Sunday, April 01, 2007


Latest Newspaper Column:

They show up almost daily in e-mail in-boxes across the world, with titles like GREETINGS! or URGENT ASSISTANCE NEEDED!

They are from a variety of correspondents, with exotic sounding names: Minister Sese Imbwabe, Engineer Godswill Owode, Barrister Momoh Sanni Momoh. The writer may claim to be the son of a wealthy farmer murdered in Zimbabwe, the wife of a deposed dictator, or the former oil minister of Nigeria.

They have tales to tell, stories of war, corruption and deceit so sordid and convoluted they make "The Maltese Falcon" sound like "Goodnight Moon."

All of them, however, have one thing in common: They have a "lucrative business proposition" for you. By various means, most of them dodgy at best, the writer has somehow come into possession of a huge sum of money -- $10 million, $20 million, maybe even $100 million -- and they need a way to get it out of the country.

All they need, they assure you, is a few thousand dollars in "bank fees" or "wire charges" to facilitate the transfer. And since the money has to go somewhere, they need your banking information so they can pour all the loot into your account. At that point, they'll split the fortune with you 50-50, or even 60-40, or 70-30. They don't need any security from you because, they assure you, they have researched your background, and they know they can trust you, friendly stranger.

If you do respond, you'll find that, regrettably, some complications have arisen. More fees have been incurred. Officials will need to be bribed. But those fabulous ill-gotten riches are right around the corner. They just need another thousand bucks or so. Then, suddenly, all your money seems to have gone missing from your account, and your new foreign friends seem to have vanished with it.

By now, I'm sure you've recognized the famous "Nigerian scam," which is called that because many of the e-mails allegedly come from that unhappy country.

You might think that no one could be dumb enough to fall for something like this. But, as always happens when you say "no one could possibly be that dumb," you're wrong. According to the FBI, consumers lost some $198 million to Internet fraud last year, including Nigerian scams.

Why do people fall for something so off-the-wall? Well, the e-mail scams play, not only on our greed, but on our prejudices. Everyone knows "those countries" are rife with corruption. And, like most good cons, they involve the mark in something shady or actually illegal, making the disappointed sucker less likely to go to the authorities when the "deal" falls through.

It is, of course, shameful to be playing on people's greed like this. What's even more shameful is that this highly lucrative business is being outsourced to other countries. American con men were once the envy of criminals in all civilized and most uncivilized nations. We even made movies with con men as heroes. It's time we took that primacy back. What America needs is a good home-grown American e-mail scam. Something like this:

Hi, y'all. My name is Connielynn Boudreaux, and I'm the daughter of the late Sheriff Lepetomaine Boudreaux of Plaquemine Parish, Louisiana. I got your name from a friend of a friend, so I know y'all's good people.

Listen, shug, I got me a little bit of a problem. When the sheriff up and died, he left behind this big ol' pile of money he got from political payoffs, bogus speeding tickets, and fraudulent FEMA checks. And honey, we are talkin' mucho dinero. I got a Safeway bag that the sheriff was writin' on the back of, figgerin' up how much he took, and he's got like 10 zeroes here.

Here's the thing, though, hon: I go down to the bank and try to pull this money out, the FBI's gonna be all over me like ticks on a hound dog, and next thing I know I'm down in the county work farm, defendin' my virtue from a 280-pound former gator wrestler named Big Dora.

But you bein' from out of state and all, if you do that wire transfer thing, we can get the money into your bank account, slicker than owl poo. Then we take it all out, split it 80 percent to you, 20 to me. That's fair, ain't it? All I need's a little cash to cover the fees and, y'know, incidentals. Oh, and I need your bank account number, Social Security number, mother's maiden name, stuff like that.

Write me back quick, sugar. We ain't none of us gettin' no younger.

Textile, manufacturing, even high tech jobs have migrated from our shores, and they may never come back. But with our inborn American ingenuity, gumption, and taste for larceny, maybe we can at least hang on to the grifters.

Dusty Rhoades lives, writes, and practices law in Carthage. This column is intended as satire. Do not attempt this scam at home. Really.


Stacey Cochran said...

Very funny, Dusty.

Man, you've got that Southern voice down.

You should write a whole damn short story from Connielynn's perspective.


Patrick Shawn Bagley said...

How much would Connielynn charge to hook me up with Big Dora?

Cornelia Read said...

I'm just so happy someone else makes Le Petomaine references.

David Terrenoire said...

Le Petomaine. Wow. The first time I heard of him it was from ajefferson Airplane album (or was it Hot Tuna?) with his picture and a brief description of his act.

What a character.

Kristy said...

Where do I send the information, darlin'?!

And I do so love the double contraction of "y'all's."

JD Rhoades said...

I'm just so happy someone else makes Le Petomaine references.

I'm just so happy someone else gets them.