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One Born Every Minute

Publishing Date : 25 May, 2015

Stuart White

Now in case you’re not up with the current exchange rate of dollars to pula, it’s about 10 to 1.  So a monthly salary of US $3000 would be P30k, not bad for a nanny, I’m sure you’d agree.  Throw in the free accommodation and free food and it’s a dream job, especially as the only qualifications appear to be strong religious convictions, creed not specified. 

It almost sounds too good to be true and thereby hangs a tale.  If anything in life sounds too good to be true then you can bet your bottom dollar (or in this case, three thousand of them per month) that is almost certainly is.

There has to be a scam or a catch or both but the problem is that the world is full of gullible souls who will be sucked into the con and before they know it, they’re actually out of pocket, in this case out of a job (well, face it, they were never actually in one) and the con-men or con-persons have succeeded in their scam.

But you might think, hang on, what could possible go wrong?  You apply for the job and if you land it, your employment ship has really come in – 3 grand a month in greenbacks for a bit of babysitting.  If not, it’s back to the sits vacancy columns and websites and you’ve lost nothing but a bit of time and effort.  But of course scams don’t work like that.  If you’ll excuse the mixed metaphors, they’re designed to suck you in, butter you up, then reel you in, hook line and sinker. 

And during the buttering up phase, you feel so flattered, so lucky, so blessed you’re willing to do anything not to mess up this opportunity of a lifetime.  And the first thing you learn is that the job is not here in Botswana but over in the United States, the land of opportunity where streets are paved with gold – more good news.  Then they tell you that they’re not actually living there themselves but are in the process of immigrating so they’d like you to go ahead and set up house for them. 

They will pay for your flight and other expenses, they’ll arrange your visa but for that there will be a small charge.  And you think, fair enough.  What’s a small capital outlay upfront compared to the luxury lifestyle ahead?  But of course, if there never was a job, there never can be a visa. 

You will send the money and then be told that a problem with the paperwork has cropped up and you will need to pay a bit extra and then a bit extra and this will go for as long as they think they can keep on conning you, then one day, long after you’ve started having nagging doubts and suspicions but have brushed them aside, all correspondence will suddenly cease. 

They’re one step ahead of you again and they’ve worked out that you’re running out of money and starting to raise objections.  You are no longer the milk cow you were at the start so they drop you like a hot potato and move on to the next sucker.  And of course there’s a good chance they’ve been juggling multiple victims all along, each one of them forking out money for non-existent permits and paperwork for a non-existent job babysitting a non-existent infant. 

And as always in these scams there’s an early clue in the text.  The first line reads ‘I am my wife’ when it should have read ‘I and my wife’.  See, an English-speaking person wouldn’t make such a silly mistake but a conman fluent in Pidgin English and qualified in ripping off the gullible most certainly would.

And of course this sort of thing doesn’t just apply to the employment market.  A far more lucrative target is that of the lovelorn and lonely.  They are way more vulnerable and way more desperate.  Week after week some bleeding heart tale crops up of a scammed woman who has given over a small fortune to someone she’s only ever chatted to over the internet, someone who is never who he pretended to be and who promised her his undying love…..at a price. 

Or a scammed guy who thinks the Filipino beauty in the picture is really smitten by a punchy, middle-aged sad-do with a laptop and a bit of money in the bank.  And again it’s always on a drip-feed basis, money first before visas and a passport.  Then it will be for an airfare so he/she can finally make the trip to meet their beloved in the flesh. 

Only of course they will never get on the plane because they are either not who they claim to be in the first place or they are taking candy from these overgrown babies and this is how they make a living.  And before they’re completely done with them, they’ll also have asked for money for clothes/cosmetic surgery/medical bills for them or their nearest and dearest – the list is endless, even though the victims’ resources may not be. 

Take this sorry tale which appeared in this week’s papers.  An Australian woman named Jan Marshall has revealed how she handed over US$ 350k to what she believed to be an Englishman named Eamon Donegal Dublhlainn (seriously?), whom she met on the dating site ‘Plenty of Fish’ but who turned out to be, surprise, surprise, a group of Nigerian fraudsters.  She was even provided with pictures of the fictitious Mr. D but again, unsurprisingly they emailed but whenever they were supposed to video chat there was always a problem. 

Mr. D first told her he was an engineer working in the States then when their ‘relationship’ began to get serious he told her he had taken a contract in Dubai and from there it would be a short hop to come and visit her in Oz. 

But curiously he found himself having to pay unexpected taxes for which he didn’t have the readies – luckily she did.  Then he was robbed of the monies she sent and needed some more.  Then it was money for building materials, all the while telling her that these payments were only loans, and that he had funds but he was just temporarily unable to access them.  And she paid and paid and paid, despite her more astute friends hearing alarm bells going off and trying to warn her.

Sadly there are women like Jan everywhere.  It’s estimated that in Australia alone, victims are conned out of some US$30m every year, most of which ends up in Nigeria, Eastern Europe and the Philippines.   And there are unemployed hopefuls too who think it’s a fair trade paying for a work permit in return for the job of a lifetime.   Well, they say there’s one born every minute – just make sure it isn’t you.

STUART WHITE is the Managing Director of HRMC and they can be reached on 395 1640 or at  www.hrmc.co.bw



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