A while ago I watched a TED Talk by James Veitch, which documents what happened when he replied to a spam email offering him the opportunity for riches beyond compare if only he would provide some personal information to some random dude on the Internet.
Veitch encouraged others to participate. It’s not mean, he argued. After all, they are trying to scam you. And the more of the scammer’s time you waste, the less time they have to bilk vulnerable people out of what little money they might have. You’re doing humanity a service by replying to scam emails, Veitch argued.
So, I figured, what would happen if a Mennonite replied to a scammer? Well, a few weeks ago I received this message on a website I frequent:
Eddie: Hello my name is Eddie. I wish to request for your friendship. Write back to me. Here in my email address: ___________________.
What luck! I quickly made a new gmail account under the name Menno Simons and immediately replied to the address provided.
Menno: Hello, Eddie. I got your message about friendship. I don’t have many friends. Menno Simons.
Eddie: My Dearest Menno, I am the daughter of Dr. Edwin Emmanuel from Liberia, my father was the owner of Emmanuel Cocoa Industries Limited and he was a personal adviser to our former Head of State (late General Robert Guei).
Wow. Impressive! Eddie was in a bit of a bind, though. She needed help investing the vast finances left to her in her father’s will in “good and profitable businesses.”
Eddie: Please, don’t be surprise or scared because all my words are very sincere and I will prove it as we communicate along.
Well that’s a relief.
Menno: Excellent. I am very interested in learning about good and profitable businesses. Please tell me more. Yours truly, Menno.
Eddie: Hello, My Dear Menno, I am very happy for your urgent response and your attention towards my email to you.
She then wrote at great length detailing the financial proceedings that should imminently take place and the great riches that will come my way.
Menno: I plan to use this money to purchase farmer sausage. Do you think that is a good idea?
Eddie: (Ignored the farmer sausage question. More details about her business plans). I hope to live in your country soon.
Menno: You want to live in my country. But are you okay with housebarns? How are you with milking cows? Yours truly, Menno.
Eddie: I really enjoyed reading your mail from the beginning till the end and i will try to answer your mail if it will keep you happy for me. In this regard, I will like you to contact the bank by yourself to know their procedure on how they are going to transfer the money to your account…Please keep this transaction secret. This is a very huge amount of money. (She then provided bank account information).
Menno: A secret. I’m not sure about that. Is it okay if I tell my pastor?
Eddie: Good morning Dearest Menno. How are you doing today. I just read your mail and all you said. Yes, you can tell pastor so that he will put us in prayers.
This was great. At this point her replies were less generic. Eddie proved she was actually reading my emails.
Menno: That’s great to hear. There is one problem, however. I don’t have a bank account. I keep my money in the hay loft in the barn.
Eddie: Good morning Dearest. How was your night? I am very happy reading your mail this morning and all you said. God will bless you for all the effort. I want you to contact the bank first and tell them that you do not have an account then ask them for any other way the money can be transferred to your country.
She was getting a little pushy. All this insistence about the money. I figured I would see whether I could divert this line of conversation.
Menno: Thank you for asking. I slept well, though Daisy the cow was birthing twins and having a hard time of it, too. She’s my favourite cow. We have eight cows here but she is my favourite yet. She has had twins five times already! Have YOU had twins five times? I don’t think so. Poor Daisy. But she is a good sport and her calves are always healthy, too, though sometimes her milk has mastitis afterwards and we have to throw out the milk yet. Speaking of the cows I have to go shovel the manure out of the barn now. If you want to come to Schwaaberg, you will have to learn to shovel shit, but it’s okay, you seem skilled already.
So, I will hitch up the horses and ride into Gnadenschantzenbergen tomorrow. They have a money lender there and a great trajchtmoaka, too! Please send me your favourite Bible verse so I know you are really serious.
Eddie: My Dear. I believe that as soon as my money is transfer to your country you will send me some money for my traveling documents. About my favorite Bible verse. It is in the book of Habakkuk 2:4. It talk about faith in God. Meanwhile have you contacted the bank? Please try and inform me as soon as you contact the bank so that i will see what they need before they will do the transfer. I will be waiting to hear from you. Yours truly in Love.
Na, Eddie. All this talk of banks.
Menno: Oba, yo. I love Habakkuk 2:4, but personally I prefer Zepheniah 3:13. I’ve memorized many verses over the years. They make us do it in order to go to Bible Camp in summer. I once memorized so many verses I got to go to the good camp with the zip-line instead of the one in my cousin Corny’s back 40. Are you willing to learn Plautdietsch?
Eddie: (so far, no reply)
Menno: (heart is broken)