Thursday, August 2, 2012

Panama Encounters the Secret Service

Like many of my gullible fellow seniors I've recently become the victim of a Nigerian scam.
Okay, I knew that an email that asked me if I wanted to make a thousand dollars a month from my home in my spare time was too good to be true. Knowing this, I wrote back to Mr Duyt Mallow and told him that yes, I'd like to make a thousand dollars a month at home in my spare time. And sat back and waited for what would come next. I'm always up for a scam.

What came next was an in-depth interview that basically wanted to know my address and explained what my duties would be. My duties, it turned out, would not be very stressful. All I had to do was receive packages at my home and then put new labels on them. This, it was explained, was because “we are an English company and many of our goods are purchased there in the States, but we do not want our American customers to know that they actually came from America.” Well, this made sense to me. I often tell European audiences that I'm an American, and I find that this goes over well with them, despite being the truth.

I prepared myself for an onslaught of packages to be re-addressed and sent out. A few days later a Federal Express truck rolled up to my house and dropped off one, count 'em, one dinky little package.
Oddly, although the package had my address on it the addressee was someone named Redden. But I got my new label in an email from Mr Mallow and slapped it on the package and sent it to someplace in Valley Stream, NY. Prepaid via Federal Express. Meantime I'm copying every label and saving every email, because I know that somewhere down the line some investigative agency is going to want to know all the details.
This is the kind of thing old people do. We get bored. It passes the time. We're snoopy. We think we're Miss Marple or Matlock or somebody.

A couple of weeks later another package arrived. “Wow, this is easy work,” I said to myself. Got the label, sent it out to a different name, but also to the same building in Valley Stream, NY. I did break confidence and I slyly opened this one. It had shoes in it. Pretty expensive ones, too. But I resealed it and sent it on, prepaid Federal Express. My first month of employment was just about over and I was
wondering how my employers were going to approach the fact that I had done twenty minutes' work for one thousand dollars.

I must say that they were not prompt in getting my thousand dollars to me. But after two more weeks I got another letter from Mr Mallow, apologizing for not getting my payment to me, but the company had been in the throes of reorganization (he didn't say “throes of reorganization”, I'm just trying to keep this interesting), but things had settled out now and my payment would soon arrive, and my situation was being handled by Mr Bench, to whom I should write and communicate my readiness to receive my payment. .I wrote Mr Bench.

My letter from Mr Bench stated that the “authority” in the company had agreed to pay me and that my paycheck of one thousand dollars should be arriving any day now. Federal Express showed up again, this time with a FedEx envelope addressed to me. I opened the envelope. Inside was a cashier's check, not for one thousand dollars, but rather for thirty-eight hundred dollars. My lucky day.

I soon got another email from Mr Bench saying, oops, we sent the wrong amount, and I should go to my bank, deposit the check in my account, keep my thousand dollars and then send the balance to some guy in Charleston, SC, via Western Union. I could by this time imagine some crew in Nigeria laying their fingers up beside their noses a la “The Sting”.
I replied to Mr Bench that I was going to send his check back to the address it had come from, and please send me a check for the thousand dollars. He wrote back, “go ahead and cash it, it's okay.”

So I went over to FedEx. And asked Ashley, who works there, to Google the address the envelope had come from and see if it was a real address. So she did and it was. “They also have a phone number,” she said. “Do you want it, too?” I would have said “you betcha,” but Sarah Palin has ruined that phrase for me, so I was stuck with Yes. It was a place in Birmingham.

I dialed the number. The company was named Underground Wiring(not really) and the kid who answered was named Mike(really). He told me that the guy I was calling was gone for the day, but did I want to leave a message? “Yes, I do,” I said firmly. “Tell Bill that I'm sending back the letter he FedExed me.”

“Is this about a check?” Mike asked. Yes, I said. “Listen, the Secret Service has been in here all day talking to Bill, because somebody got our Fed Ex account info and has been using it like crazy lately, so if that's what this is about, you should get in touch with your local law enforcement people.”

“Okay,” I said.

I called the Secret Service office in Nashville. Apparently they are tasked with a lot more than just guarding the president and stiffing hookers in Cartagena. But it was Friday, and I got a message saying no one would be in until Monday and I should leave my number and the nature of my call. So I did.

I gotta say that even Mr Mallow and crew were more prompt when it came to getting in touch, because I didn't hear from Secret Service for a week. Or ever, actually, because I had to call them again. Which I did today.

I got through to the receptionist and she put me through to the “duty agent”.

Ring. Ring. “This is (unintelligible). How can I help you?”

“I'm sorry, what's your name again, please?”


“Could you spell that? I'm hard of hearing.”

“Who is this?”

“My name is Danny Finley. What's yours?”


“Okay, 'Dan', I'm calling because I've gotten involved with some scammers and I have a lot of information that I'd like to pass on to you. I think you'd be interested.”

“I don't think so. You see, there's nothing we can do once the money is out of the country. If you're supposed to send something to someone via Western Union, then anyone can go to any Western Union office anywhere and get the money.”
“Really? Don't you think you should maybe talk to Western Union about this?”

“Really. It doesn't work that way. It works the way I just said.”

“So you're not interested in these reams of information I've collected about these guys?”

“No. These are guys sitting in Nigeria or Ghana, and we can't touch them.”

“So I should just forget this whole magilla?”

“That'd be my advice, yeah.”

“Well, thanks for your time.”

“No problem”.

Well, it sounds like a BIGASS problem to me, but what do I know? I'm just a bored little old man in Rockvale Tennessee. Now I know how the Secret Service stays secret. They don't do anything unless the president is coming to town. Or they have a hot date in Cartagena.

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