Steven Ivory

*I’m rich.  I mean, loaded. What I’ve amassed over the last decade or so goes into the many millions.  Maybe even billions, I’ve lost count. You know what they say–once you get past the first 200 mil or so,  it all becomes a blur.    

The problem is, all my dough is trapped in an international slough of questionable financial institutions, shady corporations, shifty organizations and any number of folks I don’t know from Adam.

Okay.  I don’t have any of that money. It doesn’t exist. The estimate I mentioned earlier is a rough total of all the money I’ve been offered in Nigerian scam emails.

My email address has got to be on a potential sucker’s list tacked to the bulletin board of every Internet café in downtown Lagos. Name a wacky con game and it most likely has found its way  into my online mailbox.  Like the elderly Israeli socialite on her DEAF (sic) BED who willed me, of all complete strangers, $50 million.  

I’ve been contacted by barristers (lawyers) the world over, representing  clients  bent  on cutting an absolute stranger in on million dollar schemes out of the sheer goodness of their hearts.              

In  every situation, all that is needed, no matter how long it takes them to get  to the point, is my bank account or credit card number.  You know–so they can transfer  all that moolah into my account.   

The  scams aren’t always about inheriting money. Occasionally, an Internet carrier will inform me that if I want to continue online, I need to resubmit my billing info.  Matters not that  I’ve never subscribed to that particular service.  

Then there was  the poor African child languishing in a Canadian hospital who was to die within 48 hours  if I didn’t contribute something toward the surgery but who miraculously managed to cling to life at the scammer’s  discretion for another six months.

I recognize scam mail  before I open it.  Look for the sentence in the email message box that  is almost  always followed by a period (.).  I’m amused by the grammar and spelling-challenged humility: HELLO, PLEASE KINDE HONERABLE MISTER FRIEND SIR. Then they get to the nutty proposition.  

Forget years of training; did  you know you can become an agent in  the FBI–Federl Buearu of Investition (sic)–by merely submitting a bank account number online? It’s always about those precious digits.            

To prove the authenticity of  a shenanigan, scam emails sometimes feature links to legitimate news stories.  The  man featured in the obituary did die in a plane crash. However,  the email offering me half his multimillion dollar  fortune is not from his family, but  some no-budget carpet bagger hustling financial info.  

While my spam filter catches most of the crud, there is a reason I still probably get more scam email than other people:  Sometimes, I answer them.  I know. But If I’m  having a bad day, the first Nigerian email in my box becomes my whipping boy.  

I’ll curse them and their insipid,  insulting transparent approach, only to get a response like this actual email: DAER KIND   FELLOW, THIS IS NOT A JOKE.  I AM THE BARRISTER HADLING THIS CASES.  IF YOU  QUALIFIE FOER THIS FINANCES WE MUST ACT QUICKLEY.  SEND ME YOUR SOCIEAL SECUITY  NUMERALS AND BANK NUMBER IMEDIETLY!! SO THAT YOU  MAY BE COMPENSASTED JUSTLY.”   

That convinced me.  I’m  sending all my information right now.  

The Nigerian scam  existed long before the Net. As early as the 1980s, before there was email, there was the scam LETTER, sent by mail and fax, designed to manipulate and bilk corporations and companies of revenue with a variety of flimflam.  Nigeria is not the only country that hosts scammers, it’s just the most well known.  

As patently conspicuous as it all looks to most of us, there is but one reason scammers continue bombarding the Net with their kooky capers:  people actually fall for this stuff.  Indeed, the livelihood of the scammer depends on humanity’s boundless greed and  preternatural capacity to believe  in the most ridiculous shit ever.  And while  the ever dupable are robbed annually of millions, money is not the only thing taken.

In 1998,  my buddy “Harris” was a 43 year-old health care executive, recently divorced, who communicated by email and web cam for a month with  an attractive, 20-something  woman with seductive dark eyes and kinky, brown shoulder-length hair.

I was with Harris  at Los Angeles International as he nervously paced the  customs area  clutching  flowers and a small cardboard sign inscribed with the name of a woman who  didn’t exist.  

Three hours later, as we walked back to the parking lot,  the broken man reasoned that he could replace the $1,300 he’d foolishly wired to “Vivian” during her now suspect trek across Europe, supposedly en route to America to meet him. “But whoever did this,” Harris said,    beyond ashamed, “took my heart, man.”

Meanwhile, somewhere in cyberspace, a guy armed with a collection of woman’s JPEGs,  some convincing cell phone video and a knack for writing sweet nothings as a female, was no doubt preying upon yet another email address, hoping the next man he found would be half as gullible as he was lonely.

Steven Ivory’s book, FOOL IN LOVE (Touchstone/Simon & Schuster) is available at Amazon.com (www.Amazon.com).  Respond to him via STEVRIVORY@AOL.COM