October 17, 2009

Mugged in London: A Morality Play

Prologue: One of my relatives (“Timmy”) recently got an alarming IM from his aunt (“Aunt”) while on Facebook. The conversation went a little something like this:

Aunt: Hello Timmy… Are you there? Please come online.

Timmy: Hi.

Aunt: I’m not too good.

Timmy: What's wrong?

Aunt: Are you aware I’m in London right now?

Timmy: No...

Aunt: I’m stuck in London. I was mugged at a gun point last night. All my cash, credit cards, and my cell was stolen off me.

Timmy: Oh my God.

Aunt: It was scary, I’m just happy i was not hurt.

Timmy: I'm sorry to hear that. I actually escaped a mugging in London once. I'm glad you're not hurt too.

Aunt: I thank God am still alive and am still with my passport. OMG.

Timmy: What do you need me to do?

Aunt: I need you to help me with some money to settle my hotel bills and also get a cab to the airport... I will def refund it back to you as soon as i get back home.

Timmy: I really wish I could, but my account is literally empty and I don't get paid til Saturday.

Aunt: OMG.

Timmy: Can I call someone for you?

Aunt: You can wire it to me online here with your credit card www.westernunion.com. All you need is my name and location. I promise to pay back tomorrow.

Timmy: I really have no money at all, aside from $6 in my wallet. No joke. Would you like me to call someone for you?

Aunt: I’m freaked out.

Timmy: Don't freak out, it's going to be ok.

Aunt: Ok. My friend… I only need $300. I promise to pay you back tomorrow.

Timmy: Should I call your husband?

Aunt: He’s with me.

Timmy: Yikes.

Aunt: How much can you help me with at the moment?

Timmy: I literally have six dollars.

Aunt: What about your credit card?

Timmy: Don't have one.

Aunt: OMG. I have no phone. Am freaked out. At this moment you are the only one online.

Timmy: If this is really my aunt, then what are the names of your mother and father in law?

Aunt: What is all this? If is not me you can not send money on my name.

Timmy: For all I know the same people who mugged you have your ID, and are using your Facebook account. Please answer the question.

Aunt: Will you help me if i should answer it?

Timmy: Yes, if you tell me the names of your mother and father-in-law.

Aunt: How much will you help me with?

Timmy: Just answer the question.

Aunt: How much? Promise.

Timmy: As I said, I don't have any money.

Aunt: Then no question. Bye.

Timmy: Please stop using my aunt's account for your hoax. Not cool at all.

— Aunt is offline.

Epilogue: The subtext to this dialogue is fascinating. We can sense that the good-hearted nephew is increasingly suspicious that the oldest fraud in the book (the infamous “Mugged Aunt in London Facebook IM Scam”) is being perpetrated on him. But is he actually wary to the crime when he makes his outrageous claims about lacking a credit card and possessing just a few bills in his wallet?

As for the scam artist, the Facebook police force (working with Interpol) have narrowed their suspects down to a Cockney cutpurse, a Nigerian prince, or Grammy nominee Lemmy Kilmeister.

And finally, I learned some valuable lessons from this.

1.) Never access personal pages from a public computer.

2.) Change my password frequently.

3.) Subsequent to being mugged, IMing relatives to ask for financial help is apparently not a particularly viable option.

No comments: