Beware of the Age-old ‘Begging Letter’ Scam!


.

Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

.

Have you received any letter written by a poor person asking for money? If so, beware! This is could be the prelude to “The Begging Letter” scam.

In a begging letter, the person claiming to be poor, begs for money or help, usually from a rich person or a philanthropic organization. They ask for monetary assistance to meet the expenses for an emergency surgery, money for orphaned children, or offering a percentage to help recover the money of their parents or kin from banks, etc.

This is not new. Even in the late 19th century scammers sent begging letters scam by traditional mail.

The Begging-Letter Writer” an Essay by Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens (1812-1870) (Source:  Jeremiah Gurney / Heritage Auction Gallery)

Charles Dickens (1812-1870) (Source: Jeremiah Gurney / Heritage Auction Gallery)

From the time Charles Dickens rose to fame with The Pickwick Papers, he was constantly plagued by begging-letter writers. In May 1850 edition of Household Words (Volume I, Magazine : No. 8), Dickens wrote an essay titled “The Begging-Letter Writer” wherein he describes examples of the many begging letters he had received over the years, and the ruses employed by their writers to gain funds from the recipients.

John Forster - Oil portrait by Charles Edward Perugini

John Forster – Oil portrait by Charles Edward Perugini

John Forster (1812–76) was a noted biographer, critic, essayist and historian. Forster met Charles Dickens in 1836 while both worked as young journalists for the ‘True Sun‘. Forster became Dickens’ closest friend and trusted adviser. Dickens appointed him as his literary executor. After Dickens’ death, Forster published a biography of Charles Dickens in three volumes (1872–4).

In Volume 2, Ch. 8, Forster commented that there is not ‘a particle of exaggeration’ in Dickens’s description of his victimization as narrated by him in “The Begging-Letter Writer“:

Once he [Daniel Tobin] wrote me rather a special letter, proposing relief in kind. He had got into a little trouble by leaving parcels of mud done up in brown paper, at people’s houses, on pretence of being a Railway- Porter, in which character he received carriage money. This sportive fancy he expiated in the House of Correction. Not long after his release, and on a Sunday morning, he called with a letter (having first dusted himself all over), in which he gave me to understand that, being resolved to earn an honest livelihood, he had been travelling about the country with a cart of crockery. That he had been doing pretty well until the day before, when his horse had dropped down dead near Chatham, in Kent. That this had reduced him to the unpleasant necessity of getting into the shafts himself, and drawing the cart of crockery to London – a somewhat exhausting pull of thirty miles. That he did not venture to ask again for money; but that if I would have the goodness TO LEAVE HIM OUT A DONKEY, he would call for the animal before breakfast!

Forster adds, ‘for much of what he suffered he was himself responsible, by giving so largely, as at first he did, to almost everyone who applied to him’.

In the next paragraph Dickens describes the case of John Walker, to whom Dickens had given money several times in 1844.

At another time my friend (I am describing actual experiences) introduced himself as a literary gentleman in the last extremity of distress. He had had a play accepted at a certain Theatre – which was really open; its representation was delayed by the indisposition of a leading actor – who was really ill; and he and his were in a state of absolute starvation. If he made his necessities known to the Manager of the Theatre, he put it to me to say what kind of treatment he might expect? Well! we got over that difficulty to our mutual satisfaction. A little while afterwards he was in some other strait. I think Mrs. Southcote, his wife, was in extremity – and we adjusted that point too. A little while afterwards he had taken a new house, and was going headlong to ruin for want of a water-butt. I had my misgivings about the water- butt, and did not reply to that epistle. But a little while afterwards, I had reason to feel penitent for my neglect.

Walker continued to write begging letters, which Dickens ceased to answer until he got one telling him that Walker’s wife had died and begging ‘a few crumbs from your table‘ to feed the children. Dickens sent his brother Fred to check whether Walker was really in distress.

He wrote me a few broken-hearted lines, informing me that the dear partner of his sorrows died in his arms last night at nine o’clock!

I despatched a trusty messenger to comfort the bereaved mourner and his poor children; but the messenger went so soon, that the play was not ready to be played out; my friend was not at home, and his wife was in a most delightful state of health. He was taken up by the Mendicity Society (informally it afterwards appeared), and I presented myself at a London Police-Office with my testimony against him. The Magistrate was wonderfully struck by his educational acquirements, deeply impressed by the excellence of his letters, exceedingly sorry to see a man of his attainments there, complimented him highly on his powers of composition, and was quite charmed to have the agreeable duty of discharging him. A collection was made for the ‘poor fellow,’ as he was called in the reports, and I left the court with a comfortable sense of being universally regarded as a sort of monster. Next day comes to me a friend of mine, the governor of a large prison. ‘Why did you ever go to the Police-Office against that man,’ says he, ‘without coming to me first? I know all about him and his frauds. He lodged in the house of one of my warders, at the very time when he first wrote to you; and then he was eating spring-lamb at eighteen-pence a pound, and early asparagus at I don’t know how much a bundle!’ On that very same day, and in that very same hour, my injured gentleman wrote a solemn address to me, demanding to know what compensation I proposed to make him for his having passed the night in a ‘loathsome dungeon.’

