Being an avid periodicals reader, I have noticed that not a week goes by without encountering articles about crime in general. There are a few categories that I have noticed to be the most prevalent; these include corruption cases, murder-suicide, robbery and scams, to mention but a few.
I have always been fascinated by the 419 scams; these involve transactions between two people that have never met before. I was intrigued by how a person can convince someone else to do precisely as they order them without ever having met. The methodology that was rather simplified when captured in writing seemed untrue to me. Over the past few months, my fascination has been systematically doused and my curiosity satisfied.
As it has been almost two weeks since I had checked my e-mail, I got to it with anticipation wondering what was new in my inbox. With several new messages, one sender aroused my curiosity as his name; Reverend David Aiko did not ring a bell. As he related a tragic accident to me that allegedly took place in Accra Capital of Ghana, characterizing his story with Christian diction as his salutations included phrases like ‘May God bless you’ and ‘ Peace be unto you’. The choice of words I figure was devised to neutralise my vigilance and lead me to believe that the sender was indeed a man of God. The Story of Reverend Aiko was that there was one wealthy gentleman with whom I share a surname with in Accra. Reverend Aiko being his personal secretary was obligated to seek out next of kin to the gentleman since the former had perished in a fatal car accident that also claimed the life of Mr Motlhabane’s wife and teenage daughter. The deceased gentleman was worth $10 billion...US according to Reverend Aiko. All I was asked to do is to present myself as the next of kin so I could claim the deceased man’s net worth, Reverend Aiko would then prepare the paper work and have the bank transfer the funds in to my personal account. He did highlight that I would be entitled to a 10% share considering my assistance, quick arithmetic translates to 1 billion US dollars.
The arrangement is quite simple, it sounds like easy money to any person, especially if you are young like myself. Well, this is déjà vu. In my response to his proposal, I simply stated that I had no relative that resided in that part of the continent and that I do not harbour any doubts that the man and his family are not in any way related to me. In closing I bid him luck in finding the true next of kin to the deceased.
I thought my explicit of lack of interest would dampen his ambition and move to the next one but No. He was not about to take no for an answer, he copied my cell number and called me on my cell phone to explain just how much my assistance is required but thanks to poor reception, I could not make out what he said in his West African tone.
A couple of months passed after my first encounter with the Reverend, and I’d occasionally glance at his mail together with other suspicious emails I had received. All the emails had that Western African ‘tone’ and spoilt with poor spelling and grammar. At the beginning of this month, June, I received yet another email from the Reverend. The email was a notification to let me know that the mission was accomplished with the assistance of one Onkabetse Motlhabane. The Reverend also informed me that this person who assisted him was now a billion USD richer and for the little assistance I had provided, he had prepared a cheque for 200,000 USD as a token of appreciation and all I had to provide was my full name, contact number and address and I complied with my middle name and surname, a rarely used contact number and a postal address. Now the said cheque was in some other Reverend’s custody since Aiko had to travel as he is now apparently a very busy businessman thanks to the wealth of the expired Mr Motlhabane.
In my correspondences with the Reverend, he had always addressed me with my face book name which does not appear in my national identity card. Now the custodian to my $200,000 cheque emailed me acknowledging possession of that item that belongs to me. The custodian now needs $200 to courier the package via DHL and I ought to transmit the amount via Western Union so that my cheque can arrive within a week. If Reverend David Aiko has so much money that he can afford to give a total stranger 200,000 American Dollars-I wondered, would it not be sensible to spend a bit more on a fellow Reverend tasked to send a cheque all the way to Botswana..? My intuition tells me this is either one character or a syndicate of criminals trying really hard to obtain money by false pretences via the internet. These people go to great lengths, and the scams are too elaborate for a gullible character to sniff out. So on Saturday morning I was rudely interrupted by an international call. I was hoping it was someone I knew but Lo and behold! Reverend, David Aiko on the line. He greeted me in the mighty name of the Lord and was quite disappointed with my reaction towards his polite gesture. Realising what I had got myself into by providing my contact, I decided to ask the long overdue million dollar question; I wanted to know the logic behind paying for an item I have never solicited, a monetary gift that was offered to me by a complete stranger whose geographical location was unknown to me. I got irritated and put it to the Reverend that if he indeed has a cheque with such large sum of money bearing my names, and I am required to pay atleast 2000 pula? Why can he not pay the courier himself is he so much appreciated my assistance? I then told him to keep the cheque as I did not believe it ever existed anyway! The statement was a deadly blow to the telephone conversation since the caller hung up before I was done.
I have always wondered how people fall victim to this sort of trickery, now I know. It is not that the tricks are not obvious; it is the idea of being rich quick, the concept of the good life that blinds us as people. Imagine I had wanted to see that cheque of mine, I would have donated $200 to Reverend David Aiko, and I’d be at least BWP 2000 poorer.
Scams do occur, do not fall for these tricks filled with promises of either large sums of money, fancy gadgets or anything you have not earned, prizes for competition you have never entered. I am sure the Reverend is disappointed where ever he may be, I am content that I have defied the promises of the false prophet.