We met online. She responded to a CraigsList real estate ad. (I had 35-acres of fenced sheep pasture for sale in Union, South Carolina). Her first note to me was a dead giveaway:
FROM AMANDA (via Craigslist) — Glad i found this your listing ,i searched all through yesterday but i didnt find my taste.. you have it well detailed in the AD was just wondering if i can know where your location is and how fast are you willing to let this go ? Mostly important what is your asking amount and when is good for you to show it ? respond at firstname.lastname@example.org
I was on the Internet when Al Gore was still making his “finishing touches”. Back then the whole deal resembled a black and white “Pong” game from the early 70s. My point: I’ve had a very ling time to get used to Nigerian 419 scam mail. I’ve seen it all: the ousted prince, the down-on-his-luck long-lost rich uncle, the secret agent needing help hiding CIA funds from Doctor Evil.
Those guys, at least, made an effort. They put some thought into their craft. But this Amanda person sets a very low bar for herself. Zero creativity. I guess nobody told her that a strong first impression goes a long way in the business world.
I read her note twice. It was that dumb.
Then I moved on, thinking nothing else of it…
…until a few days later when my “it” switch kicked on.
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Crystal says my “It” switch renders me incapable of passing up an opportunity tangle with Rip Offs, Evil Doers and bi-polar loudmouths. She says I become like the Pineapple Hill cat, Ellie Mae: how she’ll entertain herself for hours toying with a field mouse before biting its whole head off and leaving it at our back door as an expression of her unwavering love for us.
Crystal says there’s no explanation for my “it”. She’s got a bunch of alphabet soup degrees in Psychology, so I believe her. She says my “It” just happens. Like the “It Happens” bumper sticker.
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I hate hearing about people that have been taken advantage of by these bottom feeders. (My elderly father, in early stages of dementia, lost thousands.)
Consequently, I love it when these jerks get caught or at least jerked around some.
That why, when my “it” switch came on, I sent reply to Amanda’s email…
To: email@example.com — Hi Amanda and thanks for your interest in the pasture. Sorry for the delay getting back to you. Must’ve overlooked your email until this morning. We might negotiate a bit on the price but not having a fire sale here. Also, there’s some extra frontage land we could offer. Call me at 864-674-6261 to discuss.
Right away I learned that Amanda was too lazy to keep track of all her potential scams. She sent an email asking me to remind her of which victim I was. (Note her new email address this time.)
FROM: Amanda <firstname.lastname@example.org — Ok please give me the listed price here i cant go back to the AD URL
In my reply, I included the suggestion we get on the phone together (thinking that would add some dimensionality).
To: Amanda — $119,000. Call if you need further information.
Then it happened. Evidently on crack, Amanda sent a reply so ridiculously stupid it was an insult to exiled Nigerian princes everywhere. (Remember, my Craigslist ad was for a 35-acre pasture.)
I’ve highlight some of the best parts in green.)
FROM: Amanda <email@example.com> Thanks for your mail. I’m satisfied with the condition of it as advertised in the listing,i will like to add $US200 to your final price for you to keep off from all offer,and consider it sold to me alone as i am serious with this.I will like you to know that i am really interested in buying this for my father,payment will be through PayPal and the pick up will be arranged by me as i will have my agent come down to pick it up…i will be waiting to hear from you,and i will like you to send me the name and email address on the PayPal account to send the payment and send me more pics of this item if available since it will not be seen in person so i can pay it right away I am a busy at work and do not have much time around me. Make sure you get back to me so that we can arrange for pick up as i will like the item to be picked at your residence,so no shipping Thanks and reply asap. Regards
C’mon Amanda, you’re not even trying!
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I have to say I was really disappointed.
Amanda had ZERO game.
My “it” switch was being wasted on the worst scammer in the business. (Where’s a politically oppressed oil baron when I want one?)
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It was time to fire up the keyboard.
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I poured a big mug of Guatemalan coffee and wrote my break up letter:
To Amanda — That’s great news Amanda! Your father will really love this and you are such a wonderful daughter for buying it for him. I wish I had a daughter as good as you, one that would buy a 35-acre sheep pasture, unseen, and pay for it in full, and then …and here’s the really good part …have an agent come down to pick it up.
