Monday, September 10, 2007

I sure did fall for that one!

This weekend I got email from a "Paulraj JY" in India. It said:

Subject: Greetings from a New Friend fm India

Dear Sir and Mr.Russell,

Greetings from India. It was a surprise for me to read your blog and it
is full of surprises. Though you addressed yourself as an athiest, you are full of human virtues and you are a nice person to befriend.
Though I'm a Christian Missionary, I'm interested in your views,
thoughts and way of life.
When you consider yourself to be an athiest it may not be meaningful for me to ask you to pray for our service among children those who are left uncared. These Children are very special to us and we enjoy working with them. You, as I estimate, full of good values for human values and relationship, would be happy to hear more about our work among such children. We would be very happy to win your heart and have you as one of our wellwishers of our program.
You have a beautiful family. Please convey our greetings to them. Bye for now....
With special love and regards
Paulraj JY

Now, it's actually not all that uncommon that I get email from other countries. I am a regular contributor to two podcasts that have some small measure of notoriety, and I get people I never heard of commenting on my blog from time to time.

Nevertheless, there WAS that small voice that said to me, "Hey, this sounds a little bit like the stilted language in some of those Nigerian scam emails." But then I thought, "Nah, those guys mostly shotgun form emails when they're looking for new suckers. This guy was very specific about my blog and my atheism. Be a good atheist emissary and answer him."

So I wrote:

Dear Paul,

Part of the reason why I openly identify myself as an atheist is because theists rarely encounter people who are willing to say that they don't believe in God, and so they may have a lot of misperceptions. While I don't believe that atheists are better people than Christians, I do think that we are just as likely to care about humanity and have compassion.

In any case, thank you for your friendly email and have a good day.

Then he wrote:

Dear Friend Russell,
Thanks for your prompt response, which makes me happy. I just appreciate your openness. Please receive our special love and we really feel proud about your heart full of compassion for mankind....
Since you have a great concern for the betterment of mankind, I think it may not be improper to let you know that we are working with AIDS orphans and we've a formal inagural function our Grace Foster Home on the fifteenth of this month. Please remember us on this special day....
Kindly find an attached picture of our special children with we love to fellowship with and care for their better future.... I'm sure that you will appreciate our work... Bye for now...
lovingly yours friend from India
Paulraj JY

Well, that's a shame. So finally I wrote:

Dear Paul,

I have to give you credit for making the extra effort to personalize your scam email. However, since I now believe that you are a Nigerian con man attempting to perpetrate a 419 fraud, I would like to invite you to kindly go to hell. Of course, I don't believe in hell. But since you are in Nigeria, I reckon that's close enough.

Russell Glasser


  1. Hahahah! That was great.
    Fellow atheist, single mom here. Found you through the Friendly Atheist.
    Good stuff.

  2. Amazingly, he didn't stop emailing me. He sent me three messages this morning. The first one is the long message about how he is deeply hurt and is too simple to understand what a "419 scam" is, could I please explain it to him? The second is a 2.5 megabyte piece of annoyance that contains a picture of "his family." The third is a reminder that "Paulraj" is an INDIAN name, so he couldn't possibly be from Nigeria.

    Now I feel bad. He must have spent many difficult minutes researching that name, and I just insult him. He even offered to sell his motorbike in order to sponsor a trip that I might come to India. What a lovely guy.

  3. Thumpalumpacus11:08 AM

    What kind of bike is it? How much does he want? I'm looking for an old Honda CBR750. :p

  4. Yawn. He's still writing to me. I baited him again last time, but this time I think I'll just let it drop.

    Funny thing is that he keeps telling me how he feels hurt and depressed by my harsh treatment of him, and hopes that we will come to some understanding. Now he's given me an international phone number to call in order to clear this up.

    Whereas if he were a "True Christian"™, he would probably have said something like "That's just what I expected from a godless heathen like you."

    I was tempted to do what Ford Prefect did in talking to the Vogon guards: "Hey scammer, do you really find this a fulfilling lifestyle? Sitting in computer cafes, scamming people, most of your money going to some crime lord?" But when it comes right down to it, I don't think I'm skilled enough to get him to drop the facade. So I think I've wasted enough time on him.

  5. Russell,
    I might be (am!) naive or stupid (hope not), but how do you know this is a scam?

    A Nonprophets fan

  6. Don, it's just a matter of learning to recognize certain cues and writing styles. I've spent a lot of time at (it's currently down, but I linked the Wikipedia entry at the beginning of the post).

