Update: This is the kind of Valentine I think we’d all rather avoid…
Reposted from June 9, 2014:
I’ve hesitated to write about this issue because I haven’t wanted to tread on any toes. I’ve decided that it needs to be discussed though, although I’m going to be very careful what I say to avoid offending anyone specifically.
People who are duped by scams end up utterly embarrassed. That is a fact of life. Often, by the time the scam has run its course and they’re left financially ruined and at odds with family and friends who tried to stop them from investing themselves emotionally and financially in the scammer’s view of paradise, their life is in shambles. This is reality.
We all hate that reality! We all think we’re wise to that! We all think, surely OUR loved ones, OUR friends are wiser than to give in to that! Surely WE know better, too. But everyone is capable of getting duped at one time or another.
We give out our trust in some degree to strangers daily, even if we aren’t always aware that we’re doing it.
So, occasionally we need to discuss these realities, and discuss the evolution of certain scams, and put our loved ones and our friends wise to new developments.
‘Nigerian scammers’ don’t just live in Nigeria. That’s where this scam got started, but they can live in other countries too. They can even live or visit in the U. S. and Canada. Hey, there are unscrupulous and greedy people the world over! Why? Did you think they weren’t?
Nigerian scammers can have any color of skin, speak any language, and have any accent or even no accent at all. They can! And they don’t just pick up their victims online, although that’s where the Nigerian scam got started.
You might even have a scammer walk into your place of business one day and seem like a perfectly normal person. They strike up a conversation with you, and you get to know them, and you get to thinking of them as a friend. But then they go overseas or out of state, and stuff begins to happen, and their needs become more and more desperate as their requests for financial assistance multiply.
Or you could meet them at a party or at another event, or a mutual friend (entirely unaware of their unscrupulous intent) might introduce you. Your mutual friend might also be one of their intended victims, unknown to either one of you.
They might even come to visit you (to prove they’re really who they say they are), and return home again, and keep building this relationship that involves occasional requests from them for money from you.
They’ll offer you love or business success, or wealth and riches, even a share in their great-aunt’s inheritance; whatever it is that they have deduced makes you need to stay in relationship with them; and because they’re your friend, you want to believe them and give them whatever they need! You really do!
They might even say they’re willing to marry you, although most of them still balk at actually taking the plunge and achieving this level of commitment.
The reality is that you can be scammed by a friend far easier than by a total stranger. Scammers know this. They WANT to be your best buddy, better than your family members who love you, better than your best friend you’ve had ever since childhood, better than God and Jesus!
If you’re busy telling off your friends and loved ones while defending a relationship with someone whose identity and veracity they’re questioning, maybe it’s time for you to STOP! LOOK BOTH WAYS! and THINK HARD about what you’re doing and where this relationship is really taking you! You need to question your emotional involvement and take a step back from the relationship while you ask yourself some hard questions and come up with answers that aren’t emotion-based.
Here are some questions you should ask yourself if you’re getting feedback or vibes that a person you like might be trying to scam you (preferably before you give them any money or a piece of your heart):
- Does my family (and my friend/s) love me enough to tell me hard truths I don’t want to hear? [your answer here]
- Should I really be shutting them out of my life just because they disagree with my decisions regarding this relationship? [your answer here]
- Is there someone in my life of a long-standing relationship that I trust, that I can discuss this relatively newer/more recent relationship with, and rely on their advice? [your answer here]
- Is there a person in authority (maybe a police detective), that I can run the facts of this relationship by, and ask if it sounds suspicious to them? [call your local police department, and ask]
- Why is this person asking me for money?
- Do I have independent* knowledge of what services are available in the country they say they are in?
- Can I obtain independent* knowledge of the services available in said country?
- Do I have or can I obtain independent* contacts in that country who I can ask for verification of local conditions, and who might be willing to assess this person’s need and help them as needed?
- Is there no one else this person might appeal to for help who lives closer and would be better placed to help them?
- Have they mentioned anyone else that they are also appealing to for help?
How much money am I willing to lose forever if it turns out that this ‘friend’ I’m trying to help out is a scammer?
*An independent contact is someone you have found on your own without any help whatsoever from the friend in question.
Good independent contacts in many countries might be a local Catholic priest (found by networking via a local Catholic parish in your hometown), or a local missionary from one of any number of mission agencies (Google ‘mission agencies working in [fill in the city and country name]). If you have a company you do have a good working relationship with in that country, you might also contact them, and ask one of your business colleagues in that business for their advice.
A good independent contact can give you advice on whether or not a certain address is in a safe part of town for them to visit, and may be able to tell you if they’re aware of scammers working out of their city or country, and whether or not you’re being taken for a ride.
Here are some boundaries you and I should agree on for ourselves before embarking on any friendship:
1. Let’s agree NOT to send or give money to anyone overseas or anywhere else in our home country or a neighboring country without first:
- putting in due diligence and having independent verification of a need,
- setting a specified budget for handling the need,
- creating a time-table for resolving the need, and
- including an escape clause that recognizes that our own needs and our family’s needs take priority in our budget.
Even Congress and the President of the United States would benefit from abiding by this boundary!
2. Let’s agree NOT to be so desperate for love or financial gain or anything else, that we’ll offer money or a share in the sale of our house, or access to our bank accounts, or anything else financially stupid in exchange for it!
I think if we can agree to these two boundaries, and stay wise in our friendships and be careful whom we trust, that we will all be much less likely to be scammed.
One last word: If you are aware that a loved one or a friend is being scammed, and you can’t get through to them, and you’re worried about their emotional or mental state, please contact your local police department and tell them of your concerns. Ask them to investigate.