The check was sent to me via FedEx overnight by a law firm in Birmingham, Michigan. My dad asked if I had won any cash settlements in The Wolverine State. I said no, but my mind was hard at work weaving a series of baroque legal scenarios: Petit v. The Detroit Pistons, Petit v. Lake Huron, Petit v. Tim Allen ...
I phoned the law offices of L___ & J___ and they informed me, in their chuckling litigational way, that the check was indeed illegitimate and that somebody was scamming them. In fact, seven fraudulent checks had been sent out already! I groaned listlessly. Is empathy the appropriate response when a law firm gets screwed?
I felt the need to plead my case. Fraud or no, surely the pillars of justice at L___ & J___ could find it in their hearts to slip some reward money into the shallow bank account of a circumglobal hobo. A hundred bucks could buy me a month's worth of taquitos. But it was not to be. They asked me to scan the fraudulent check and send it to them via email ASAP, a task I dutifully performed and was recompensed for with an email reading: "Thank you very much for sending the information." And so, feeling a bit like the mongoloid gardener from Being There, I slid back down into my office chair and slurped my bowl of coffee, read F. Scott Fitzgerald and plotted artistic revenge against the upper class.
The fuzz came around 2 PM, a police officer and his plainclothes intern. He asked what my profession was and I told him I was an English teacher. He looked me up and down and asked, "What kind of English teacher?" I had to admit that I was between jobs and that I didn't teach in America, but in other impoverished backwaters. He scribbled something behind his aluminum clipboard, probably "Hobo." He and his intern held the wacky check up to the sun several times while I sat rocking in my armchair under a swivel-necked lamp, hoping to be interrogated. It never happened, they just confiscated the check and waddled out to the cruiser, where they sat across the street making me nervous while I pretended to play with my dogs. Then they drove off. The check may never have existed for all I know.
A few hours later, deep in the torpor of lost fortune, I checked my email and found a note from the father of the young Swedish prodigy I was supposed to start tutoring earlier in the week.
"Hello Keith," it read, "Thanks for your time, and will to tutor my son, I am using these medium to let you know that payment would be arriving via fedex today."
And so it dawned on me that finally, after a decade of otherwise shrewd internet behavior, I had succumbed to my first email scam.
Before you start taking the piss, I'll have you know that this con artist did not type in all-caps, the hallmark of your Senegalese money laundering scheme. He did not claim to be related to any monarchs, existent or otherwise. He was charming and sane. He offered me $56 dollars an hour to teach his son English and American History.
At no point did he seem desperate (Mohamed Otis - Subj: URGENT TO HELP: ACCOUNTS IS TEN MILLION FIVE HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS USD 10,500,000.00), avaricious (Mariano Buck - Subj: We have fake Swiss Men's and Ladie's Replica Watches from Rolex), perverted (Roger Ejaculation - Subj: Blood flow to the penis), paranoid (Fergus Jacky - Subj: Urgent Dangerous News Usama Ben Laden!), or Joycean (Tawanda Weisbaum - Subj: Have he he surrogate a sanction. A it trinity. was a fabric opponent beaten. Not or spouse sheila program. deserts it cliff. clitoris be cynicism fiction. so cranberry.)
No. For the two weeks I corresponded with Mr. Tyler Perry of Sweden, he was an upright if somewhat incoherent and oddly named Swede, and I hadn't the slightest inkling that his son, Sven Perry, didn't exist as anything other than a demonic twinkle in his father's goldbricking eye.
For your edification and enjoyment, the text of the email I received reads as follows:
Once you have finally receive these payment- I would like you to go ahead and have the check payment processed and cashed, afterwards deduct your tutoring fees, and whatever the remaining balance is, Send it to the Nanny, who would be taking care of my son while he is in the US, the Nanny would handle my son being picked-up/dropped-off to the local library where you would always tutor him, after Nanny receives payment- Nanny would contact you to make proper time-table, schedule and arrangements. So in your own best interest, have payment cashed ASAP, deduct your own tutoring fee and send the remainder to the Nanny using Western Union Money Transfer services, You can look up the closest western union store to complete these transfer process on www.westernunion.com, I am aware of the western union sending fees, so deduct the fees from the remainder you are sending to the nanny. Below is the Nanny's info to complete western union transfer.
The odd thing about this scam is that Tyler Perry expects me to subtract my portion of the check and wire the rest of it via Western Union to the "Nanny," one Marva McGibbon in Ft. Meyers, Florida. I can't see how the scheme works. What is there to stop the sexually frustrated English tutors of the world from cashing their checks and sending nothing whatsoever to Nanny McGibbon? For that matter, how many people will actually go through with the money transfer when young Sven Perry doesn't meet them at the "local library" as promised?
Already the situation is too intricate for my cloudy little mind. There is nothing left for me to do but add this to my resume and catch my flight to Guadalajara, broke as the birdshit under my bootheels.