the check was sent, I offered to play her again.  And this time, I was watching.  And I noticed... that everything she said in the game were like little hints, that, when I figured out what she meant and took advantage of the weaknesses that I found, that things got much worse in the game.  I also noticed how it took so little effort for Cheri to turn my attack into a neutering loss.  And how it couldn't be a coincidence that every move was expertly backed by a contingency plan.  .. And in the back of my mind came the question:

"How does someone that can think like this in the game of Chess find themselves stranded in Africa without a contingency plan?"

And the answer, in my mind, was that there was a 99% chance that such a person would never make that mistake.

And as I watched her push me into a move where I knew myself to be check-mated in just one move, I saw that there were two games, not one.

I saw that I was playing this game of Chess, a game that I was not so familiar with playing, like I was playing this game of with the scammer, another game I was not so familiar playing, but it was clear that they were well versed in the game of Chess, so it made sense that they were also well versed in the other game that was afoot.  It then occurred to me that they had betrayed themselves though their actions.  The game was honesty between us.  They had been so enamored with their thinking that they failed to see what was happening right in front of them.  Just like I had been.  And then I concluded that I could only get hurt, playing this game on their terms.  And then they check-mated themselves in the scammer's game, by not check-mating me in the Chess game.  That is not a trait of the nurturing gender, to play with their prey.  And if it was, it was clear that this was the mating game of a female spider.

I walked away.  My pride was bruised.  I would not play on those terms.  The reaction was one of the more potent things that I've felt in a long time.  I went to go put away the food, as my mind churned with the ultimate conclusion that must come to pass:  I must sever ties.  I had no idea how much potential danger could be involved.

When I returned, they had canceled out of the game, and tried to smooth things over, a move that I thought I recognized as being characteristic of guys.  Would a girl behave that way?  I didn't know.  I told them that next time it wouldn't bother me as much, and we said our good nights, ending in our first virtual kiss.  ( What can I say?  I'm a sucker for irony. )

The next time I them, I told them that I couldn't be sure that they were who they said they were.  That I had been informed that American checks could be cashed in African banks, that I wanted to know how I could be closer to her than her family, and why she was willing to trust me with $4K but not with information on who she was, or who her family was.  That I didn't really know who she was.  I asked her to tell me about her father, when was the last time she saw him, or her mother?  What were their names, where did they live?  And then I told her I'd be back in a minute.

When I returned, I asked why she didn't answer.  Why was there a delay?  And that I'd agreed to help her because I could see myself getting into the situation that she described.  Except for the bank account.  And so, I'd been thinking about what I would do, if I was in Africa, asking a stranger for help.  What requests would I feel would be reasonable for the other person to make, in order to be assured that I was who I said I was?  And that I wasn't sure if there was any assurance that she could give me that I could actually prove was factual.  And in my mind, I begged her to try, as I watched them start to type something, and then backspace over it, and then start again, and delete it again.  I wondered if they would think about how I'd helped them -- I showed them where to download games that they could play that were open source.  I probably introduced them to Yahoo Chess.  (Somehow), and I gave them a URL to an open source Chess game.  Would they be smart enough to see that I could forgive them, for the reassurance that Cheri was a lie?

And then I finished it.

"Well, from what you told me, you still have a way out of the country, even if you didn't get credit for taking the class.  If you can't rely on your family to bail you out, then it would be wise to leave the country.  If you get back in Austin, feel free to give me a call -- I'll owe you one major ******* apology."

And then I waited for a response.  A response that never came.  I had to admire their final move.  ( As long as they said nothing, they could figure out a reasonable response and play it later. )

Check-mate, I guess. ... Strange game.  The only way to win seems to be not to play at all.

zenandi zenandi
31-35, M
7 Responses Feb 10, 2010

Very good story. I too was contacted by a scammer. I recognized the signs and googled the person as well as did ip tracking. He didn't turn out to be true.
I had the common sense of giving a different email that I never use except for dating sites.
He sent emails for a while then gave up.

You shouldn't feel humiliated. Things like this happen all the time to trusting indivduals. You are just lucky you recognized it in time. It's hard to be trusting after being burned but it is an admirable quality. Just don't be blinded & miss the little things that bothers you. So, many people get taken advantage of because they want a relationship very badly. I'm glad you saw through this scam and I for one am grateful you got it out there for everyone too see. You never know how many people you may have just helped.

I'm really not, actually. In the end, all it really cost me was a [very] little stress ( and just at the very end ). For the information gained, it was well worth the experience. But it could have been much worse. So I wanted to trumpet loudly and get the message out, as best I could.

Wow Zen I am so sorry this happened to you. I have two male friends that were taken in to situations similar except the person in Africa was supposedly in an accident and needed medical bills covered. I told my one friend if he sent any money we would no longer be friends. Both ended up being scams and one of them was even getting messages from the scammers after he broke it off. Both these men were intelligent professionals just like you. Again I am sorry this happened.

You are referring to a new trend called scam-baiting. This was actually what I was doing at a point, until I realized that there could be danger, even in that. In general, I think it's probably a better idea to let the wolves alone, rather than tease them.<br />
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I'm not saying backlash is possible, just that I don't know that it's NOT possible. What this event helped me to get a glimpse of is that I really have no idea what is and isn't possible in the great scheme of life, especially in the criminal sector. And it seems a far wiser option to be incognito than to draw attention. I don't know about anyone else, but I do know that resources are available on the web to help find people, and the only condition of admission they have is monetary.<br />
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Your link still might prove valuable, however, as a source of information.<br />
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I also didn't mention that I wrote an email to the FBI, asking for additional information on scamming. I really got the impression that they couldn't give a ****. In their email they informed me, that yes this was a scam, and to kindly delete any future emails I received and cease contact immediately. Delete any future emails? The first thing I told them was that there was no email involved...<br />
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I agree with the mentality of this site, that I found later, after the fact:<br /><br />
Silence works for the scammers. Which is why I posted the story.

One heck of a tale! Have you noticed the scammers are now playing a new game, where they pretend to be from the UN, saying they know you have been scammed, but they will reimburse you if you give your full details in an email!<br />
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A site worth looking at is, which also posts details of people who have pretended to fall for the scam, and string the scammers along to get a rise from them. Good for a chuckle.

Damn.<br />
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I mean... damnnnn..