LAST NIGHT, I read an email which apparently originated in France. The writer was seeking help in disposing of some US$3.5 million supposedly deposited with one bank in Cote D' ivoire (the Ivory Coast). The email was sent by certain Mrs Amina Alwi who is based in South Africa.
Reading through it, I realized that Mrs Alwi’s letter was an updated version of a 2005 scam email circulated after the tsunami disaster in Thailand, which I also received sometime ago.
Although the 2005 email did not mention any amount, except that it was in the form of an alleged fixed deposit account in a bank in Europe which was affiliated with the Thailand's central bank, it had the same purpose as the one that I just came in. In short, both email senders wanted the money to be spent the Christian way: That it should go to a church that would in turn use it to help the needy. In Mrs Alwi’s email, she wanted me to work as intermediary in the release of her money to churches and church-oriented NGOs.
Both letters contained very similar phrases and clauses. In fact, both quoted Exodus 14 Vs 14 that says “The lord will fight my case and I shall hold my peace”.
The 2005 email was sent by a certain Mrs Judith Ellioth, married to Dr Davis Ellioth Whales, who purportedly worked with the Malaysian embassy in Thailand for nine years and was preparing for a send-off party as he was retiring when he died after a tsunami disaster hit his area. Mrs Ellioth, who claimed she was Born-Again Christian, said her husband did not leave any will and did not want his relatives to enjoy his retirement money. Saying she was dying soon from cancer and had no heirs, Mrs Ellioth wanted the money to go to the poor by way of the church.
Notably, latest money scam letters have apparently taken a religious tone, thus deviating from the notorious Nigerian-based scam that told of millions of dollars deposited overseas by persons closed to an overthrown government regime. This type of scheme had been exposed one way or the other on the Internet.
I received Mr Alwi’s email through my two addresses showing at the bottom of this column. Could it be that she had read some of my religious-themed columns posted here sometime ago and found my two email addresses interesting? Well, I am truly mystified.
To satisfy your curiosity, I am taking liberty of printing Mrs Alwi’s message in its unedited form:
“I am Mrs Amina Alwi from South Africa. I am married to Alhaji Mustafa Alwi who was until his death an exporter of antiquities based in Cote d'ivoire, for nine years before he died in the year 2003. He died after a brief illness that lasted for only four days. Before his death we were both faithful muslims converted to christian by the grace of his mighty power. Since his death I decided not to re-marry or get a child outside my matrimonial home which the Bible is against.
“When my late husband was alive he deposited the sum of (3.5Million U.S. Dollars)with one BANK in Cote D' ivoire. Presently, this money is still with the BANK. Recently, my Doctor told me that I would not last for the next three months due to cancer problem.
“Though what disturbs me most is my stroke Having known my condition I decided to donate this fund to church or better still a christian individual that will utilize this money the way I am going to instruct here in.
“I want a church that will use this to fund churches, orphanages and widows propagating the word of God and to ensure that the house of God is maintained. The Bible made us to understand that Blessed is the hand that giveth. I took this decision because I don't have any child that will inherit this money and my husband relatives are not Christians and I don't want my husband's hard earned money to be misused by unbelievers.
"I don't want a situation where this money will be used in an ungodly manner. Hence the reason for taking this bold decision. I am not afraid of death hence I know where I am going. I know that I am going to be in the bossom of the Lord. Exodus 14 VS 14 says that the lord will fight my case and I shall hold my peace.
“I don't need any telephone communication in this regard because of my health ,andof the presence of my husband's relatives around me always. I don't want them to know about this development. With God all things are possible.
“As soon as I receive your reply I shall give you the contact of the BANK in ivory coast.I will also issue you a letter of authority that will empower you as the original- beneficiary of this fund. I want you and the church to always pray “for me because the lord is my shephard. My happiness is that I lived a life of a worthy Christian.
“Who ever that wants to serve the Lord must serve him in spirit and truth. Please always be prayerful all through your life. any delay in your reply will give me room in searching for a church or christian individual for this same purpose. Please assure me that you will act accordingly as I stated herein.
“Hoping to hearing from you.
“Remain blessed in the name of the Lord.
“Yours in Christ.
“ Sister Amina Alwi”
TO TELL YOU THE TRUTH, I’m very much familiar with alleged dollar deposit scams like this.
About six years ago, I received a letter from a certain Ade Balogun of Lagos, Nigeria, offering me some US$5 million to help him withdraw from a bank in Nigeria a huge sum of money purportedly left by a couple – one Australian guy named “Frank Hernandez” and his wife “Helen”. Balogun described Frank Hernandez as “a businessman who long-resided in Nigeria where he set up his successful business. The couple died in a car accident and left no surviving relatives who could become rightful beneficiaries of his stashed money, he told me. He claimed he was the administrator of the couple’s estate being close to the couple.
