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:
Zip code province:
“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.
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.
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.