My people, Oscar Wilde was right. No good deed goes unpunished.
Yesterday, someone tagged me to a post on Facebook.
“Kokomma, come and see story oooo! Come and help us share this.”
The post had been put up by a Facebook friend, Kate Bassey. I saw a series of screenshots of inbox chat messages, and went through all of them, one after the other. It was a chronological documentation of a conversation between Kate and a certain Seunfumi O. Williams, the ECOWAS youth president in Nigeria. The latter had requested for financial help from the former. He said,
“Please dear, I need your help. Flew in from Kano to Abuja to attend a program today and I misplaced my ATM at Kano. I’ve been trying to reach out to some friends to get some cash from them to no avail and I am to fly to Lagos this evening. Please I beg you of any amount you can help me with….”
Kate couldn’t send the money because she didn’t have. But she checked up on him to find out if he’d been able to get the help. The long and short of this story is that someone reached out to Kate and told her that this same man had asked her for money. Then another person did the same and then another. Turns out the Seunfumi is a scammer who’s defrauded many people. Three thousand here, five thousand there, two thousand there. Only God knows how much money he’s gotten from several people.
The point of this story is that there is a new crop of armed robbers on social media. These ones come armed with sob stories that can break your heart. I am stranded. I was raped. I was kidnapped. I am depressed. I’ve been diagnosed with cancer or some other disease and so on and so forth. If you’re a ‘softie’ like me, you start running around to raise money. I had a personal experience like this before; I lost nearly a hundred thousand naira to the scammer. Yes, silly me. I fell for the I-was-raped-and-now-I’m-pregnant-with-twins-story. Since then, I’ve become wary about helping people. Because of these fraudsters, I find myself genuinely confused about whether to help someone or not.
This lot have got the following things in common:
a. They always have an urgent need for the money. The moment they send you that inbox request, you’re supposed to cough up the requested sum tout suite! In other words, now now now! The request is crafted in such a way that if you don’t meet that need immediately, there’s a possibility that they may not make it to tomorrow.
b. The amount of money they ask for is more often than not, a little sum—usually between two and five thousand naira. Anything higher may raise suspicion from one person. But imagine that small sum spread over thirty or forty people. You get the picture.
c. They’re always quick to offer alternatives, in the event that you cannot come up with the money immediately. You can’t make it to the bank? Let’s do a mobile transfer. You don’t have a branch of their bank around you? They’ll send someone else’s account details for a bank near you. You don’t have at all? May you can…borrow? Yes.
d. The time chosen to make requests is such that you may not be able to verify the truth of their claims until it’s too late.
e. Their situations are always dire. Something that you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy and would do anything to prevent them from wallowing in the pain.
f. It’s the people whom you least expect to do these things that do them.
g. They’re usually people with whom you’ve had one conversation or none at all.
So, be careful out there, especially if you’ve got a very soft spot for people in trouble and are prone to falling for well-crafted sob stories. It’s good to be kind to people. But the way things are going on social media, it won’t be long before we become hardened to everyone out there and lose our humanity.