In order to fully appreciate this post, it would be very helpful to listen to the following episode of This American Life.
Dear This American Life,
It is rare that I have the impulse to write in to one of the shows that I listen to regularly on NPR, and I have never honored that impulse. However, this week my real world came colliding with the world you had built for me through the radio in an unbelievable way.
Over the weekend, a co-worker of mine called to say that she would have to cancel her reservation for tickets at the theatre where we work together because the man she was coming with had his travel delayed. I didn’t ask many questions because I don’t know her well, only because we haven’t been working together for very long. But when I mentioned it to my boss she said, “Oh gosh, I hope this guy’s for real.” When I inquired further, she explained that this man was someone that my co-worker, I’ll call her K., had been getting to know over the internet and this was the first time they were to see each other and that his travel had been suspiciously delayed over the course of a week.
When we got together in the office on Monday, K. explained that the story, as she understood it, was that her supposed companion was Spanish, had worked in England for a while, but had been in Nigeria for the last bit of time. When he began his trip over, he was delayed in Miami due to weather for a long time, and then he made it to Atlanta, but they flagged his visa and wouldn’t let him out of the airport. And then somehow ~ mysteriously ~ someone had managed to smuggle him out of the airport to a hotel, but he didn’t know where he was because it was dark when he got there. The inevitable conclusion is that, of course, K. had given money already, and more was needed. To pay off a man in Nigeria. To help him find his way out of the hotel that he didn’t know where he was. Etc. Etc.
They were calling her at all hours of night and day, but K. had put her foot down and would not give any more after the first amount. She was so overwrought.
And, of course, the entire time I listened to her story, my heart was breaking because I had just listened to your previous edition of TAL about scammers based out of Nigeria and the people who set out to catch them, which is the only reason that I knew for certain that this is all a sham. That man is not anywhere in the States.
When I mentioned the story to my friend and the other women that I work with, another colleague said, “Can you send that story to me too? Our box office manager is dating someone over the internet who supposedly lives in Nigeria as well.”
I’m writing you because I have no one else to write to. And I thought that someone should know that these scammers have changed up their game plan. I’m afraid that they are preying on lonely, vulnerable women on internet dating sites. This feels much more insidious to me than the previous scams on suckers who should know better than to think that they can get money for nothing. The promise of love in today’s volatile world is not something to be trifled with.
The thing is, every time I talk to K. about the situation, she says she’s still answering the phone. She’s clearly a very intelligent woman. She’s taken more than a few harsh blows from life, and I would have thought that she would have walked away from this situation by now. She keeps saying, “My head knows that you’re right. But my heart just wants to go there and see the empty hotel room before I can believe it.”
I don’t know what you can do with this information, but I had to feel like I was doing something.
(a loyal listener)