Some people are needy rather than greedy when hit by a scam

TERRY PRONE: Some people are needy rather than greedy when hit by a scam

My friend who runs the cliff tours referred Emanuel to me. He had contacted her to see if my Martello Tower could be rented for a month. She passed on his email. 

Now, it is possible to rent a couple of the Martello towers, including the one in Sutton. People have their weddings in the historic building, or their honeymoons, or come from overseas to experience a few nights in a stubby fortress. But I’ve never rented out mine, largely because I am a slob and the cost of getting the place spotless would probably outweigh a week’s rent.

But Emanuel wanted a whole month in the autumn. What’s the harm, I thought, in telling him that he and the other adult involved would need to be pretty friendly with each other, since the tower has only one bedroom. 

Not a bother, said Emanuel, and asked what the price would be. Because I wasn’t that serious, I picked a figure out of the air. €6,500. That would help me get over having to pack away my life and couch-surf or go on a holiday for the four weeks. Twenty minutes later, this arrived.

“Dear Sir, Madam

Thanks for getting back to me, i am very happy that you will be able to rent your accommodation to us,I have discussed this with my wife and we have agreed to use your place, so i will want you to block other people from renting this following date:

Arrival Date: 5 Oct 2019

Departure Date: 2 Nov 2019

Here is our company’s name below:

Company Name : C8888888 Oil & Gas Co.”

Businesslike, you will agree. I’m not using his full name, although it might remind you of a cat, nor the real name of the oil company, which I immediately googled. Solid. 

I have to admit irritation that my pal Emanuel didn’t bother to pay attention to my specific indication that I was of the female persuasion, and puzzlement at the level of literacy, but with six grand floating as a possibility, was I going to get picky? Especially since Emanuel provided his wife’s address in England.

The address, in Newton Abbot in Devon, was where I was to send documentation confirming the booking. I did look at the website of the oil and gas company mentioned as his employer, but he didn’t figure in any of the personnel in the photographs. Googling him and his wife was unfruitful. But people are entitled to stay out of the current trend for relentless self promotion, I thought, going back to his email.

“Regarding the payment arrangement,” Emanuel continued, “I am assuring you that their won’t be any problem because our company’s associate in state would be paying for our holiday expenses and they have inform me that they will be making the payment via cheque.

“The cheque you will receive will be in excess, has Our trip expenses which include our BTA (Basic Travelers Allowance) fee will be included with the rental fee base on trust. As soon as you have receive the cheque you would have it deposited into you account for clearance, you would deduct the rental fee & bank charges for the clearance of the check and i will tell you how to send our trip expenses which include our BTA (Basic Travelers Allowance) fee to my traveling agent so that he can do all paperwork’s, After the cheque has been cleared in your account.

“I will appreciate if you can get back to me with the following information that will be need by our company business associate to make the payment out to you, so that you can receive the cheque as soon as possible:

Full Name on Cheque:

Full Home Address:

City:

Zip code province:

Country:

Telephone Number:

“I would be very glad if you can be of a helping hand, I will be looking forward to read back from you with the information needed above.

Thanks,”

Little red lights began to come on everywhere in my head. Why the hell was someone from an established oil company not using their email address, rather than a random Gmail one? Why would any company have employee arrangements so complicated and involving of a third party?

On the positive side, he didn’t want my bank account number or credit card details. On the negative side, why would he send me a cheque for more than was asked? It didn’t take a forensic accountant to work out that he would send a cheque for €6,500 plus whatever ‘excess’ he mentioned. It would arrive in the name of C88888 Oil and Gas. I would refund the excess to his ‘agent’. 

By the time the C88888 cheque was found to be not worth the paper it was printed on by my bank, he’d have cashed the refund sent him and would be buying pints for his extended family.

When I showed it, without expressing any doubts about it, to people in my office, they began to laugh halfway through and ask why anybody would send all these weird details about travelers allowances specific to an American oil company for which he supposedly worked?

“Tell you what,” one of my colleague suggested. “Why don’t you go back and demand €3,500 plus €750 security deposit by wire transfer to this company, rather than your personal bank account, to book the property, with him paying the remaining €3,500 on arrival?”

While instantly rejecting this suggestion, I was nonetheless oddly comforted by it. It meant that she, like me, in spite of the flagrant evidence that this was a scam, written large and misspelled, half-believed in Emanuel and didn’t want to hurt him by telling him he was an international crook and had picked on the wrong victim this time. Which is a subtle variation on what happens whenever this kind of scam is encountered. 

The vulnerable, often older, people to whom the wonderfully generous offer is made may be greedy. Most humans are. But they are often also needy enough to hope against hope that their Emanuel is a good egg who will come through with the cash as promised. That hope may make the victim fall for their Emanuel not once, but several times.

I was lucky in that I never wanted to rent out my tower in the first place and, although I’m greedy, I’m neither desperate nor stupid.

I didn’t write back to Emanuel telling him to get stuffed and pretended not to notice the contemptuous smirks of colleagues who think I was dumb as a tree to have emailed him in the first place.

One senior law enforcement officer joked that I should tell Emanuel my home was no longer available, because my nephew, newly graduated from Templemore Garda College, had been posted to Dublin and needed somewhere to live. It was tempting, but not as tempting as shutting down the communication and being grateful to have escaped a scammer.

More on this topic

Gardaí issue warning abour 'smishing' scam designed to gain access to bank accountsGardaí issue warning abour 'smishing' scam designed to gain access to bank accounts

Scammers accidentally call Kilkenny garda stationScammers accidentally call Kilkenny garda station

'The hospital never asks for credit card details over the phone' - Gardaí warn of scam'The hospital never asks for credit card details over the phone' - Gardaí warn of scam

Shoppers: Beware of summer scams and fraudulent emailsShoppers: Beware of summer scams and fraudulent emails

More in this Section

The intolerant are a minority... for nowThe intolerant are a minority... for now

Serious questions for Siri on contracts, workSerious questions for Siri on contracts, work

Alcohol really is no excuse for bad behaviour – research reveals you're still the same person after a drinkAlcohol really is no excuse for bad behaviour – research reveals you're still the same person after a drink

Why we care more about a cathedral than a rainforestWhy we care more about a cathedral than a rainforest

More by this author

If only the places we love to visit weren’t so popular with tourists...If only the places we love to visit weren’t so popular with tourists...

You can’t libel the dead, but don’t demean those living with dementiaYou can’t libel the dead, but don’t demean those living with dementia

We Irish are great at storytelling, because it helped us to surviveWe Irish are great at storytelling, because it helped us to survive

The chance to redeem oneself by being the ‘perfect’ grandparentThe chance to redeem oneself by being the ‘perfect’ grandparent


Lifestyle

IF you are the parent of a child who is about to venture forth into the hallowed halls of Primary education, or ‘Big School’ as every Irish mammy refers to it since the dawn of time; well, chances are you’ve probably been very active in your Google searches looking for tips and advice on how to ease your child, and yourself, into this next chapter.Out of curiosity, I searched online for ‘Back to school advice’

More From The Irish Examiner