I don’t mean to brag, but I have a lot of friends.
It must be because I’m such a likable person. People lay eyes on
me and think, “Hey, now there’s a guy with a positive, outgoing
That’s all it takes. Why, just last week, on two separate
beautiful women wearing skimpy dresses came up to me on the
street, out of the blue, and started asking personal questions. Who
says Las Vegas isn’t a friendly town?
But apparently people don’t need to even see me to know they can
call me a friend.
Consider these three e-mails I received recently from people I had
no idea existed.
In each one, I found a friend I never knew I had. And instead of
just writing to say “Hi” and ask about the family, each friend had
found themselves in the strange situation of having to pick
somebody to receive an outlandish fortune left behind by a dead
person. And they all picked me.
At first I thought these e-mails might be a part of some
scheme,” where bored computer nerds in third-world Internet
cafes cast a multitude of lures into the in-boxes of American vics,
easy prey because of their greed and stupidity.
But after reading the first two carefully, as my new friend Mrs.
Mario Zema from the Bank of Africa in Burkina Faso admonished me, I
found no reference to “Nigerian” or even “scheme.” None. However,
she/he did begin our formal introduction by calling me “Dearest
One! ,,” which won me over like Romeo (or Juliet).
She/he sought me out because she/he “seriously” needs
my “Assistance For the betterment of our life’s.”
Mrs. Mario Zema wrote to say there is $12.5 million left
orphaned in an account belonging to “one of our Foreign
Customer Who Died Along with his entire family at the THE WORD
TRADE CENTER on september 11 .2001 AMERICA ATTACK.”
Mrs. Mario Zema says the client’s name was Joseph F. Grillo, and
says he “is the Manager Of petrol chemical service, A Chemical
Engineer by Profession.”
A Joseph F. Grillo did die
Sept. 11, 2001, at the World Trade Center, but according to
Grillo’s biography, he worked as a risk finance analyst for the
Port Authority. He counted himself as a hopeless basketball junkie
and was a committed friend and husband.
He was 46 when he died, but fortunately his family was not with
(Mental note: write back to Mrs. Mario Zema and tell him/her to
fire his/her assistant and send the $12.5 million to Mr. Grillo’s
Barrister Allen Walters, who must have forgot to tell me where
he was writing from, introduced himself as a “friend” to
tell me that, “Since the demise of my client I personally have
watched with keen interest to see the next of kin but all has
proved abortive as no one has come to claim his funds of
US$28.5m(Twenty Eight Million Five Hundred Thousand United States
Dollar) and all the relevant documents in the bank has no record of
any next of kin.”
Allen said he found a jackpot, if only I would pose as a next of
kin. But what Allen really found is himself in a moral quandary. I
plan to write him back and tell him that he should give the money
to charity, or just leave it alone. It might sound great at first
to be a millionaire, but knowing Allen, and I like to think I know
Allen, he would be crippled with guilt if he tried to pocket the
money. Who wants to be rich if it means getting rich by being less
The third e-mail, from my new pal “Mr Daniel Ehinme the
director in Charge Of Auditing and Accounting Section of (Bank Of
Industry Limited),” does mention Nigeria.
But I didn’t want to hold that against him, I know Daniel has
had a rough time lately.
And wouldn’t you know it, Daniel has the same problem as my
first two friends, a fortune sitting in an account with nobody to
care for it. Daniel has always been one of my more pragmatic
buddies, and knew that he needed “a foreigner who is reliable
and a honest person who is capable and fit” to lend a hand. So
he wrote to me. For my assistance he offered me a 40 percent cut of
“(US$28.5 Million) Twenty Eight Million and Five hundred
Thousand United State Dollars.”
Daniel is also a very devout person.
“I am revealing this to you believing in God that you will
never let me down when the money is transferred into your foreign
nominated bank account.”
He is right to believe in God that I would never let him down,
that’s one of the perks of being my friend, but I knew I could
never take him up on his offer.
Or could I? I have to admit, it gets a little dizzying making so
many friends, so quickly. I read Daniel’s e-mail again, and
figured, “What the heck, if it will make Daniel happy.”
But then I read to the bottom, and I began to doubt that Daniel
really meant to contact me.
Below Daniel’s letter was this, legal boilerplate sometimes
tacked on the end of e-mails:
“The information contained in this message may be
CONFIDENTIAL and is intended for the addressee only. Any
unauthorised use,dissemination of the information or copying of
this message is prohibited. If you are not the addressee, please
notify the sender immediately by return e-mail”
I punched the reply button and wrote this message:
I was intrigued by Mr. Ehinme’s predicament, and I wanted to help
him – and myself, no less – but I must confess that I have never
heard of any of the people mentioned in the e-mail and realized
that this message must have been sent to me by mistake. This didn’t
bother me, but when I reached the bottom, after reading the
proposal very carefully, I found the legal boilerplate that says if
I am not the intended recipient, I have to contact you. You can
imagine my disappointment. In any case, please tell your secretary
that he or she should take better care when sending such offers via
e-mail. And please give Mr. Ehinme my warmest regards.
PS – I will delete the original message post
(I signed the e-mail “Hank Stamper” after the main character of
the novel, “Sometimes a Great Notion.” It’s a little inside joke,
it’s Daniel’s favorite book.)