Beware of Internet Scammers - Drudge Report

The Drudge: Internet Scammers


By Don Wills

Allow me to introduce you to Miss Nicki Bahi. A sweet girl, Nicki is 24 years old, very attractive, a fluent speaker of English and French, and a devout Christian. Unfortunately for Nicki, life has not been at all kind to her. After the tragic murder of her parents at the hands of rebels, she now lives in a refugee camp in Dakar, Senegal. Although the camps main sponsors the Church of Christ the King and the Red Cross do their best, money is limited and the camp can provide its occupants with little more than the bare necessities: a (sometimes leaky) roof over their heads, a meagre, unchanging diet, and the occasional handout of second-hand clothes. The refugees are allowed out of the camp just two days a week, but the chances of them finding employment in Dakar on those two days are virtually nil.

Now many people, possibly most people, finding themselves in a situation like Nicki would give up hope and resign themselves to a life of hardship and deprivation. But not Nicki. Call it obstinacy, call it contrariness, call it grit, but Nicki is determined to one day break out of the cycle of poverty and hopelessness and make a better life for herself. And the way she has resolved to do this is to reach out to people on the internet and possibly, just possibly, find herself an honest, trustworthy man to take her under his wing, to provide for her and, one day, to marry her. Nicki dares to dream.

I first got to know of Nicki when I answered a message on a dating website from a girl who wanted to meet a nice man, any religion, any nationality and any age. All those criteria matched mine exactly, so I replied to the message. It hadn't specified where exactly the sender was from, but I got the impression she was living somewhere near my town. I was wrong about that.

Her first response to my email was warm, glowing, and enthusiastic to the point of being effusive. Hello dear

it is so nice to hear you back. I am very glad that we became interested in each other. I will try my utmost to make our correspondence interesting and honest. I do believe that we both have to be open-hearted and sincere so as to know each other deep down and well, share our loneliness. I will like us to build a strong foundation for friendship, I believe that it's really love that we need, It takes hard work, communication, understanding, and forgiveness because we are only human. mistakes will be made, misunderstand will occur, but if the foundation is strong enough the relationship will overcome those barriers and it may lead us together, let me tell you more about my self. My name is Miss Nicki Bahi from Ivory Coast in West Africa . Presently I am residing in the refugee camp here in Dakar Senegal as a result of the civil war going on in my country. I am 24 years old girl 5 foot 8 inches tall. My Father Dr. Sery Bahi was the personal adviser to the former head of state (Late Dr Robert Guei) before the rebels attacked our house one early morning and killed him alongside with my mother. It was only me that is alive now and I managed to make a way to a near by country Senegal by the help of Red Cross, where we are leaving now as a refugee in the camp. I would like to know more about you. Your likes and dislikes, your hobbies and what you are doing presently. I will tell you more about myself in my next mail. I hope to read from you soonest.

I sent Nicki an email to say I was sorry to hear that she was in a refugee camp, and wished her luck for the future. That, I thought, was that. But the tenacious young thing wasn't to be put off so easily. Within hours I received another email from her.

Do you know why i trust you before i made this contact with you i ask God to provide to me person that will lead me to the right Channel, someone that will not betray me but can you believe since ever i met you, my mind tells me that you have been given to me by God. Listen my darling, i will do every thing to make you happy.

Included in the message was a photo of her seated on a bed and looking very fetching. Not provocative or come-hither mind you, but fetching all the same. She was wearing a chic black dress and showing a generous amount of leg. Propped up on the pillow was a cuddly teddy bear, and on the wall behind her were a number of pictures – a pleasant, homely scene. Not exactly the kind of setting you'd expect to find in a refugee camp, but then I have never been in one, so I mustn't rush to judgment.

Nicki said she was longing to talk to me. All I needed to do was to phone the number supplied and talk to the head of the refugee camp Reverend Father Paul Lemon who would get her from the women's hostel so we could talk.

