11:43:02 pm on
Tuesday 18 Jun 2019

Swindles, Cheats and Frauds
AJ Robinson

A few years back, I worked for a minority-owned engineering firm. That meant a woman or a member of a government-recognized minority owned the company. That’s easy to figure out, right?

• I was a minority in this company.

In this case, the owner was a very fine Black fellow, whose family was originally from Nigeria. Anytime we had a staff meeting in the conference room, I felt like as a minority, as I was one of the few White men that worked for the company. In fact, he made a point of hiring quite the diverse cross-section of racial and ethnic people and he had several workers from his native Nigeria.

At one meeting, our IT woman was warning us about spam and malware as well as also malicious emails that someone might try to send us in an effort to hack the company mainframe. We gave her assurances that we’d be careful and I, jokingly, said I wouldn’t respond to any email from people I didn’t know, just as soon as I replied to the one from a Nigerian Prince who desperately needed my help. Most of the staff, including the owner, chuckled at that, but a couple of the newer employees looked confused.

They were from Nigeria. It took a few minutes for to explain the “Nigerian Prince Scam.” They had not heard of it, but wanted to know which prince had contacted me. Finally, they understood the attempted swindle and were, thereafter, among the most wary employees, when it came to such attacks.

Over the years, the level of tricks and swindles people try has amazed me. To this day, I still get emails from the “English Lottery” informing me that I won millions of pounds. If I can just get over there, wherever that is, I can claim my prize.

A couple of times, I’ve actually written back to say, “Yes, I can come over there. Please send the address.” I never hear from those people again.

Back when I was struggling for work, during the Great Recession of 2009, I posted a job offer on some list, might have even been Craig’s List, to tutor children in math, science, history and other subjects. I figured it’d be easy work; there had to be plenty of parents in the Orlando, Florida, area that would hire me.

There were responses from outside the Orlando, that is, the Disney World area. It seemed there were quite a few foreign families in desperate need. Their circumstances were remarkably similar: a mom and dad too busy to come on a family trip to Orlando, but they sent their children, with a nanny, and wanted the children tutored, while in Orlando, so they didn’t fall behind in their lessons.

I had three different families give me this same line. The parents would send me a cheque to cover all of their expenses for their children, while in Orlando; they didn’t trust the nanny. I was to deposit the cheque in my account, deduct my fee and turn over the rest to the nanny, once she and the kids arrived and checked in with me.

I was curious as to how this was going to play out, so I went along. Yes, in fact, they did send me cheques. The first arrived via FedEx, special overnight delivery, with orders to be the first delivery of the day. Wow, talk about special; I received that cheque at seven in the morning.

• The cheque was for ten grand.

The arrangement confounded my wife, Jo Ann. She was suspicious of the amount of the cheques. The first cheque was for $10,000.

I took one look and knew it was phony, as it had no perforations. Still, I decided to check it out. I went down to the bank, deposited it. I voiced my concerns with the staff. The manager agreed to careful monitor the check as it processed to see if it came from a valid account. I waited.

Then the emails and calls started to come from the “parents.” Where was their money? Why hadn’t I transferred it to their local account? I explained that I was waiting for the check to clear.

Oh, they were not happy with me waiting for their cheque to clear. They wanted it now or they’d call the FBI to arrest me. I further explained that I was a poor man, hence the reason I was working as a tutor; there was no way I could get them their money until the check cleared, I didn’t have that kind of money in my account.

The ostensible parents fell silent. I never heard from them again. The cheque did not clear.

With the next check from a second family, I didn’t even bother depositing it. The ink ran when I rubbed my finger over the surface. As with the first one, yeah, it too was a fake.

It was quite the eye-opening event in my life. I never knew people so dedicated to swindling someone. I was amazed at these con games targeting someone simply trying to earn a basic living.

• Be wary.

A warning, to anyone trying make ends meet. There are swindles you’ve never heard. You need to be on your guard, always.

Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.

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