My church email account has a dark side.
Suspicious emails are forwarded to a spam folder. Daily the spam folder receives dozens of emails that have been scanned and deemed to be junk. In rare moments of boredom, the spam folder is a wealth of knowledge and entertainment. I enjoy reading some of the ludicrous ploys attempting to separate me from my money.
I have learned through the spam emails that most of the people in Africa are very rich but have problems with wills. There are dozens of people who want me to help them get their inheritance out of the country so they can rightly claim what is theirs. For helping these folks, I am promised a million dollars if I would only send my checking account number. I need do nothing else. They will deposit the money in my account and trust that I will send them their money back to Africa, minus my million dollars. It is so nice these strangers trust me!
Then there are the people who have heard I am an honest person, so I would certainly help them recover money that has been discovered by opening a safe deposit box. The nefarious bank employees assure me they are really honest, but their mom has a medical condition that needs copious amounts of money to fix. If I will get the money to America then their government can’t steal the contents of the safe deposit box which they intend to steal. If only I would send them my checking account number they will deposit all of the money in my account. Once I have the money, I can keep all but what is needed for mom’s surgery. How nice, even the crooks trust me.
I have won the lottery several times, too. If I would send them my personal information they will deposit millions in my account. They trust me that I have the winning ticket in my possession, I need not offer proof.
The letter that inspired this frivolity arrived this morning. It was an official apology for all the attempted scams coming out of Nigeria. The “give me your bank account number” is called an Advance-Fee Scam.
Here is some history of the scam.
“The modern scam is similar to the Spanish Prisoner scam dating back to the late 18th century. In that con, businessmen were contacted by an individual allegedly trying to smuggle someone connected to a wealthy family out of a prison in Spain. In exchange for assistance, the scammer promised to share money with the victim in exchange for a small amount of money to bribe prison guards. One variant of the scam may date back to the 18th or 19th centuries, as a very similar letter, entitled “The Letter from Jerusalem”, is seen in the memoirs of Eugène François Vidocq, a former French criminal and private investigator. Another variant of the scam, dating back to circa 1830, appears very similar to what is passed via email today: “Sir, you will doubtlessly be astonished to be receiving a letter from a person unknown to you, who is about to ask a favour from you…”, and goes on to talk of a casket containing 16,000 francs in gold and the diamonds of a late marchioness.”
This morning’s variant was a letter from the United Nations. The email announced that the U.N. is concerned about these scams originating in Nigeria. The U.N. is aware that many American citizens have lost money in these scams. The U.N. has established a fund to repay Americans who have lost money in the variants of the Nigerian/Advanced Fee scam. You can claim your money from the U.N. by sending your checking account number to a certain email address. Tell the UN how much money you have lost and they will deposit that amount into your checking account as soon as possible. I’m glad the U.N. trusts me enough to offer to pay back any money I have lost. Do you think I should send them my account number?
Old scams have gone digital, just as many sins have gone digital. Sins that once took place outside the home are now piped into your device at the speed of broadband. The writer of Ecclesiastes warned us that there is “nothing new under the sun.”
There is dark side working on your soul, which wants to steal your joy and rob you of contentment. Be careful lest you send your checking account number to anyone or you believe the lie, “If you eat of this fruit you won’t die, you will have your eyes opened.” Adam and Eve fell for the first scam!
Church is a good place to learn about avoiding soul scams. We don’t want your checking account number.