A couple of days ago I received this email from a reader:
Recently I was invited on Skype by a guy named Michael Cole who claimed that he is working as a sailor in the sea and has a son who is in the boarding school in London. The name of the son is alleged to be Adam.
I have attached the conversation that triggered my suspicion and also attach his pictures and the pictures of the so called son.
Please publish this story as I do not want other people to be victimis
It’s the usual story of a scammer meeting up online with a potential victim. The sad and difficult things about romance scams is that the scammers know that their potential victims are looking to meet up with someone and build a trusting relationship.
Fortunately my reader started to realise something was wrong when the scammer started asking her for money. She has sent me the transcript of several Skype conversations. You can see when she realised things were odd – when the scammer (although claiming to be a single parent) didn’t seem to know the name or location of the school his son attended.
The scammer started with the usual sweet talk and then sent her photos of “himself” and his “son”. My reader as specifically asked that I publish all the photos she was sent, so here they are:
I have put some of these pictures through Google images and I can’t find them anywhere else, but they clearly aren’t “Michael Cole”. I will now reproduce some of his emails. Anyone who’s native language is English will see that the style of writing is characteristic of an African scammer. Note here that many victims of romance scams have English as a second language, which means that they cannot see the inconsistencies in the scammer’s use of language. Something, I’m sure, the scammers are well aware of.
Once the scammer felt he my reader’s trust he started asking her for money. Here are some extracts from her Skype conversations with him:
[9/13/2012 5:40:58 PM] Michael Cole: am just weak, how i wish my late mom sister is still in my country now she will help
[9/13/2012 5:41:13 PM] my reader: so no one else in the UK can help?
[9/13/2012 5:41:15 PM] Michael Cole: am just confuse
[9/13/2012 5:41:39 PM] Michael Cole: my friends are here with me honey
[9/13/2012 5:41:59 PM] my reader: eishhhhh!im also confused now i dont know what to say
[9/13/2012 5:42:06 PM] Michael Cole: that is the person i know that can help, that’s why i mail to him
[9/13/2012 5:43:09 PM] Michael Cole: honey can you please help me in this, when i got to land this will be the first money i will have to give you please, or when you receive the fund you can withdraw it from it please
[9/13/2012 5:43:35 PM] Michael Cole: i can’t stand to see how Adam will feel if i can’t do this
[9/13/2012 5:44:23 PM] my reader: im damn damn broke this month thats why i couldnt even buy that blackberry which is cheaper than the trip. How i wish i could help.eyyy dont know what to say or do now.
[9/13/2012 5:45:53 PM] Michael Cole: please honey, you are the last person i know i can hope in now, please if a friend can lend you when you receive my fund from Greece you can pay back please
[9/13/2012 5:46:19 PM] Michael Cole: am giving you the email and details to contact them with today please
[9/13/2012 5:46:55 PM] Michael Cole: so that you can receive it and pay anyone that help us as soon you receive it please honey
[9/13/2012 5:47:08 PM] my reader: lending money is out of question honey I have never done it before. i would even know where to start. please you are making me feel so bad now. i hate to be in a situation where i cannot help 🙁
[9/13/2012 5:48:30 PM] Michael Cole: i know but am sorry
[9/13/2012 5:48:59 PM] Michael Cole: you are my hope now for our son, that’s why am saying this, please understand with me please
[9/13/2012 5:49:12 PM] my reader: dont know what to say
[9/13/2012 5:49:52 PM] Michael Cole: honey please
You can see the scammer playing on my reader’s emotions by referring to his (imaginary) son as “their” son.
Alittle later, my reader started to realise she was talking to a scammer.
[9/13/2012 6:46:18 PM] my reader: I am offering to help by making arrangements with the school. please give me the schools details and the contact person then i will take the responsibility …
[9/13/2012 6:47:07 PM] Michael Cole: i told you to mail to Adam and he will provide all those for you ok
[9/13/2012 6:47:16 PM] my reader: will do
[9/13/2012 6:47:43 PM] Michael Cole: since you said you can talk the school and that is all you can alfer as a mother to the boy, that is fine
[9/13/2012 6:47:57 PM] Michael Cole: i appreciate
[9/13/2012 6:48:09 PM] my reader: but i expect you to have the school’s details
[9/13/2012 6:48:24 PM] Michael Cole: why?
