As 2021 drew to a close I realized that I had fallen into a scam I hadn’t heard of: befriending a person on social media and then inducing them to set up a GoFundMe for a medical emergency.
Fortunately, I came to my senses before I sent any money from that campaign. Until then, it had never occurred to me that I had been manipulated over a year and a half. As embarrassing as the experience was for me, I’m going public in the interests of educating others.
In April, 2021, C, the Nigerian, was back with another tragic tale.
C: i was called earlier today that my Dad was not feeling fine and his in the hospital. Will be traveling tomorrow to P– to see how’s doing.
C: My heart is so heavy and i weep. Today life has brought me the greatest shock of my life and has left a wound in my heart. Why is life so unfair to me, why will i keep losing the once i love the most even in the face of untold hardship. I arrived P– after 4 hours trip and gotten to the hospital i found out that the only thing that ever made sense and mean the world to me was no more and the reality of my present has left me with a broken heart and broken spirit. I lost my Dad today Deborah
C: Please i know am only your friend on fb and in a matter of fact i am not related to you in any way but you have been so kind to me irrespective of me being a stranger. Please help me talk to your family or probably your husband that i need you people assistant. People i never thought would assist me did that during my Dad’s funeral and and i borrowed little money to add up with the one i have to make the burial successful as the first son. Please am begging you with what you hold secret. I need you help now than ever and i don’t have who to run to. I need a loan of $300 so i can put things in other and pay few debts and take my younger once along with me. They can manage them self even if my house is not that big enough. I feel so ashamed of myself asking for help from you but i don’t have a choice because if things were moving fine for me i won’t have ask for any help from you.
Commentary: By now I was firmly hooked, so I lent him $300. Notice that he asked to speak with my husband, figuring he might be an easier mark. I didn’t mention this to my husband, which left me feeling uneasy and dishonest. C and I spent a couple of months talking about how he could repay it. In the end, I forgave the loan. During July, he tried to get me to help set up an account at Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) is a crowdsourcing marketplace. Since I already had an Amazon account linked to my email address, it wasn’t possible. This was actually a trial run to see how far I would go using dubious means to promote his interests. I’m relieved it didn’t work, although even unsuccessful attempts serve to further cement the relationship.
Direct gifts of money aren’t the only payoff for scammers. Setting up fraudulent accounts and campaigns like GoFundMe with the scammer as beneficiary are equally lucrative and, as in my case, don’t trip alarms as readily.
C’s requests were coming at about monthly intervals. No sooner had I forgiven the loan (July 2021) than this arrived:
C: Aug 1, 2021. Things has been so difficult for us this period. S (his sister) is about to sit for her exam next week and she said she will not be allowed to sit for the exam if she does not pay her school fee. S school fee for the whole academic session is $200. She’s studying medicine.
C: If there’s anyway you can help Sarah please do. She has refused to eat anything since morning and i feel for her. She said her friends in school will laugh at her for not being able to pay this session school feel. I just hope she won’t do anything stupid to get her fee
Commentary: The laudable cause of a young woman struggling through medical school was now irresistible. C’s last statement implied that unless I sent money, harm would come to her through desperation. I caved and sent the money.
Here’s what happened next.
C: S is so excited and she said i should extend her gratitude for your kind heart towards our family for paying her school fee. You are such a lovely and a wonderful person Deborah. You are one friend that has not left me even in times of difficulty. You always stood by me and my family.
I asked how S did on her exams.
C: S is doing well with her exam just that she has not been feeling to good
Me: Is she ill?
C: She but don’t worry she will be fine
Later, C: The doctor asked her to come to the hospital for check up after her exam. She is always tired.
