Opinion: Mysterious phone calls

POSTED: 01/23/12 6:11 PM

Readers may have already received mysterious phone calls announcing that this is their lucky day: they won $50,000 in some coca cola contest they never participated in. The voice on the phone sounds Nigerian, even though the caller claims to be somewhere in Birmingham in the United Kingdom.

That’s a lie of course. All calls are coming from this number: +234 703 443 06 72. Why the caller is lying about his whereabouts is a mystery or maybe an indication that he is not as clever as he would like to be. We received one at three o’clock on Thursday night.

The country code 234 is notorious around the world, because it comes from the country that turned scamming into art: Nigeria.

No one expects these scammers to give up their activities. That is because it is simply too profitable. They have bombarded the world with fake emails from the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service, the White House, FedEx, reputable banks and anything else they thought would convince some sucker to give them the information they need to rob your bank account blind. They have worked with emails from hijacked accounts, claiming that somebody the received knows is stuck somewhere else in the world and urgently needs a thousand bucks or some similar amount.

Now the Nigerians are targeting their victims on their cell phones. They tell a cock and bull story and say that the winners only have to call another phone number and provide their bank account information and the big prize is theirs.

Not everybody falls for these brain-dead schemes, but some people do. Since it’s a big world out there, the Nigerians figure there are plenty of suckers around to make their work profitable. And it is profitable; otherwise they would have given up a long time ago.

It is of course our own entire fault if we become a victim of such schemes, because the Nigerians play on that well-known human weakness called greed. We wonder how many politicians fall for them.

Warning people against these swindlers usually does not work with people who are most vulnerable but we’ll give it out of the goodness of our heart a shot anyway.

So if you get a phone call, or an email that announces you have won a big prize, or that someone is stuck with a huge amount of cash and that he really needs your help to get it out of the country, or one of the 969 variations on this theme, you ought to know that somebody is bent on taking you for a ride.

If someone you know (someone who happens to be in your email contact address) sends you an email asking you for money because he is stuck abroad, think before you act. Call your contact to verify his or her) whereabouts. You’ll discover every time that they are at home and that they don’t need your money at all.

If you fall for these swindlers, blame yourself, and consider it an expensive lesson.

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