"Madame, bear in mind That princes govern all things--save the wind." -Victor Hugo, The Infanta's Rose

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Mass. Hysteria

Regular readers of this blog may recall that during my summer vacation last August, I wrote of my sartorial adventures in a bastion of over-the-hill hipness in suburban Boston known as "The Village Green". (To refresh your memory, click here.)

Here's an interesting update: I received a phone call today from my friend and co-conspirator in that caper, who due to his love for pickled peppers, I will henceforth refer to simply as "Peter". Peter wanted to let me know that he had been back to the Village Green not just once, but twice this weekend. And to my horror and mortification, he also informed me that on Friday night he had printed a copy of my August blog post and actually given it to the Pants Nazi to read! Apparently things were busy on Friday and she did not have the opportunity to look at it right away. However, he reported that upon his return the following night, as soon as he entered the door she elbowed someone sitting next to her, pointed to Peter and said "that's him". Evidently she found my tongue-in-cheek account of the evening to be extremely amusing, however she did have a problem with one small detail of my report:

"You tell your Toast friend my hair's not blue," she said.

I stand corrected.

Peter has, sad to say, been a regular at The Green in recent months. He's been a widower for the last two and a half years, and a recent breakup with a girl-friend (an informal, less intimate version of "girlfriend") has left him "lookin' for love" once again. At his age, this is not an ideal situation. In addition to haunting geriatric singles bars, Peter has delved into the online dating scene, only to discover that it is a grim world filled with secretive, treacherous individuals who practice strange and aberrant behavior. On the Internet! Who knew?

While trolling this dark underbelly of cyberspace, he had firsthand experience as the target of a "Nigerian Romance Scam", and was played for a while by a scammer whom Peter believed at first to be a genuine person he "met" in an online chat room. Fortunately, he quickly became suspicious and ended the conversation after the person began displaying obvious signs of scam behavior (i.e., asking for money). Nigeria is well-known as a haven for scam perpetrators; the classic 419 fraud or "advance money scheme" has raked in billions of dollars over the years despite widespread public warnings. The "romance" angle is merely the latest addition to Nigeria's scam industry, which contributes sizably to the country's Gross National Product. It uses many of the same tactics as the notorious "Russian Bride" con: one begins corresponding with a woman who has posted attractive photos of herself on a website. Real-time chat follows, frequently on Yahoo! IM which seems to be the scammers venue of choice. In a matter of days, the person begins professing love and referring to you by pet names like "baby" and "hunny". Of course, the next step is to get money from you: most often, they claim they want to come to the USA to be with you, and need cash for passports, visas, tickets, or bribes to officials to get out of the country. Or they may have a sudden "emergency" such as the need for hospitalization for themselves or a close family member which they are unable to pay for, etc. Money is equated with love, as in "if you love me you'll do this for me." They might send their sweetheart in the US their so-called "payroll checks" which they claim to have difficulty cashing, and ask you to deposit it in your account and wire the money back to them. The specifics of the scam are varied and creative, but they have only one goal: to get you to send money. Often groups of scammers work banks of computers in dingy offices or cyber cafes, and are sometimes called "Yahoo Boys" as they tend to be young men who can find no other form of employment. Their victims tend to be lonely older men who are desperate for affection of any kind, and may honestly believe (or delude themselves into thinking) that these are real, beautiful girls who love them and need their help.

Fortunately, Peter was not fooled. Others may not be so lucky.


  • At 11/05/2006 08:41:00 PM, Blogger April said…

    Peter-you are an evil man. Showing the pants nazi Mr. Toast's post... wow... but at least she laughed and got a kick out of it. I completely forgot about that Mr. Toast adventure... It was a good one!

  • At 11/05/2006 11:24:00 PM, Blogger Janelle said…

    I don't remember that adventure. Must have been before I started reading Toast's blog.

    I am glad that she saw the humor in the post and didn't get mad about it.

  • At 11/06/2006 07:05:00 PM, Blogger bossann said…

    Bars are scary places to be "looking for love" amongst the geriatric set...I thought for a few minutes about trying the online thing but opted not to...thanks for the warning, though, Mr Toast! I'm glad the pants Nazi had a sense of humor...I wasn't expecting that!

  • At 7/24/2007 11:48:00 AM, Blogger anyls2000 said…

    Sounds like mud wrestling with life support. Dangerous!! Taking your life into your own hands when you go to a senior singles dance. I myself was being fixed up with a George Burns clone. Ugh! Better to have an introduction and a friend for a mate


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