Have you ever been a victim of a physical and/or psychology con?

A few months ago a couple, friends of mine requested me to verify the authenticity of a certain programme, which had notified them as beneficiaries of a lottery award.

When I traced the address of the bank in which their proceeds were supposedly safely stored (using the details they availed me), I discovered that although such a bank existed, it didn’t have an operational branch at or even close to the stated address inLondon.

I advised them to steer clear of that e-mail, and any other communication that comes from whoever wrote it, and also disengage from other similar correspondence that they may receive in future.

I have:

¨       received numerous e-mails from ‘relatives’ of terminally ill or diseased rich people wanting my assistance, including the use of my bank account.

¨       received numerous e-mails from ‘Federal Reserve Banks’, from ‘ United Nations Trust Funds’, and from all sorts of financial institutions informing me of my unsolicited fortunes.

¨       received messages (phising scams) advising me to ‘correct’ my bank details.

¨       read with disgust about people looking for love on the internet being conned to an extent of significantly re-mortgaging and in extreme cases selling their houses.

In all these cases, the writing is always on the wall and almost ‘obvious’ – i.e. it is too good to be true. How can you for example win a competition you didn’t know existed and you didn’t enter in the first instance?

Despite being too good to be true and therefore almost obvious that the messages are scams, a significant number of people have fallen, and continue falling prey.

As you would expect, the money doesn’t exist. The messages are a mere bait, which once you are perhaps ‘foolish’ or ‘desperate’ enough to fall for, will draw you deeper and deeper into a chain of more sweetened baits potentially leading you to bankruptcy.

Alternatively, if you supply your personal details, then you may become a victim of identity theft. You may find your account overdrawn, with no trace of where the funds have gone.

The people behind these scams are there to ‘eateth where not saweth’. They are very brutal the way they go about this business. They are international criminals who will murder when need be.

With increased internet communication, these scams have become so common place that a majority of e-mail accounts are now receiving them. I am therefore not writing more about them.

Let me now turn to my experience with a highly reputable magazine, Reader’s Digest.

The story starts in 1996 when my wife and I each received a package of the latest Readers’ Digest condensed books – which none of us had ordered!

There was a form inside each parcel. The instruction stated that if we filled it in and returned it in the pre-addressed envelope within 7 days, each of us would automatically be entered into Reader’s Digest’s Prize Draw with a potential of winning a life changing prize. There was an emphasis on the need for a prompt reply which was essential for us to make the most of the opportunities on their way to us.

Finances were quite tight for me as a married student, with no formal employment. That is why I thought, ‘may be – just may be’! So we hastily filled the forms and returned them in the enclosed envelopes.

I don’t remember the exact scale of the prize, but to give you its feel, my immediate ‘castle building’ was that if I had won that prize, I would have abandoned the PhD I was pursuing, packed my bags and headed into very luxurious retirement back in Uganda – i.e. I would now be 15yrs into luxury retirement!

We waited and almost forgot about it. Then one morning we received invoices billings us for the (first) parcels we had received earlier.

There was no way I was going to pay for something I hadn’t ordered. So I wrote a letter and told Reader’s Digest that I wasn’t going to pay and was more than willing to go to court. However, they would first have to produce evidence to prove that I entered a contract with them. That was the last I received communication from Reader’s Digest at that address.

My wife played the ‘lady’ and paid, but also wrote an accompanying letter to stop future deliveries.

Later, I learnt from one of our friends that there is usually a ‘small print’ on the back of the enclosed return envelope stating that ‘you the sender authorise Reader’s Digest to subscribe you to Reader’s Digest for a year for a certain (stated) cost plus postage, and that you authorise them to bill you later … and also that you accept to renew this subscription every year, but you can cancel the renewal privilege’.

After several months, my wife got a ‘reward’ for being ‘loyal’. She received an envelope with a pamphlet stating that she had not only got to the next stage of the prize, but had also been ‘specially selected’ from the post code for the ultimate cash prize plus a desirable car. For her to qualify for the cash prize plus the desirable car, all she needed to do was to scrape a certain part of the pamphlet. If the code revealed after scratching matched that of the car, then she qualified to enter the final draw.

The code matched, and there was some excitement – but I still had some escapism. In my earlier life, I tried some ‘quick fix’ strategies including a number of ‘mercury deals’ inUganda, none of which ever materialised.

My wife posted the letter- it is now 15yrs since then, and we are still waiting!

When we changed address, we received similar communication informing us about our special selection, but had learnt our lessons.

There is a saying that it is not until you visit the hospital that you might realise how ‘less sick’ you are.

One day, I gathered some ‘Dutch’ courage and asked an elderly friend of ours whether Readers’ Digest has ever contacted them. That is when I learnt that it was in fact, worse for them.

They wanted to stay ‘loyal’ to improve their ‘chances’. So they renewed their subscription for many years – so many that they accumulated condensed books to a level that got them ‘fed up’. One day when a letter about their ‘privileged position arrived’, they wrote back, cancelled their subscription and told Readers’ Digest that they had had ‘enough’ and advised Readers’ Digest to ‘give other people a chance’ instead of them!

Early last year, my wife’s close friend was overwhelmed by her pending fortune that she had to confide in someone – my wife on this occasion. The prize was enviable. She had worn a desirable house. She would be collected by a limousine, courtesy of Reader’s Digest. The Director would attend in person to hand over the house keys, at a ceremony marked byChampaigncelebration. She had locked away all the documents in a very safe place!

As you may have guessed, the fortune never materialised!

In February 2010 Reader’sDigest,UKwent into administration and was subjected to a management buyout backed by Moulton’s Better Capital.

Maybe we should stick with ‘eateth where saweth’, and forget building castles on what obviously appears too good to be true – where we haven’t ‘saweth’!

What experiences have you had?


2 responses to “Have you ever been a victim of a physical and/or psychology con?

  1. bedsidereadings

    October 8, 2011 at 11:29 pm

    Since I don’t want to be rich alone, let me share with you these riches. This is an e-mail I received a couple days ago:-

    Dearest One,

    I’m Miss.Jecinta Umarnu, 21 yrs girl from African an am in Refugee camp try to see a hornest person who will help me to secure this my inheritance fund. (USD$5,000,000.00) Please Reply here for more details on how to proceed. (

    Miss. Jecinta Umarnu

    posted by Sam


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