Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Explanation Defied Again.... and Again.... and AGAIN!

There are some scams that are so widespread, and allegedly so well-known to be wildebeest droppings that it seems that it has become impossible, in this modern day, for anybody to be loopy enough to fall for them.

You'd think so. In fact, in most cases, the attempt looks so far-fetched, so beyond the pale, so superlatively superlative as to cause you to disbelieve it in less time than it takes to realize that you've once again left the house wearing no pants, that it's January, and you're in Mammoth Falls, Minnesota.

Or some other kind of circumstance. Though, oddly, that particular scenario rings true to most people, even those from equatorial Africa. And thus we come to the scam in question: The infamous "Nigerian Scam". Lately, I'm getting five times as many of these pieces of drek in my e-mail than usual. This, in spite of the fact that people should be more aware of its falsehood than ever, particularly in light of the relatively recent arrest of a person in, shall we say, a position of high financial responsibility, who lost $1.5 million in government funds falling for this idiocy. How can this possibly happen??

Let's take it straight from the horse's butt.... herein I'm copying an actual, honest-to-Pete-Best "Nigerian Scam" e-mail that I just got, exactly as it appeared:

From: "hamed alii" hamed_alii22@mail.com

FROM HAMED ALIDear FriendI am Hamed Ali personal Assistant to the Branch Manager of Bank Of Africa(BOA)Ouagadougou Burkina Faso I want to inquire from you if you can handle this transactionfor mutual benefits/life opportunity for you and me.The transaction is about seeking your consent to present you as the next of kin/ beneficiary of the US$15Million dollars who is a customer to the bank where i work.He died with his family during their vacation journeyIn that regard, i decided to seek your consent for this prospective opportunity.Have it at the back of your mind, that the transaction does not involve any risk and does not need much engagement from you, since i am familiar withthis kind of transaction being an insider.I have resolved to offer you 30% of the total fund, 10% for sundry expenses that maybe incurred during the process of executing this transaction and 60% percent forNecessary modalities will be worked out to enable us carry out the fund claim under a legitimate arrangement.me.I will give you more details about the transaction when I receive your responsevia my email address.Thanks and God bless.MR HAMED ALI

Please, in the name of all that's holy, if this makes sense to you and sounds like an honest person and a great idea, get professional help immediately. OK, big deal, they switched it to another country than Nigeria, but this is the classic pattern that's been going around the world since they invented clay tablets and cuneiform. Even the Rosetta Stone was not immune, a fact that's been kept a secret to this day by a cabal of embarrassed academics who fell for it shortly after the Stone was discovered. Even the Stone's age failed to deter them from believing that they, indeed, were the luckiest people ever to have been chosen for such an important task. Of course, they'll ask you for "good faith" money to the tune of thousands of dollars, or they'll "phish" for all your personal information, steal your identity, and render you into a pariah that not even Dennis Kucinich's campaign staff would take on.

Either way, if you do it, YOU'RE AN IDIOT!!! I think we can all agree on this, yes?

And yet.... every year, large numbers of people around the world DO fall for it, and unfortunately, a high percentage of them are senior citizens who lose their life's savings. I'm not in any way implying that our senior citizens are stupid, but these kind of people prey on them because, I think, they're generally a lot nicer and more inclined to trust others than we ever-more-cynical generations following. Go ahead, ask any "senior" if the following generations are more crude, less refined, and five times as rude and rarely listen to their own mother and couldn't you get off your duff and call your mother this week, would it kill you?

But, I digress.

Nonetheless, even I'M starting to say that about younger generations, and that's a bad, bad sign. Partly because I'm admitting that there are a few generations behind mine (the venerable Baby Boomers), and partly because of the fact that I'm not all that polite myself. Sometimes. How often? I refuse to say, on advice from my cat.

By the way, my cat's too smart to fall for this con game, too.

So, what's to be done? As Lazarus Long once so wisely said: "Never underestimate the power of human stupidity." Evidently, it's going to continue, along with the too-good-to-be-true UK lottery gag and the phony bank auditor game. None of it's funny, and I've pondered on it, trying to figure out why that is; why do otherwise sensible-seeming people fall for something that violates a very sensible rule: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is! That should be an axiom applicable to almost everything in life. Salvation is a fortunate exception; it sounds too good to be true, but IS. Fortunately, God is a nicer guy than you, me, or the geniuses running these con games.

I have a theory, and I'm putting this out in front of you for general discussion, recussion and whatever other kinds of cussin' seem appropriate. I don't think that it's because any of these "stories" they sell are convincing. No, I think the people who fall for it do so because they want to believe it! Why on earth would they do that? Maybe it comes down to the last effort to preserve their battered sanity. In a world where we're dead certain of so many things going impossibly wrong (cross reference: Any newspaper), they have a desperate need to believe in something, just one thing that's impossibly "right". And for those few critical moments, they do.

I'm not sure what the solution there is, if any, to this effect, other than a couple of things I try to remember:

-We could do a lot better job of looking out for one another.

-Commit random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty.

The latter, someone being nice for no apparent reason nor for their personal gain, always catches people by surprise. And maybe, just maybe, the surprise that you choose to put out into the world will BE that one impossibly right thing that someone really needs.

And when you do (several times a day, I hope), someone, somewhere in Nigeria will curse your wretchedly nice name.

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