A Nigerian businessman down on his luck? | NevadaAppeal.com

A Nigerian businessman down on his luck?

Barry Ginter
Appeal Editor

Last Sunday, as I was sifting through dozens of e-mails, it occurred to me that a real Nigerian businessman would have a tough go of it in this day and age.

Nigerian businessmen (as anyone who has an e-mail account is well aware of) are the posterchildren for scammers and phishers. The theme of the scams vary, but often it involves a “wealthy businessman” locating to the U.S. who needs help transferring his millions to this country.

An Appeal reporter recently received an e-mail from someone who probably is a real Nigeran businessman and was upset by a story he’d written with a very succinct message: avoid any e-mails relating to Nigeria. That advice came from the Nevada Attorney General’s Office and the Carson City Sheriff’s Department to people who are new to the Internet.

This Nigerian businessman wrote that he is living in Silicon Valley and made small commissions working with small businesses in Nigeria who have contracts with the oil industry and government agencies. He claims to have lost money because of the blanket advice that is being given out here and everywhere to people susceptible to scams to avoid anything that references Nigeria. This Nigeran labeled that as “foolhardy” advice.

“Once I contacted a metal fabrication company in Ohio and a medical supplies company on the east coast. As is the practice, the first request is for a price quote including shipping charges to the country of delivery. In my request, I list my name, company name, address and phone number in the USA. Both of these companies gave me such run around, I could only put their behavior in the realm of absurdity and naivety. In the end, I was not able to do business with them.”

A sad story, maybe, but we’ll side with our story and strongly encourage all of our readers to play it safe and delete anything relating to Nigerian business offers. If you’re a business, well, have your lawyers check it out.

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That’s not foolhardy, it’s just playing it safe.

•••

Those of us who are routinely confined to offices and rely on our phones and e-mail as our primary contact with the outside world (yes, I agree that sounds very sad), consider ourselves scam proof, far too savvy to be taken in. I tend to go overboard, and have probably deleted plenty of legitimate e-mails from acquaintances because something about them didn’t seem right.

Recently, an e-mail came from a Carson City grandmother, Delma Bransom, whom I had spoken to weeks earlier about her granddaughter’s appearance on the show, “America’s Got Talent.” She’s a very kind woman and very proud of her granddaughter, and I was curious to read about the latest developments.

What I read was that Delma was on a trip to South Africa for a program called “Empowering Youth to Fight Racism, HIV/AIDS, Poverty and Lack of Education.”

It then went on to explain how she’s found herself stranded in Nigeria after a flight layover there when she’d left her handbag in a taxi. It contained her passport and all of her money.

It contained more details about her plight and appealed for help financially. “I promise to pay back your money as soon as i return home.”

Now what an image that is … a gentle grandmother from Carson City stranded in Africa. Who’s not going to respond to that? But the clues were there. Delma is an intelligent woman, but the e-mail was written in clumsy English. The layover in Nigeria was also a giveaway.

What had happened was Delma received a message supposedly from her e-mail provider advising her to confirm her account information or her e-mail account would be canceled. It looked so authentic she responded.

Bottom line: They were able to change her password and get access to all her contacts, who then got the “stranded in Africa” letter.

Delma said it caused her much time and embarrassment.

“It is just so hard to believe what people will do for money,” she wrote. “Too bad they don’t use their time and talent for something useful.”

•••

Here’s a reminder to parents of students in grades four through eight: The clock is ticking on the essay contest being sponsored by HE-5 Resource Corp., which owns the Overman Pit in Gold Hill.

There’s a lot of money at stake – a $2,500 scholarship for the winner in each grade. To enter, students need to write an essay of no more than 300 words on the question, “Why is mining important to Nevada.” The contest is open only to students attending school in Carson City, Douglas, Lyon and Storey counties.

The contest deadline is Oct. 22, and entries must be postmarked by that date and mailed to: HE-5 Scholarship Contest, c/o Nevada Appeal newsroom, 580 Mallory Way, Carson City, NV 89701.

• Barry Ginter is editor of the Appeal. You can reach him at bginter@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1221.