Reader alert: Was it an in-person version of e-mail scam? Or?

Out of the WSB inbox, from Gail:

While most Nigerian letter scams and the Sierra Leone Scams listed on the internet happen by e-mail or letters, I had an odd experience at Westwood Village yesterday in front of Staples.

Read the rest of her story after the jump:

After leaving my car I was approached by a nicely dressed black man about 6’11” who I suspected was from Africa as I have spent much time there. He was talking on a cell phone and asked me to help him. He said he asked a taxi driver to leave him at a place where people from his country were located. He asked me to talk to his attorney who was in Tacoma to tell the attorney where he was. I spoke to a man who stated that the man I was speaking with was carrying an enormous amount of money and could I help him get to safety. He was not the attorney but said the tall man was a “constituent” of an attorney who was in a meeting. I gave him instructions how to get to Westwood then he said he would authorize an immediate payment of $300 to me if I would get the tall man to safety. He asked me to drive him to a McDonald’s or a church. He kept repeating the man was a constituent. The tall man then showed me a letter with a Tacoma attorney letterhead and a “Re: Estate of XXXXX.”

As it sounded fishy to me, I simply pointed out how the man could get to the McDonald’s at Westwood and told him he would be safe.

I am just reporting this in case it is a scam trying to get people to take the “enormous” amount of $$ to a bank or something else and am wondering if anyone else has experienced this. It could be legit, but the oft-repeated phrase about how much $$ the tall man was carrying seemed odd as the man could not know if I was a good guy or bad so why advertise the fact? Just an fyi…

14 Replies to "Reader alert: Was it an in-person version of e-mail scam? Or?"

  • SGK September 11, 2010 (9:09 am)

    Scam. Call the police.

  • MAS September 11, 2010 (9:30 am)

    Agree with SGK. Actually, a surprising number of these can be exposed by just _offering_ to call the police. If someone’s actually carrying “an enormous amount of money” and it’s legitimate, they shouldn’t mind police protection as they transport it somewhere safe.

    Same goes for the found money scams and the like. Immediately offer to call the actual authorities and watch the ensuing comedy of retreat.

  • JoanM September 11, 2010 (9:38 am)

    Wow! That smells of a scam!

  • Scooterista September 11, 2010 (9:53 am)

    This is a classic scam. It usually ends up with the victim putting out some of their own money and ending up with nothing. MAS is right – if this happens to you, immediately call the police. Me, I’d be tempted to tell them, “Hey, I don’t have my car, but let me call a friend who does,” and then call 911, chat obliquely with the operator, and wait for the cops to arrive. These crooks deserve to be caught.

  • datamuse September 11, 2010 (10:24 am)

    Scooterista is right; this scam predates its e-mail version by, well, centuries, probably.

  • September 11, 2010 (10:34 am)

    yes it is a scam it has been reported previously for a 7k take at westwood riteaid parking by nigerian woman

  • roland yor September 11, 2010 (10:44 am)

    this is a scam reported last year at westwood rite aid lot 7k taken from elderly woman same story only nigerian woman that approached

  • Val Vashon September 11, 2010 (11:23 am)

    Wow- it’s amazing to me that people actually fall for this. I can’t believe that Gail actually even took the guy and started talking to the person on the other end.

    • WSB September 11, 2010 (12:51 pm)

      Val, an otherwise very reasonable, smart acquaintance of mine several years ago revealed in conversation that she had answered one of the scam e-mails – and refused to believe the exhortations of me and a few other people present that it wasn’t for real. I guess that’s why it continues; all they need is one person to fall for it … TR

  • cathyw September 11, 2010 (1:19 pm)

    Artists get these emails similar to this all the time from people from Africa “wanting to buy their paintings.” I usually tell them I want a ten million dollar fee, cash up front. Then they move on to someone else.

  • meg September 11, 2010 (1:32 pm)

    And not just africa. My dad lost $700 in an identical scam involving a person on foot, but they allegedly were from puerto rico.

  • Ken September 11, 2010 (2:33 pm)

    Variations evolve regularly.

    Originated as the “Spanish prisoner” con but it evolved to take in anyone who is greedy.

  • Jay September 11, 2010 (3:15 pm)

    I am an African and this is definitely the Nigerain 419 scam.Don’t fall for it,you should have called the cops.These leeches don’t want to earn money the right away,they prefer to prey on innocent bystanders.

  • Scooterista September 12, 2010 (12:01 am)

    Ken, they also take in people who are kindhearted. Some folks fall for it because they thinnk they can make easy money. Others fall for it because the scammers are preying on the best of human instincts, the desire to help each other out. That’s one of the reasons this is so detestable.

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