Thank You Scammers-Every Cloud has a Silver Lining

Posted by martin parnell |
Thank You Scammers-Every Cloud has a Silver Lining

The internet has brought many good things to the world, instant news, weather reports, finding lost puppies, and selling patio furniture. However, one curse has been the rise of online scammers. Will Ferguson's excellent book “419” highlighted the Nigerian diplomat scam and the devastation it wrecked on a family. Over the years I’ve received many requests for help from widows, students and lost friends who needed money to get home. I’ve also received emails telling me I’ve won huge amounts of money that are still sitting in bank vaults in Switzerland, Cayman Islands and Zambia. Generally, these scams are easy to spot and the delete button gets a work out. But once in a while something comes in that makes me take a double look.

A week ago I received an invitation from the Reverend Zipo Siwa of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa to speak at their annual conference in October. The email was well written and all they wanted to know was if I was interested. I used the mighty Google to check out the Reverend and the Church and everything seemed legit. The next morning the Reverend sent me more details, including the theme of the conference which was “Surpassing your limits-Attaining the Unattainable”. This was an excellent fit for me as my presentation is “Ordinary to Extraordinary- Changing lives one step at a time.”

I then received a letter of invitation and letter of agreement. The contract was very attractive, the fee offered was $30,000US which is around $125,000 Canadian, two business class tickets to Cape Town and 4 nights in a top hotel. Was it too good to be true? My Professional Speaker friends on Facebook were warning of a scam so I started to check some of the finer details of the invitation. The event was called the “Sola 5 Seminar 2015” and it does exist. However, it takes place in September not October and the event location was listed as the “Bernard Mizeki Centre” in Johannesburg, incorrect, it’s in Cape Town.

Then I saw the headline “Scam – Beware of Archbishop-Impersonator”. It was a post from 2013 by Mr. Rob Rogerson, Provincial treasurer of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa. He stated that “It has come to our attention that some individual, or individuals, are impersonating Archbishop Thabo Makgoba in emails designed to extort money, for example through issuing invitations to speak at conferences and then seeking banking details into which to pay travel costs.” I contacted Mr. Rogerson right away and he confirmed my fears, it was all a sham. He said he would contact the real Reverend (actually Bishop) Siwa and they would put a warning on the website.

So what did I learn from this episode? Well, losing the fee, flights and hotel was disappointing but what I really lost out on was meeting Reverend Zipo Siwa and sharing my story with so many people in Africa. I had spent a considerable amount of time reading the Church’s website and they do a tremendous amount of good work. They have several homes and even a village that looks after hundreds of the most disadvantaged and destitute children. At the Ethelbert Children’s home it states “The toddler unit cares for children of 18 months and older, many of whom are infected or affected by HIV/AIDS. We do our best to find adoptive parents for the children in our care, when their circumstances allow it, and are always thrilled when one of our children are adopted.”

Bishop Siwa and the Methodist Church of Southern Africa, keep up the good work. I’ve sent you a copy of MARATHON QUEST and maybe one day we’ll meet. Thank you scammers for the introduction.

On a final note. As I was finishing off this blog an email popped into my inbox. It was from Mr.Ernesto L. Isidoro. Apparently he has emailed me a number of times before but I have not responded. He told me that I am the beneficiary of an US$8.5m estate, just send bank details etc. Too good to be true? You bet.

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