Opinion: A lady in distress

POSTED: 09/16/13 3:48 PM

Some emails are too weird to be true. We all know the scammers from Nigeria that send out grammatically handicapped emails to unsuspecting souls and their story is basically always the same: they’re sitting on a pile of money that they want to get out of some country and they really need your help. Fools that fall for the ruse soon find that there is no more money in their bank account.

We are not sure how many people in St. Maarten received an email from Zariya Koury – but we certainly did – and we don’t know what the hell to make of it, even though all our alarm bells are tolling at full speed.

The first email we saw, simply read: “Please help me and my kids in Syria. We have only $6,200,000 USD with us in cash. We want to leave Syria. My husband is dead in the airstrike (of the) last three weeks.”

Then it goes on: Zariya offers 15 percent for our help. She is awaiting our “urgent response” and promises to send pictures of her and her family.

So just for the heck of it, at 2.54 p.m. yesterday afternoon, we sent a flippant message: “pls send me a picture Zariya” in a tone that seemed to suggest that we already knew the good lady.

Amazingly, exactly twenty minutes later we received a reply. Zariya did not only send us three pictures showing her with her (now dead) husband and her kids, she also sent us a copy of her Syrian passport. This is how we know that Zariya is currently 33 years of age, that she celebrates her birthday on May 25 and that she was born in “Damas suburb.” She’s good-looking, too, but we quickly decided that looks should not influence our take on her situation.

A lady in distress is a lady in distress. Oh, did we mention that she also sent a picture of the cash she mentioned in her first email? It’s neatly packed in plastic in a box, ready to be sent to us in case we want to play the role of Good Samaritan. They look darn well like real greenbacks to us.

Zariya sent us also a long email that we will spare our readers, except for the crucial details. The lady intends to send all that cash in a box via the Red Cross to the country where we are staying – that happens to be St. Maarten. She mentions something about a diplomatic courier service, and points out that under the diplomatic immunities and privileges act “any licensed diplomat is immune from arrest.”

We’re not sure how this applies to us, considering that we certainly do not fall into the licensed diplomat category. No worries: Zariya will send all this stuff, pretending it to be personal possessions and some jewelry, with the Red Cross jet from Syria to “Europe, the Caribbean or the United Arab Emirates.” From there “a diplomat” will deliver the box (remember: with $6.2 million in cash) to our doorstep.

Zariya asked for our name, address and phone number and we happily sent that info into cyber space, wondering what is going to happen next. “Anyway, Insha-Allah,” is the parting shot in the lengthy email wherein Zariya assures us “with the life of my family that you will never regret dealing with me” and that “I want to let you know that you have nothing to worry about.”

Actually, until we started handling Zariya’s email, we indeed had nothing to worry about. But now we are thinking: is this another shameless scam appealing to people’s naivety after the poison gas attacks in Syria, or is it a real call for help? We don’t have the answer yet, but we’ll keep you posted.


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