About that time, I was already familiar with such kind of emailed scams, but I played along with this one, curious how this game would end, or how it would play on me. Or I must have been tempted by the amount …?
Responding positively to his first email, I told him I could open a bank account in my name here in Port Moresby where he could transfer the stashed money at a Nigerian bank. However, I warned him that should the entire amount was transferred to my bank, we might have problems moving it out once the need arose. I explained that the Papua New Government had restricted private individuals – whether they were Papua New Guineans or expatriates – from remitting overseas big amount of US dollars and other currencies due to the prevailing economic crisis in the country. In fact, during those days, private individuals were limited to remitting only amountd not exceeding K50,000 (US$15,000) a year. But anyway …
Balogun said we could deal with the problem later. What was important was that I agreed for the deal to push through.
Then, I asked him to send more backgrounders on “Frank Hernandez” and he sent me a hi-res mug shot picture of him and his wife Helen. In the picture, Frank Hernandez looked like Caucasian. Incidentally, I have a sister who is also named “Helen”, the second sibling in our family. Balogun also sent a mug shot of himself; he looked the typical Nigerian.
After two more email-exchanges, my Nigerian partner emailed the picture of what was supposed to be the certificate of dollar deposit at a Nigerian bank in the name of Frank Hernandez to the tune of US$128 million. At this point, the deal was getting delicious. Later, he sent a pro-forma letter of claim addressed to the bank, saying that “I was the only known verified kin of Frank Hernandez and that I had access to some passwords and codes that would lead to the millions’ release”.
Balogun instructed me to type the letter out as my original letter-email and to send it to a certain person who, he said, was one of the top officers of the bank. He told me confidently that that person “was his contact inside the bank” who would facilitate the release of “our millions”.
As instructed, I sent the claim letter to the “bank insider” the next day, with all the information only “a legitimate kin of Frank Hernandez would have access to”, so to speak. After almost two weeks, the alleged bank officer responded to my email. I remember him telling me in his reply something like: “We have verified all the information you provided and that we have concluded that you are the only surviving relative of Frank Hernandez”.
Well, at this point, I was a doubly excited over this development. So, the next day at 2am in the morning, PNG time, I called Balogun on the cell phone number he provided me and got him at once. After introducing my self, he said he could not talk right now because he was in the middle of a court hearing and that he did not want to miss the proceedings. I believed him, for I could hear in the background two guys arguing and a buzz of voices butting in once in a while.
My immediate impression was that: “Wow … this guy is real … in flesh and blood …”
Then, the next day, at about 2am, I was woken by the soft purr from the phone next to my bed. Expecting that the call was coming from my ex-wife in Los Angeles, I picked it up. It was not my “ex”, but my good friend Balogun, breaking to me the news that the money’s release was now being processed and my money was forthcoming.
“But … I needed some money to pay for some incidental expenses, including some for the lawyer who’s now doing the paper work for the money’s release,” he said.
Then he dropped the bombshell: I need about US$600 tomorrow for this expense … you could send it through the Western Union … we have a lot here in Nigeria.” However, he told me to wire the money not directly to his name but to some other name. He gave me the Western Union recipient’s addressee.
You see, I was now wide awake, really awake, at 2am, unbelieving what I was hearing.
“Hey, wait ... Mr Balogun … why not use your funds first, then deduct it from my share of the money … “
“Dammit …” he exploded, and I heard him drew a deep sigh. “It’s only six hundred dollars that you will have to shell out compared to the millions you’re getting from our deal … and you’re telling me you can’t send me that amount …?
“Look, Mr Balogun … I don’t have that money … and I don’t even have a fourth of that ….”
“You’re working in Papua New Guinea and you’ve got no six hundred dollars … are you kidding me …?”
Then, he cut off.
The following day, he emailed again, requesting me not to tell anybody about “this deal” because he’s trying hard to find some people who could help him withdraw the money. (Parang naawa ako sa kanya … [I felt like pitying him for his big loss].)
Out of curiosity, I Googled the name Balogun said I could wire my US$600 to, and to my amazement, the search generated some websites linking that name to the Nigerian-based dollar deposit scams. I also searched the name “Ade Balogun” and found out that it’s a common name of either public officials or professional individuals. Almost tempted to send Balogun a copy of what I discovered, I decided to hold back.
I still wanted to keep my goodwill with him, considering that I might reach Nigeria one day. Anyway, it was enough that I had this encounter and almost enjoyed it.
BUT WHAT IF THE MONEY WAS TRUE?
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