The Nigerian “Help Me!” Scams

Nigerian Cyber Scammers (Source: http://antifraudintl.org/)

Users in a computer kiosk in Lagos, Nigeria. (Source: http://antifraudintl.org/)

Now, the internet and mobile phones are a boon to the scammers as they provide a vehicle to convey their blatant solicitation by email and SMS.

The present day “help me” letters are variants of the confidence trick known as the ‘419 Scam’ perpetrated by the Nigerian Scammers. The number 419 refers to the article of the Nigerian Criminal Code dealing with fraud. It is found in Chapter 35 – “Offences analogous to Stealing” under the laws of the Federation of Nigeria.

A variation to this begging letter is the advance fee scheme in which a letter through traditional mail or email, offers the recipient the “opportunity to share” in a percentage of millions of dollars that the author, a self-proclaimed government official, is trying to transfer illegally out of Nigeria, or the family member or a kin of an affluent person who had met with a tragic accident, requesting help recover the money of their parents or kin from banks, etc. The author encourages the recipient to send information such as bank names and account numbers; facsimile of passport, driving licence, for identifying information; blank letterhead stationery of the recipient; and of course, an advance to defray the cost of expenses incurred for legal expenses, payment of taxes, bribes to bank and government officials with the promise that all expenses will be reimbursed as soon as the funds are spirited out of Nigeria.

Though  most law-abiding citizens  are not impressed by such invitations, millions of dollars are lost to these schemes annually. Once the victim who falls for these schemes wakes up and stops sending money, the perpetrators use the personal information they received to impersonate the victim to drain the bank accounts.

The Nigerian government is not sympathetic to the victims who have actually conspired to remove funds from Nigeria violating section 419 of the Nigerian criminal code.

While the scam is not limited to Nigeria, the name “Nigeria” has become associated with almost all types of email frauds, and that nation has earned a reputation for being a center of email scam crimes.

In countries other than those in western Africa, a smart person with technical skills can find work in the electronic field and earn by helping their relatives, friends, neighbours, and acquaintances keep their computers running. They may even design web sites to sell useful products. But average the Nigerians, have fewer opportunities, and they almost starve. So, most teenagers learn to fix things that are dumped. Soon after they learn to code and try to outsmart other people using their computers.

Nigerian scammers (Source - httpgoodmenproject.com)

Nigerian scammers (Source: httpgoodmenproject.com)

Years ago, at the very beginning, these scammers were viewed as modern day Robin Hoods in the back streets of Lagos, the center of the cyberscam universe, in the land of chronic unemployment. They were appreciated and lauded in popular music for swindling money from the undeserving outside the poor western Africa and thereby enriching themselves. The girls were eager to date them.

Genuine Nigerian businessmen had to bear the brunt of the sins committed by these scammers known as “Yahoo boys“.

Now, many ISPs restrict sending mass email if they originate from a sub-Saharan country. Many e-commerce sites block Nigerian ISPs. The Nigerian government, acceding to the request of the legitimate tech industry in the country, is tracking and cracking down on the scammers, now living underground.

Scammers in other nations such as Benin, India, Ivory Coast, Pakistan, Russia, the Netherlands, the United States, South Africa, Spain, and Togo, also have got into the game.

Below are two mails that were in circulation as far back as 2002.

SGT. IDRIS LAWAL (RTD).

IKEJA MILITARY CANTONMENT

LAGOS, NIGERIA.

SOLICITING FOR HELP.

I am Sergent Idris Lawal (rtd). I heartily beg for your help. We were retired voluntarily by the commander in chief of armed forces of the country, Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida during his tenure as president and commander in chief of the armed forces. Since then we have been living in the military barracks waiting for our benefits.

Some weeks ago fire gulped the armory section in the barracks and everywhere caught fire. The entire barracks exploded and many people lost their lives. The death toll was about 2000, while some were rendered homeless. Right now we have lost all we had, property, shelter, clothing, everything.

My wife and my two kids managed to survive,. Right now they are in the hospital. One of them needs surgery on her face. We have been advised by the hospital to pay the sum of N5,000,000.00(NAIRA) which is about US$50,000.00 to commence this operation. My inability to raise the said amount, keeps me in a state of frustration. We have access to computer. That is the only thing our government did for us.

I beg you in the name of GOD to kindly assist us with any amount of money to enable us to carry out this operation. Your assistance will highly be appreciated.

Please help us. God will bless you abundantly.

We await you response.

Sgt. Idris Lawal (rtd).

.

N.G.O. Registration No. D.S.W./1379

Certificate of Incorporation No.G-7206

Dear Sir/Madam,

We are the CHILDREN POSTRITY AID, a non profit, non sectional, non political N.G.O based in the Aplaku Village, located in the Greater Accra Region of Ghana.

OUR OBJECTIVES ARE AS FOLLOWS:

A. What is of paramount importance is our obligation to pay  the cost of educating the children when the parents are unable to, and fight against

HIV/AIDS in Ghana and Africa as a whole.

