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Miami’s No Stranger to Scams

Miami’s No Stranger to Scams

Miami’s No Stranger to Scams

Two weeks ago, I published a blog post (When “Nigeria” Comes Calling) about my experience with a scam artist who appeared to be a new business prospect but was actually trying to drain my bank account.   I was originally a bit embarrassed about the story because I felt that, while I hadn’t been officially duped, I did get strung-along for a while.  Despite my apprehension, I published the post because it was an interesting tale, and I figured there was a chance I might prevent another person from falling for a similar scam. 

The response to the post was fascinating.  Many people who read my blog knew someone who has been scammed, and I was not the only PR person in Miami to hear from this guy.  I want to share some of my interesting feedback.

One of my readers, a local banker, said that wire fraud cases have been on the rise lately.

Another told me of a physician who got taken for $60,000:  “Somehow an alleged ‘Nigerian Entrepreneur’ contacted him by cell phone and made all sorts of promises about easy money, if he would just send some ‘seed money’ to him.  Well, desperation prevailed over high I.Q.  This doctor ultimately sent six tranches of $10,000 a piece before he spoke to his attorney, who told him to STOP.”

Branding agency owner Michael Gold of Goldforest warned there’s another successful scam out there involving video production in China: “They’ve actually GONE to China to get punked!”

A local insurance industry executive told me that he had “a family friend who fell for the scam about 15 years ago.  He actually flew to Nigeria for a meeting in connection with the representation of an oil company and they held him for a $25,000 ransom.”  He also pointed out that if these scammers used their mental abilities for legitimate business, they would probably be successful.

Honestly, I never imagined the possibility of being “locked-up abroad,” but my aunt did.  She was glad I didn’t get scammed and reminded me that “of course, you know that we would all band together to get you out of a Venezuelan jail.”

Peter Kelley, editor of Life & Health Advisor magazine and a self-described ‘scam-o-phile’ said he was disappointed that I ended my story where I did as he “wanted to know how they would make their next move.”  Peter explained that in the past he has attempted “to engage a number of fallen princes, interior-wonks, disgruntled aides and otherwise plugged-in facilitators to ‘hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars.’”

Kelley would probably enjoy speaking with a Miami attorney I know who has strung one of these guys along. 

He wrote: “I was to collect a large sum of money from a company just blocks away from me.  However, I insisted on first receiving a cashier’s check as a ‘non-refundable review fee’ which the scammer had offered.  I deposited the check, warning my bank that I had concerns.  As suspected, the cashier’s check supposedly from a Canadian bank was a well done fake.  I took some mild pleasure in causing them to spin their wheels, although I had also spun mine.  You should take equal pleasure.  The more they spin their wheels without reward, the better for us.”

I wasn’t the only public relations agency to hear from the Venezuelan oil man.  The principal of a local firm told me they got the call a few months ago: “We thought it sounded legitimate (big budget, alternative energy, tied-in with the governor’s office) but when we were told we had to fly to Venezuela, that put us off, as it did you.”

Much to my surprise, the post caught the attention of more than one journalist.  Peter Kelley, who I mentioned earlier, asked and received my permission to run my story on his outlet’s website.  In addition, Kevin Gale of the South Florida Business Journal liked the new Venezuelan spin on the old “Nigerian” scam and wrote about it in his blog.

Of course, I enjoy the feedback and it’s a fun ego boost, but the best news came last week when a fellow PR person in Miami sent me this message: “I received a call at the office from a man with an accent saying they were calling regarding PR for a project in Venezuela. It came from a blocked number and I remembered your post and hung up immediately.”

Mission accomplished.



Author: John P. David

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