LAST weekend an email popped into my website inbox from someone called “Shirley”.
Nothing strange in that – I frequently get terrific comments (very flattering, many thanks!) from readers of my novels as well as of this column. But this email was a bit different. It was accompanied by a photo of an extremely pretty, smiling teenager with the message she hoped she could become my “girlfriend”.
I know I appear in trousers in the photos on my website but do I really look, umm, male? (Check this out for yourself; the website’s listed below!). And, in any case, would I honestly be interested in befriending someone a fraction of my age over the internet?
The sad truth is that many have been duped into sending money to internet conmen posing as would-be girlfriends/ boyfriends. (Last year, UK victims of romance scams – the majority of whom are women – lost £50m, an average of £11,145 each, according to data from police reporting centre Action Fraud).
All part and parcel of what’s usually known as “Nigerian scam”, because Nigeria’s where it usually originates. And it works. One Nigerian conman received a 12-year jail sentence after scamming $1.3 million from victims.
Nigerian scam has many variations, but its dating or romance scam, in addition to requesting money for college fees, sick relations etc, is a bit different: the fraudsters upload fake glamorous photos, mostly of white people claiming to be foreign specialists working in Nigeria or Ghana. After they initiate some correspondence and perhaps even send some cheap gifts, they’ll inevitably be almost on their way to meet you, but something will happen to them. They’ll get robbed, roughed up (you get the picture) and, naturally, you’ll be their only contact to beg for financial help.
Scams so obvious they could have been made up by members of the present government – themselves world leaders in rewriting the textbook on incompetence.
Oh, and if “Shirley” happens to be reading this and wants some “additional feedback”, here’s two additional words, mate, and one of them is “off”.
Nora Johnson’s psychological crime thrillers ‘The Girl in the Woods’, ‘The Girl in the Red Dress’, ‘No Way Back’, ‘Landscape of Lies’, ‘Retribution’, ‘Soul Stealer’, ‘The De Clerambault Code’ (www.nora-johnson.net) available from Amazon in paperback/eBook (€0.99; £0.99) and iBookstore.All profits to Costa del Sol Cudeca cancer charity.