    Nigerian scams are a con game -- and remember that the word con is short for "confidence." Someone you never heard of before contacts you out of the blue, and suddenly you're his best buddy, and you're his only hope. His primary objective is to make you feel goooood about yourself.

    Ask yourself for a minute... if you were a normal person looking for help, don't you think the LAST place you'd look is some random stranger on the internet whose blog you just read? There are just too many jerks out there. In fact, I made a jerk of myself, and his reaction was to cling to me even more desperately. This is not just a game to them; it's the third or fourth largest source of income in the Nigerian economy. They make a living from robbing people.

    Oh, and don't forget that he wants to buy me -- a guy he just met -- a plane ticket to his country. Of course I already knew it was a scam way before that, but really, how stupid must he think I am?

    When the 419eater site comes back online, you should browse a few of the stories. They're really very funny. In the meantime, check out this video and this one so you can brush up.

  7. Russell,
    Thanks for the video links. Interesting stuff. Seems like you have to be awfully greedy or gullible to send money to a stranger thinking you'll get a lot more money in exchange. But I know these schemes work, so I guess enough people fall for this stuff to make it worthwhile for the scammers.


  8. Most Respected Friend Russel,

    Greetings from India!

    I prayerfully wait to hear from you. I surprise to see you having no courage to put up all my writings for your viewers, which would defend me that I am not just the one that you think about. Posting one part and hiding the other part, is it honest?

    I acknowledge your bitter experience with scamers of Nigeria. These scamers might have used a good approached for unlawful gain. But this will not apply to every one that use good approach to appreciate some one.

    Here I wish to give you a link ( If time permits, kindly open and browse. This web page belongs to Covenant Protestant Reformed Church of Ireland, in their web page, my translation of Heidelberg Catechism into Tamil (the local language of people of TAMIL NADU, INDIA) is placed. The last five letters of the web link, "Tamil" stands for the language of ours. Just check where this language is being spoken mainly. This work was done about a couple of months ago, but placing it on the web was done very recently. I thank God for His assistance that I can put this proof before you.

    This page will be opened in Adope Acrobat Reader, the last page of this document has my contact and residential address. I believe such evidence is more than enough to tell you the fact that I am not a person as you simply judged and sentenced to hell (though you don't believe in it). I believe in the truth and I would prefer to go to any extreme for the justice to prevail. God bless you my good friend!

    Paulraj JY

    PS: My humble request, please post this mail in your blog for your readers to know the truth. You brought a big shame on me without reason, is it not your responsibility to accept the fact when it is proved. I still love you and respect you. I don't want to lose you any more. As for me, you are still a very good, kind and noble person... Such coment is from a person who is just hurt by your words and deeds.

    Coming 15th we've our inaugural function of our Grace Foster Home (for special children). I'm afraid, if I would send that invitation card, may be you will come up with other judgments, hence I am not attaching that invitation with this mail. If you give me the privilege to share that, I will do gladly....

  9. Gosh, "Paul," that certainly is some compelling evidence that you have presented me with. Oh my god A WEBPAGE EXISTS WITH A TRANSLATION OF SOME RELIGIOUS TEXT INTO AN INDIAN DIALECT!!! Well, that just clears up ALL my doubts now! Once again, I feel completely ashamed that I ever doubted you! Clearly I have genuinely hurt the feelings of a good, honest man who only wants to collect donations for the children. I'm sorry.

    And wait, what's that you say? I have just won the lottery? Fantastic! To whom must I send the nominal fees to ensure the speedy release of these funds?

    What? There's more? My rich uncle just died and left me his substantial estate? Oh, I'm so happy and thrilled! How may I get in touch with the government agency responsible for disbursing my inheritance?

    I take everything back. I now feel such loving and generous feelings toward you, Paulraj, that I must apologize profusely for posting jokey messages about you on my blog. And I also apologize in advance for calling you a dumbass.


  10. Anonymous12:44 PM

    I noticed that when I tried to view Paulraj's Blogger profile it was set up as unviewable. Go figger.

    I know, I know, I'm posting anonymously, but I'm not asking for money.


  11. Anonymous10:42 AM

    Whereas if he were a "True Christian"™, he would probably have said something like "That's just what I expected from a godless heathen like you."

    This is an unfair and inaccurate generalization.

    I wonder: are you familiar with the teachings in the Bible, or are you regurgitating what society has told you it says?

    One important thing to keep in mind when doling out the generalizations and pointing out hypocrisy in others is that we are all flawed people.

  12. I've read the Bible, yes.

    And my unfair generalization was partly intended to be a joke, but also based on years of internet experience.