[9/13/2012 6:48:43 PM] Michael Cole: when i have my son email to know how he is doing always
[9/13/2012 6:48:45 PM]my reader: because at school they only know you as a a parent
[9/13/2012 6:49:13 PM] Michael Cole: my business with the school is when i go to clear off all bill for my son
[9/13/2012 6:50:48 PM] my reader: what if something happens to Adam whilst you are away?surely the school will have to contact you and you as a person who has signed an indemnity at school should know who to talk to or contact at school. That is why am saying i expect you to have the details of the school and the contact person
[9/13/2012 6:51:50 PM] Michael Cole: but i can’t be thinking of something to happen to my son
[9/13/2012 6:52:49 PM] my reader: i may not have children of my own but i sense something is not right between you and the school. i mean why would you not even have the contact details of your son’s teacher? Michael you are a single parent for Christ sake and everything of Adam depends on you. it can be a stomach but or an injury during sports…or anything.
[9/13/2012 6:53:28 PM] Michael Cole: i understand
[9/13/2012 6:53:45 PM] Michael Cole: but please you know when we sail we do not use cell
[9/13/2012 6:54:04 PM] Michael Cole: so please can you ask Adam to give it to you?
[9/13/2012 6:54:14 PM]my reader: it doesnt matter even if you dont have a cell but you should know the teacher’s name and the contact details of the school by heart
[9/13/2012 6:55:11 PM] Michael Cole: i know the name
[9/13/2012 6:55:19 PM] my reader: thats all that you know?
[9/13/2012 6:55:24 PM] batandwa wotshela: only the name?
[9/13/2012 6:55:34 PM] Michael Cole: the form master name i know is Andrew William
[9/13/2012 6:56:13 PM] Michael Cole: i met him last, and we both shake hands and talk for some few minutes that’s it
[9/13/2012 6:57:35 PM] my reader: you know what? i am going to be honest with you? something is not right here. i may not know what it is but definitely something is not right here. i am going to be praying for revealation and soon it will be revealed.
After further exchanges my reader was adamant that she would not send money. The scammer realised this and started to threaten her by skype and by email. My reader didn’t tell me what the photos he sent contain.
[2:32:04 PM] *** Michael Cole sent Video call snapshot 2.png ***
[2:32:05 PM] *** Michael Cole sent 6.png ***
[2:32:18 PM] Michael Cole: what if you find this in your country news papers
[2:32:29 PM] *** Michael Cole sent 3.png ***
[2:33:03 PM] Michael Cole: on facebook wall and the rest
[2:33:23 PM] my reader: YOU ARE PLAYING A DANGEROUS GAME
[2:33:28 PM] *** Michael Cole sent Video call snapshot 2.png ***
[2:33:55 PM] Michael Cole: just watch and see all on your country news papers
[2:34:03 PM] Michael Cole: facebook
[2:34:07 PM] my reader: VERY DANGEROUS
[2:34:13 PM] Michael Cole: google
[2:34:20 PM] Michael Cole: all over th world
[2:34:34 PM] Michael Cole: how will you feel when you see one now on your facebook wall?
[2:34:47 PM] *** Michael Cole sent 4.png ***
[2:34:54 PM] *** Michael Cole sent 7.png ***
[2:34:56 PM] *** Michael Cole sent 9.png ***
[2:35:11 PM] Michael Cole: pity you what your name will be
[2:35:25 PM] Michael Cole: in your country and your family for seeing this
[2:35:45 PM] Michael Cole: you have no choice than do what i said from now ok
[2:36:15 PM] Michael Cole: you have just 24hours to think about it or else
[2:38:09 PM] Michael Cole: are you short or words?
[2:38:15 PM] Michael Cole: (cool)
[2:38:20 PM] Michael Cole: i have hem
[2:40:15 PM] *** Call from Michael Cole ***
[2:40:43 PM] *** Call from Michael Cole ***
[2:44:08 PM] Michael Cole: the first person to got that in her facebook wall is xxxxxxx
[2:44:44 PM] Michael Cole: then XXXXX XXXXXX
[2:45:18 PM] Michael Cole: then i will see how you will feel before it enter to google, all facebook wall and all site you think you know
[2:45:40 PM] Michael Cole: and straight to the barrister association in South Africa
Here are a couple of the threatening emails he sent her:
this once will go to the wall of most of the South Africa i have there name that are close to you soon, i am giving you 24hours to call the number i gave to you, 2 is already in “my reader’s sister’s” facebook inbox, and 2 with a lady who is close to your sisterxxxxxxxx and she will call you later because i have also given her your mobile number to let you know what i sent to her, $7000usd or else all of then will go puplish in the next 24hours if you don’t call the number i gave to you, +447012975726
My reader’s very sensible response was this:
“Go ahead and do what you want to do.
This person does not even look like me so go ahead and use your filthy pictures, I do not care.
You aint getting any money from ME NOT EVEN A CENT”
There’s more, but I’m sure you get the point.
If you meet up with someone online, stop talking to them or corresponding with them if they ask you for money.