B. We advocate the rights o children in the line with international conventions

C. We protect the rights of children through a long term plan of building their capacity.

D. We provide self reliance at adulthood through career development and technical skill training.

E.  We protect the lives of the children against  S.T.D and HIV-AIDS pandemic.

E.  We raise consciousness about the effects on environmental degradation on economic development.

C.P.A. would really appreciate your views and thoughts of the above mentioned objectives as C.P.A. believe very strongly in bringing joy into the faces of under-privileged, deprived, refugees, able and disabled children in Ghana and other parts of Africa.

C.P.A. is writing to your organisation primarily to affiliate with your honourable organization to work together to help these children to be what God wants them to be. Please, these 483 children, made up of Ghanaian and Liberian refugee’s children, lack educational logistics such as  children’s literature books, computer books, used computers, educational toys, children’s clothing and any thing that will be of a great help to these children that none of us doesn’t know what they will be come in posterity.

I thank you so much in anticipating for your prompt reply.

Yours in the Lord’s Vineya

JONAS APPIAH.

(PROJECT DIRECTOR)

Here is another interesting email I received at the beginning of this month. An appeal, almost a love letter, that addresses me as “dearest One!!!

As-Salam Alyikum dearest One!!!

sonia

To

2 Dec

As-Salam Alyikum dearest One!!!

Please I apologies to you to exercise a little patience and read through my letter I feel quite safe dealing with you in this important business having gone through your remarkable profile, I will really like to have a good relationship with you and I have a special reason why I decided to contact you, I decided to contact you due to the urgency of my situation,My name is Sonia Aisha Khorovani Ahmed,24yrs old female and I held from Somalia in Eastern Africa.

My father {Late Mr.Khorovani Ahmed} was the former Somalia road Minister. He and his assistant Minister of Home Affairs Mr.Lorna Laboso had been on board the Cessna 210,which was headed to Kericho and crashed in a remote area called Kajong’a, in western KENYA on one of his trip.I truly miss him,It’s painful to lose loved ones but life always has a meaning to be fulfilled according to God’s Plans.

After the burial of my late father,my stepmother and my uncle conspired and sold my father’s property which the shared the money among themselves and left nothing for me.On one faithful morning, I opened my father’s briefcase and found out the documents which he used to deposited huge amount of money in one of the leading with my name as the next of kin.

I traveled out side my country trying to contact the bank to withdraw the money for a better life so that I can take care of myself and start a new life, but it was my surprise that the Bank Director whom I have been contacting on this matter,told me that my father’s given instruction to the their bank that the money would only be release to me when I am married or if I could present a trusted foreigner partner who will help me and invest the money overseas.It was only on this vian I chose to search of an honest and reliable person who will help me and stand as my foreign trustee so that I will present him to the Bank for transfer of the money to his bank account overseas. I have chosen to contact you after my prayers and I believe that you will not betray my trust, God willing.

You may wonder why I am so soon revealing myself to you without knowing you,to me I will say that my spirit convinced me that you may be the true person to help me,  The amount is( $7,500,000.00 USD )Seven Million five hundred thousand United State Dollars, and I have confirmed from the bank that they will transfer the money as soon as I present a reliable foreign trustee.

If you can help me on this matter,you will also help me to place the money in a good profitable business venture in your Country or any place of your choice. you will help by recommending a nice University in your country where I can complete my studies. However,it is my intention to compensate you with 30% of the total money for your efforts and kindness of services and the balance shall be our capital in establishment of our investment.

Please understand that,I am giving you all this information due to the trust I deposed on you and I would never want you to reveal this matter to any other person for now even to your best friend, what I mean here is that you should, Please do keep this matter to your self for now until the bank will transfer the fund.I hope you will understand me?

I like honest and truthful person, Angry,and “LIES”I hate On our relationship, hence I am always very-extra-careful in my relationship with people as I always look forward to obtain good potential carrier as well if not death of my late father.

As soon as I receive your positive response showing your interest,I will inform the bank that am ready to present the foreign trustee who will receive the fund on my behalf and would also send you the bank details, Therefore, please do not fail to respond this message as soon as possible.

Yours

Miss.Sonia Aisha.Ahmed.

Have you received any similar email? Were you tempted to respond to them? Did you respond and burnt your fingers?

Beware!

.

RELATED ARTICLES

.

Add this anywhere

About these ads

4 thoughts on “Beware of the Age-old ‘Begging Letter’ Scam!

  1. Pingback: Ontario Lottery Corporation Scam | Impressions

  2. Pingback: Did You Receive Any Scam E-Mail Lately? Did You Respond to It? | Impressions

  3. Pingback: THE HIDDEN TRUTH | adichiebabz2's Blog

  4. Acknowledgment Above all my heart full thanks go to Jesus for he gave me his life and made me alive. Then I would like to express my heart full thank to my sponser, who help me in all directions to finalize this paper. My appreciation also goes to my friend for provision internet and computer service. This later also can not be come to fruition with out the help of my family who stand in front of me with their budget and idea. So my last but not the least thanks go to them. i have not computer because, I am student region :Ethiopia jimma university student faculty :Agriculture and veterinary medicine City;Oromia region

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s