That agent of yours must have a really big car to carry 35 acres of land plus fences, gates and shed.
Or does he plan to roll it up like carpet and put it on a giant trailer?
Or will he fold it up like a giant paper airplane and fly it back to your father?
I should probably have more details on that just in case I need to turn off the well pump first. If we don’t turn off the well pump all of our well water will be attached to your agent’s pasture/airplane when he flies back to your father (it will trail behind him like a kit’s tail). If we don’t shut off the pump, the pasture/plane could drag all of the water out –not just my water and my neighbor’s but all the water all the way through the Earth to China. If that were to happen, how will the Chinese water their flowers?
It’s details like that we need to work out as soon as possible. I’m sure you understand the importance.
We are probably going to need some engineers to take a look at your agent’s plan for transport and for protecting the Chinese.
Would you mind having your agent contact the county water department to get clearance?
They may charge a small fee for looking into this matter but you can pay them through PayPal. Just ask for their account information and the email account.
One more thing you might want to think about is the opportunity for you and I to make a little extra money on this deal. Here’s my idea: Instead of rolling the pasture up like a big carpet …or folding it up like a giant paper airplane, your agent could pump it full of helium so it floats like a huge magic carpet. Wouldn’t that be GREAT!
If he could do that we could charge people for rides. Then we’d really be in the moolah.
Where does your father live? How much to you think we could charge to ride a floating pasture there? (Btw, it’s a good thing the pasture is fenced –we won’t have to worry about people falling off).
Anyway, let me know what you think about this money making partnership. Getting paid would be easy: we’ll just give people your Paypal account and email information.
Would you mind paying me 60% since I’m the one that thought of this (I don’t have a PayPal account but you can just send Monopoly money.)
This is what I got back.
From Amanda: Thanks for the message ….the reason why PayPal is the only payment option is because it is safe and secure and as soon as i make the payment for it,you will be sent a notification for the payment receipt in this your email ….that is if you use this your email address to set up the paypal account and i have a mover that will come over for the pick up and the pick up representatives only comes up when we have finish the deal so don’t worry i will be the one to take care of the pick up expenses ok. i will be glad if you can log on to www.paypal.com and set up your account and send me email use to set up and i will suggest you make use of this your email address so when i make the payment you will be notify of the receipt from PayPal instantly. I look to read from you soon.
No mention of how her “agent” will somehow transport the 35-acre pasture to her father. I pointed that out:
Amanda, you still have not answered the question: “How will the Chinese water their flowers?” Such matters are very important and must be resolved prior to doing business together. I look forward to your reply. — Tim
Still adamant that whatever she’d scamming me on can be picked up by her agent, Amanda writes back:
Don’t worry about the pick up,my shipping agent will be coming to pick it up as soon the money had been credited into your account . I’ll like you to send me your address so that my shipping agent can figure it out and come for the pick up and other necessary things….more so,send me your PayPal details(PayPal email) so i can pay in. Await your response.
Crystal’s ready to head out to a restaurant so I need to quit Play Time with Amanda. I point her to the dictionary:
Amanda, do you know what the word “pasture” means? (Just curious)
Somewhere in Nigeria or Eastern Europe, a fat, cigar chomping guy named “Amanda” just looked up the word “pasture”.
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Still no word back.
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There needs to be a professional organization for Internet scammers and it needs to be directed by the Nigerian 401 Guys. In my opinion, they fly at a much more interesting level than the Craigslist/PayPal chumps.
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I wish I knew how many scam replies “Amanda” had to send out to get a reply. Of course, they’re probably automated …but still. You’d think that if and when someone did actually respond there’s be an effort to fine tune the marketing message. Increase the odds of success. How much email does such a lame scam letter actually attract. There’s a lesson here on targeted marketing and sales letters.
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Dick Toomey, owner of an agency I once worked for, used to say “prospects are like gold! Never let them slip away through your fingers!” I loved that old guy. Very Lebanese and looked just like Jacques Cousteau but with hair plugs.
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For your further entertainment, here’s a Mother Jones article called What I learned from Nigerian Scammer
Here’s an article about a scammer getting scammed.
And an Australian woman that turned the tables on a scammer.
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— Tim Bryant
Surf Director at Pineapple Hill