She then raised the subject of a small monetary matter that was bothering her. Her deceased father had left her an inheritance of $7,500,000 (she wrote the amount both in numerals and in words so there'd be no mistaking the magnitude of her windfall). The money was deposited in the Royal Bank of Scotland International. The only problem was that she was unable to withdraw all or even part of her money because of her refugee status. The bank manager had advised her to find a foreign associate who could become her trustee and withdraw the funds on her behalf. And that's where I came into the picture. If I would kindly handle her money problem, she would give me 25% of the money plus another 5% for my expenses. She would then use the money to come and live with me and love me forevermore.

By now the alarm bells were well and truly clanging in my head, so I sent her the following email. Dear Nicki, No. Find another sucker.

A few hours later I started kicking myself. I had here the kernel of a story, and I just dismissed it out of hand. What a dummy! So I sent off another email, a contrite one this time, in an attempt to keep our correspondence going until I had sussed out the nuts and bolts of her confidence trick:

Dear Nicki,

Ooh, sorry about my last reply. I didn't believe you at first, but I have been reading your emails again and I have come to realize that you really are genuine. So sorry, my Darling. I tried twice to phone the number that you sent me but I was unable to connect. Anyway, how can I help you my dear? I truly want you to be happy and to find a better life.

The reply came half a day later. My darling

So i will like you to help me transfer this money to your account and from it you can send some money for me to get my traveling documents and air ticket to come over to meet with you. I kept this secret to people in the camp here the only person that knows about it is the Reverend because he is like a father to me. So in the light of above i will like you to keep it to yourself and don't tell it to anyone for i am afraid of loosing my life and the money if people gets to know about it. Remember i am giving you all this information due to the trust i deposed on you. I like honest and understanding people, truthful and a man of vision, truth and hardworking. So my love i will be really grateful to come over there in your country and spent the rest of my life with you because i am always thinking about you each and every moment of my life and i cannot afford to stop thinking about you because you mean everything to me so darling i will now wait to hear from you soon. Yours forever Nicki

She included the name and email address of the official in the Bank of Scotland whom I was to contact: Dr Stephen Hester, foreignoperation@mail.com. I duly emailed him and 48 hours later received a impressive looking reply, complete with a photo of the bank. Here's the gist of it:

Dear Sir,

You have been appointed as a trustee to represent the next of Kin. However before our bank will transact any business concerning the transfer of the fund with you, we will like you to send the followings:

1. A power of attorney and affidavit of oath permitting you to claim and transfer the funds to your bank account on her behalf. This document must be endorsed by a Senegalese resident lawyer which she can help you to get one. 2. The death certificate of late Dr. Sery Bahi (Her deceased father) confirming the death. 3. A copy of statement of account of the account issued to Dr. Sery Bahi by our bank. 4. As soon as we receive the documents we shall transfer the money to your account within 2 hours.

Note that the above are compulsory, and are needed to protect our interest, yours, the next of kin after the claims. The documents can be easily acquired by asking your partner to appoint an attorney to procure them.

I thought it would be interesting to phone Nicki and hear her voice at long last. I phoned the number for Father Paul Lemon that she'd given me, and after an age he picked up the phone. I explained I wanted to speak to Nicki, but he said it wasn't possible right then as it was Sunday and he was in church (nice touch, that). Could I call back the following day at the same time? OK, no problem. The following day I phoned, and after a two-minute delay Nicki came to the phone.

Hello Nicki. It is lovely to speak to you.
It is lovely to speak to you too. Did you reply to the lawyer?
I'll do that tomorrow. Now listen sweetheart, I can't wait to see you. How soon can you join me over here?
As soon as the documents are finished.
She started giving me more information about the legal procedures, but after half a minute of this I interrupted her and said, "I want you to come here as soon as possible. I'd love to celebrate Christmas with you.
Me too darling.
How soon can we start making a family?
As soon as you want to.
How many children would you like to have?
That is up to you darling.
OK. Four is OK. Or more if you want.
Oh, I cannot wait!
I cannot wait too. I love you.
I love you.
Her voice was – what is the word – mellifluous? Dulcet? Melodious? Yes, it was all of those things, and more. And she had the cutest of accents, pronouncing him as heem, information as infomashoon and Bank of Scotland as Bank of Shotland. When I finally hung up I found myself thinking: God, if only she were the real thing, the sweet, defenceless refugee she painted herself as, she'd be a real catch for some lucky man. Me, for instance. But enough of that. Back to reality. I now thought it time to carry out some investigations of my own. First I did a little fact-checking. Here's what I found: There are no refugee camps in Dakar or indeed anywhere else in Senegal. Senegal is former Head of State Dr Robert Guei never had a personal advisor by the name of Dr. Sery Bahi. The Dr Stephen Hester who was supposedly to be my contact in the Bank of Scotland resigned from the bank in 2013. The email address for him that I was provided is in no way connected to that bank. An online phone-number reverse-search revealed that the number Nicki was using originated from Nigeria, not Senegal. The number had been issued just six weeks previously, suggesting the phone was a burner, a cheap cell phone used for a month or so then destroyed. Oh dear, Nicki, it looks like you've been telling some little white lies.

I then went on to delve into the history of Nikki, and was surprised to find that a website called Scamwarners had a quite detailed report on her track record. Nicki, it seems, has been running her fraudulent business since as far back as 2007 or earlier. Her emails are always the same sad story: the murdered parents, the grim refugee camp existence, the 7.5 million dollars of untouchable funds in the Royal Bank of Scotland. There are a few minor variations, namely her email address, her phone number, the name and phone number of the kindly reverend father running the camp, the contact details for the bank, and her name. Over the years it has changed a dozen or more times, from Nicki Bahi to Mercy, Amanda, Joy, Flora, Jessica, Maris, Success, Linda, Natisatu, Goodness, and Jenifer Bahi, and Tanisha Toure. (With all those identity changes, the poor confused dear mustn't know whether she is Arthur or Martha.) The one thing that hasn't changed is her age; she's been 24 for the past nine years.

Frauds of the type Nicki is running are well known to those who are interested in such activities. It is called the 419 scam, that being the number of the Nigerian penal code article under which scams of this kind are prosecuted. The ultimate conclusion of the fraud is that after the victim sends money for the authentication of power of attorney, the swearing of the affidavit, notarization, and legal processing fee (they come to well over $1000), he is then informed that the officials mandated to carry out these tasks are demanding hefty bribes before they proceed. Please send extra. Another variation is that the cash was stolen from her on the way to the attorney's office. Please send it again. And needless to say the eternally grateful girl doesn't fly to her benefactor's homeland to live with him until death do they part (even though it's likely she's already requested and received funds to procure a passport and plane tickets).

Thus for me it spelt the end of a beautiful friendship.

Dear Nicki (or whoever you are), It's been very entertaining reading your emails. They are very eloquently written, heart-breaking, and total bullshit. Because you have entertained me so well, now I'll do you a personal favor by informing you of the following: I have just sent your details including your photo, email address, contact phone numbers and names of your refugee camp manager, banker, and your bank account number and photos to six internet sites including: romancescam.com, scamdigger.com, con-artists-exposed, and scamwarners.com. I've also sent the information to Twitter, Facebook, the Nigerian fraud squad, the Senegal fraud squad, the Royal Bank of Scotland International, and Interpol. (Oh, and I also sent similar details of your former lives as Mercy, Amanda, Joy, et al.) Maybe it is time you got a new profession Nicki. Street-walker, perhaps? Have a nice day.

I do not imagine for one moment that my final email will make the slightest bit of difference to her operation. Maybe it wll prompt her to hasten her name-change, but little else. Nor do I imagine that Nicki is a girl; more likely she is a team of skinny Nigerian computer geeks hunched over their keyboards day in and day out.

Who in their right mind would fall for such scams? Well, you may be surprised at the number of people who do. Concrete figures are hard to come by, mainly because many of the victims are too embarrassed to report they have been fleeced. In an interview, one Nigerian scammer claimed he sent out 500 emails a day, and got an average of seven replies. Of those seven respondents, around 70% followed the scam through to its successful conclusion. Any telemarketer in the West would be chuffed with such a success rate. In 2006 the US government reported that Americans lost $198,000,000 to 419 scammers, at an average of $5,100 per person. In the same year the UK government reported that Brits lost a total of £150,000,000. The Dutch investment firm Ultrascan says that in 2013 the 419 scammers reaped an almost unbelievable $12.7 billion worldwide.

With that kind of money at stake, it is little wonder the perpetrators are Hoping to hear from you soonest.

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