Thursday, December 18, 2008

“Message from Malaysia” (Part Two)

c. 2008 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

Like most users of the Internet, my e-mail preferences have always been set to deliver ‘spam’ messages directly to a separate trash folder. But an accident of fate let one find my attention - the first message from Barrister Bhag Sulaiman of Kuala Lumpur.

He proposed a deal founded on an unlikely premise – that a deceased millionaire with my family name had lived in Malaysia.

After a bit of research, I conformed that someone with Bhag’s identity was indeed a law professional. Yet there was no proof that his offer had any credibility. Or, that my cyberspace contact was actually Mr. Sulaiman himself.

Still, the message had tickled my imagination.

For a couple of days, I pondered writing a newspaper feature about the incident. Then, I sent a tongue-in-cheek request for clarification:

“Barrister Sulaiman,
With respect to you, let me reply that I am used to dealing with partners on a basis of mutual respect derived from some sort of first-hand knowledge. Since we do not know each other, there can be no authentic trust without some form of authentication shared between us as beneficiaries from a plan of cooperation.
I ask you to forward to me some kind of credentials which would indicate your professional standing as a legal representative in Malaysia. A business card, promotional literature, or other document, preferably with your photograph. In this way I could gain true comfort about our shared undertaking to retrieve the funds left by your late client… Once we have established a basis for trust between us, I believe we can work together in a fashion that will be rewarding in every sense of the word. My sincere thanks for your indulgence in this matter!”

His response came quickly. It demonstrated a somewhat garbled familiarity with the English language, and photo editing programs:

“Mr. Rodney Ice,
Thank very much for your ultrance base on trust and i am glad you analys the prospect in a preferable way, Harming on your errs of requirement in order to gain the trust in question, I have been lamenting on the issue because it is the most significant subtance that can enhance this transactioon to a greater measure, In a clear concept, I choose to sucomb on your request of the trust alarming and to establish comfort to both parties. In view of your request, It is not appreaciable for any lawyer to release his vital information for recent unknown individual but in order to conduct a sincere sinerio, I have to provide you my clear credential for the benefit of our upfronting partnership transaction, To enlise myself in quantum of trust and reputation,I hereby provide you my full adress first, My Name is Bhag sulaiman of bhag sulaiman & co., Attorney at law, My address is: Wisma Indah Apartment 500-6-19,Jln Tun Razak,55100 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. To admire chronicle indulgence, I hereby attach my Passport Scan copy together with my certificate of call to barr in respect to your request and to gain the trust at stake, You are free to do whatever verification you wish to do on my accessibility and indicate the initaition of trust, Finally i am glad for your cogent ultrance and i look forward to work with you as we gain our full trust, Please Provide me your contact number so that we can discuss via wireless communication. Find the attachment. I wait for your prompt respond on the proceed of this transaction.”

Attached to Bhag’s message were two scanned images. One was of a Malaysian law degree. The other depicted his passport, front and back. Both were crude fabrications. I smiled with amusement over his sloppy work.

When I showed them to Liz, my wife, she laughed out loud.

Once again, I was moved to reflect on the famous Nigerian scammers, and their low-buck trickery. The photos had been altered with methods that were shoddy and unconvincing. Official type on the passport document was blurred from electronic reproduction, while the information below looked incredibly sharp. Cut-and-paste ‘ghost blocks’ lay behind each line of text.

It was not the work of a sophisticated professional.

Following Sulaiman’s message were new offers from other foreign suitors knocking with opportunity. Their names were even more surreal, and memorable:

1. Mohammed Alpha – Republic of Burkina Faso
2. Msabo Rabo – Republiq of Lome
3. Muhamadad Allauddin – Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso

Mr. Alpha’s communiqué was crafted with the same type reckless prose that made Bhag Sulaiman’s messages so entertaining:

“Dear Friend,
Please in the name of God i ask for your little time to read this message carefully to the excellency of our mutual benefit. So please read this email very gently and tell me what you think, if we can transact it together or not. And please after reading, if it does not interest you please kindly delet the mail and keep the secret of what you red within you.”

Still, the bogus solicitation from Malaysia was more intriguing. His patient methods made me pause with interest. I reckoned that at some point, Mr. Sulaiman would voice a need for ‘front money’ to facilitate the release of his deceased client’s funds. But when?

Instead of simply stalling for time, and perpetrating a reverse-scam of sorts, I wanted to do something more.

Inspiration appeared as I read about other scam-fighters who had gotten their overseas hucksters to send photographs, join fictitious religious groups, and even get tattoos in the hope of receiving money.

Since I was a journeyman wordsmith… why not try to sell Bhag some of my books?
I went to work immediately on a new message:

“Dear Mr. Sulaiman,
I received your documents by e-mail and feel that our trust has been greatly enhanced by this exchange. Let me ask that you now consider a good faith gesture to seal our cooperation completely.
I am a writer by profession, with three volumes that are available for public sale. The first of these speaks generally about life in the USA, through a series of short essays. The second is a child-friendly tale, with photographs by my wife. The third is based on sporting competition and the personal development of special-needs athletes.
Our partnership could become strong if you could appreciate the worth of what I do for a living. Therefore, I ask you to consider making a selection from Icehouse Books. If you would be so kind as to order one (or more) of my works, it would clearly demonstrate your integrity, and desire to find mutual benefit.”

After composing the letter, I wondered about shipping costs to Malaysia. Would the postal fee be greater than the price of a book by itself?

There was little time to consider this issue in detail. When I read my reply to Liz, she reddened immediately. Her voice took on the characteristics of a weary schoolteacher, offering correction. Words flew from her lips like shrapnel.

The answer was… NO!

Silently, I bowed my head.

The freewheeling conversation with Bhag Sulaiman had come to an end.

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Blogger Nelson said...

Recieved the same message yesterday 22 Dec 2008 telling me about a sum of 8.7 million US dollars, belonging to a folk who died of a heart attack. The timing is amazing, my application for a bursary to study medicine was rejected an hour before. Thanx for publishing this, you saved my life.

8:21 AM  

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