As some of you know and may have read here, I was once conned out of a lot of money by Isaac, who lives in Kenya. That was many years ago, and I have made several changes of email address and phone number since then.
I must have succeeded in preventing his correspondence with me because yesterday he brazenly left a voice mail message on the workplace phone of a friend and former colleague. He probably found her phone number through the workplace website, and this is a very troubling development. I’m concerned that now he is spending time tracking down people who know me.
The message said that he wanted to notify me of the death of his mother because, he said, she had formerly been “a good friend.” Well, that is stretching it a bit. I met her a few times during a vacation in Nairobi, and I liked her. But a good friend? Not really. Looking back, she was probably a co-conspirator in the scheme to separate me from my money.
I wondered if she had died in Nairobi’s Westgate Mall terrorist attack, but the message said that she died the day before that siege began. Even so, just the thought of that was horrifying. All of these thoughts caused me to have very mixed emotions. I suspect that Isaac contacted me because he needs money for her funeral, and even though I would like to send condolences, I won’t. Reopening the lines of communication would only make me vulnerable once again.
The worst part of all this is how embarrassing it is for me to remember how gullible I was back then, and to go through that terrible feeling of shame every time the whole thing resurfaces. I have to relive the shock, horror, and dismay of the awful insight, and it doesn’t get any easier.
Writing and talking about this has been very difficult, but it means that I am no longer locked into my private cringing. Also, I hope my story has some value as a cautionary tale. Since my experience, more and more people have talked about having been taken in by similarly unscrupulous rogues who use the Internet to steal from the vulnerable.
When I was being persuaded to send money, there was little to no information available about online fraud, and even if it had been I was convinced he was trustworthy. Now, though, warnings and examples are easy to find online and in the news. Even more significantly, friends and family members are now more likely to warn the people they care about because they have heard the stories. Just today I read about a clerk at a Western Union agency who told a grandmother about the scam that purports to be from a grandchild in distress and needing emergency funds. She was able to save the older woman a lot of money.
Let’s all tell the truth and shame the devil. That way we should be able to get these bad pennies out of circulation.