Saturday, January 2, 2010

Persistance of Mean

It took only two days into the new year to get one of those emails that has a title like "Help from you I need!" where I am supposed to help someone get their money by giving them access to my bank account where huge amounts of it will be transferred and in manifold gratefulness, they will leave me a generous portion when they take theirs out. Who could be stupid enough to fall for these things? Yet someone must, or it would not be worth their effort to keep trolling for fresh victims.
Why do these things persist? They appeal to two strong universal desires: We as humans instinctively want to help each other and we want to get somethin' for nothin'. An opportunity to do both these things at once combined with our eternal human optimism leads us to think that yes, there MUST be something to this one. Ah, but rest assured there is not. There is not, never has been, and never will be, an actual situation where such a money transfer to a personal account could or would be a good way to get funds unstuck from somewhere. There would be other ways not involving a stranger, official ways, ways to do it through friends or relatives or hired services or government services or aid services. Don't we all know that?
Yet, back before we all had cell phones in our pockets and the way we learned about what was going on in town was a tiny weekly newspaper instead of email and facebook, I knew a woman who was scammed. Nice lady, took walks around the neighborhood and we'd talk if I was out and about and met her, or if I saw her down the street when I was getting my mail, I'd wait for her and we'd chat a bit. She never admitted it to me, but a friend who knew her daughter told me. One day when she was walking, a car with a pretty younger woman pulled over and asked her if she could help. She claimed to have been paid several hundred dollars by someone in town for doing work for them. She had tried to cash their check but the bank didn't know her and would not cash it for her. The people had left for vacation, so she wanted the woman to go with her to her bank and deposit the check in her account and then withdraw it and give it to her, and in exchange, she could keep $100 of it. Now I am sure you can all see where this is going. The check was bad but that didn't show up right away and the scammers got away with their cash and her account information and cleaned more out of the account later and she was left with an emptied account and bad check fees in the end. And she was too embarrassed to admit to it for many weeks after, until she came up short paying some bills at the end of the month and had to ask family for help. They went to the police and the local paper ran an article that didn't name her but sought to warn others against such a scam in the future. Which led a couple other victims to come forward and talk to the police and the newspaper.
It all made me sad and angry. When I get these stupid emails, I have to read through the subject lines to make sure no good emails got filtered into my spam folder before I can hit "Delete all", but mostly they remind me of the scum who scammed my neighborhood friend and that makes me a little sad and angry all over again.

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