C: Aug 20, 2021, 2:10 pm. She just finished her exam few days ago but her health is something i don’t really understand……The doctor have been running text on her but all they keep saying is malaria and typhoid. There’s a hospital a friend of mine said we should take her to
Aug 30, 2021, 10:57 pm. Please pray for S. Her illness has started again
Sep 9, 2021, 3:56 am. I just don’t know what is really wrong with her and it has been one hospital to the other but we are hopeful she will be fine
Sep 29, 2021, 10:40 pm. S is not getting any better. I was advised to take her back to the hospital rather than taking her to an herbalist home for local treatment. They said that might worsening her condition
Oct 26, 2021, 1:37 pm. My whole world has come crashing. Life has been so unfair. First it was my mom, second my Dad and now Sarah is diagnose with end stage kidney disease. The doctor said she needs to under go a kidney transplantation and right now she is on dialysis for three months why preparing for the transplant. Is S going to die? Please talk to me
Oct 26, 2021, 2:25 pm. I’m confuse and i don’t know what to do
Oct 26, 2021, 10:34 pm. She said i should not let her die and whenever i remember her word i cry because they are all i live for. Every sacrifice i made was to give them a better future and now where is the future. We are been given 3 months to get her ready for the kidney transplant. How on earth are we going to do that
C: The doctor said we need to raise $15,000 for the transplantation or we should bring a donor if we have any
C: Why me
C: Why my family
Oct 28, 2021, 2:09 pm. Please i think i will need your help on this. We can as well sort of funds for Sarah’s kidney transplant if probably you are welling to help save her life. We can start up a campaign to raise funds for her from now till 3 months given to us by the hospital why and dialysis. Please i want you to help start a campaign (GoFundMe) I believe we can save Sarah’s life please. If not for anything but for the mercy of God and for the life of my sister.
Commentary: Purest melodrama! That is aside from the issue that no matter whether Nigerian health care is not as good as that in the US, any halfway competent physician should be able to detect kidney disease from a simple blood chemistry test, and kidney disease, malaria, and typhoid have very little in common. More red flags!
C went on: We are already talking to people for assistance and also going to radio to ask for help from the public as suggested to us. The first doctor we took Sarah to is the one taking care of experience for the Dialysis and other little things. Right from the day he knew Sarah is a medical student he has been so helpful and supporting to us. He said Sarah is just like a daughter to him and he will assist us in his own little way to try to save her life and her future
I agreed to set up the GoFundMe. After drafting the statement, I sent it to him.
C: You did a great job in the write up you sent me on my mail but i have a question. My country is known in the world as a country with so many crime committed be few Nigerians who has sold their conscience to put people in pains which the Americans and other part of the world has been victims. Even here on fb whenever i tell someone i am a Nigeria did judge me and the say to me Nigerians a evil. Don’t you think it will affect us?
Donations to the GoFundMe came in slowly, despite my promoting it on social media and directly to friends and family. C ramped up his emotional manipulation.
C: Please, for the sake of God and what you treasure most on this earth try to save Sarah’s life. I’m not saying it is mandatory you must always help my family but remember we have come along way as a friend and as family even tho you don’t consider me to be one but you are to me. Please help me, we are really running out of time as the day breaks.
C: Nobody knows what am going through, nobody knows the pain in my heart. You are the only i talk to because you give my hope with your words and i feel much alive. Sometimes i feel like running away but looking back at my siblings i just can’t
C: Nov 18, 2021, 11:27 am. We almost lost S today. She stopped breathing and was enable to say anything and immediately she was cold but we were lucky because of the intervention of the doctor. They said she’s getting weak by the day that we really need to carry out the surgery
Nov 27, 2021, 5:54 pm. Please, I know you have done so much already for us but you know how important this surgery means to S and we her family which has to do with life and death. Can i talk to your husband if probably we can get a loan at least to add up with the one you have generated so far and the one i have already on my account to get this surgery done. I just want to make sure we save S’s life first then we can look for modalities on how to repay back. What is more important is ensuring she’s fine, healthy. Please i don’t want anything bad to happen to her
Me: It is impossible for us to loan money. Please don’t bring it up again.
Commentary: By this time, it was way too late to set boundaries, if indeed that was ever possible. C was in full disaster-appeal mode and I had made myself a vulnerable target by already giving him money.
In the next installment, I’ll show how the scammer went full-out disaster relief mode.
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