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Opinions of Thursday, 23 November 2017

Columnist: Abena Addai Boakye

The scam

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This is a story I never thought I would be telling. You see, I pride myself in being that hard and woke Kumasi chic but this one hit me before I could say Jack. How do I even begin because it still doesn't make any type of sense? Anyway, on the 4th of April, 2017 (I can never forget), I set off to work late. Mind you that never happens as I'm always the first person to get to work in my office.

But unfortunately, I had overslept so I notified my boss that I would be running late. The day looked so bright and promising. I was totally looking forward to dinner with my newly married friend and her husband after work too. I mean what could possibly go wrong?

I don't know if I had a smile on my face, but I was thinking about all the yummy things I was going to eat that evening or something, then an older man approached me and asked for directions to a place around American house.

Now you have to know this about me, I never talk to strangers (could be the reason why I'm still single lol), so I did the usual, told him I had no idea where and who he was talking about and started moving on.

The man quickly grabbed my arm, which alarmed me because then he was in my space and under normal circumstances, we would have had a problem. He then went on to tell me that he had come from some village in Tarkwa and had been sent to come and buy stuff for his father.

It was always his big brother they sent but his father decided to send him today and he really didn't want to disappoint. Did I tell you have all this time homeboy was still holding on to me? In my head, my only thought was "how is that my business" but I couldn't move.

I told him as politely as I could that I really had to go so he should let go of me but no, he didn't. "Of all the people passing by, by why do you think I approached you? You have a kind face. Please, I have been standing here for a long time, please help me so that I can return home on time," he said.

He then asked me to just ask another person about the direction as he didn't trust anyone else. I stopped the next person he pointed out who also happened to be an elderly man around 40 years and told him everything. His response was “I know the place, but I'm in a hurry so I can't take you there.

I implored him to just show the guy so I could go my way because all this time, the man (Scammer One) was still holding on to me. The man we asked suddenly had a change of heart and decided to take the man there. In my head, I thanked God and got ready to move, but Scammer one wasn't ready to let go off me just yet.

He asked me to go along with them because he didn't trust the man. Since it was on my way to work, I agreed. The man took the lead and we followed. Half way there, he told me he was actually coming to sell gold to some dealer but since the man had been robbed several times, he had become very untrusting and didn't like random people turning up at his out so we should wait for him to go and come back just to ensure that he was at the right place.

Writing this down now, I wondering why I didn't catch on to this scam. If this is a person your family had business with, you should have his number or he could have sent someone to come and meet you. Anyway, we waited for him to return. While we waited, the man who was helping us started hyping the said gold dealer. He is super rich eh, you have no idea. I really wasn't interested, I just wanted to get to work.

This whole time we were standing at my office's junction. Scammer one returned, thanked us and pulled me aside. He expressed his gratitude and told me that he had found the man and that his father asked him to also give some of gold to whoever helped him.

He brought it out and I declined, saying, I only helped him because it was the right thing to do and that I just wanted to go. Mind you, this wasn't any "asew ma )nk) moves". I really didn't want it. He went on to tell me he really wanted me to have it so I just took it.

He gave the other man some as well and turned to go. That's when our helper approached me saying, "I haven't dealt in gold before. Please call him back and ask him where we can sell this because it's you he trust".

I called him and he said back and asked him. He went on to spew some nonsense about the gold being raw and light so I couldn't get the real value, but if we dip it in mercury it will become heavy so we can make more money. He pretended to head back to the gold dealer's house when our helper asked where we will get mercury from.

That's when things began to get interesting. Scammer One asked how much money we had on us and that he could perform a trick with it for us because there was mercury in the money. Then Mr. Helper said he had about Ghs 4000 which he brought out.

Our scammer rubbed the gold against it and asked me to feel it as it had become heavy. I really didn't feel anything but our helper said he felt it. Our scammer asked if I had any more money I could add as the mercury in the 4000 wasn't enough.

Before I knew it, I had volunteered my bank information and told him all the places I had money. It didn't make any sense in my mind, but I couldn't help it. I really believe if he had asked me to take me to my house at that point, I would have done just that.

To make matters worse, he made me look up the price of gold and convert it to Ghana Cedis. At this time I was on cloud nine because, I was thinking of all that I could do with my new found fortune (Silly me). I could help my parents pay for my sister's education abroad and also pursue my Masters degree.

He really had me. To make this long 3 hour ordeal short, he made me go to the bank to withdraw my money, cleared a check I had in my bag and withdrew all the money on my mobile wallet for him. All this time my boss kept calling because, I should have been at the office by then, but he told me not to answer and I obliged.

In fact the number of people that called me that morning was abnormal, but I obeyed him and didn't answer the calls. Before I knew it, we were standing in front of the East Legon Melcom. For whatever reason, he said he needed mothballs, but asked me to let him hold on to my bag for me. Whatever that he asked me to do, he would ask our helper to do same, so he had already gone to get the mothballs and showed me where he bought it from. It was on my way back that I started coming back to my senses.

Why would I give my bag to a stranger? I hurried to get back to where I left them, but alas they were gone. I frantically started asking people where they were but they couldn't help. Because we were chatting as we walked past them, no one paid attention to us.

The only person that saw them didn't see them with any bag. At that moment, my knees just gave out and I sank to the ground, I really didn't care because they had made away with almost Ghs 6,000. And just like Jesus did, I wept!

After I cried a bit, I borrowed someone's phone to call my parents. I told them what had happened, including the fact that I had taken two cars with complete strangers. After asking me 99 questions about whether I was safe, my dad sent me some money because I couldn't even move from that place. I had no pesewa. I called my boss to let him know what had happened. He came to get me (God bless him) and went with me to report the matter to the police.

That was another story in itself, as our dear Ghana Police decided to ridicule me for being so gullible. One even called me greedy (eish my heart). After going on and on about how that wasn't the first time they had heard of such issues, they finally took my statement which only proved useful because I needed the police report to get a new passport. (My experience with Ghana Police on this matter is a tale for another day).

They never even went to the crime scene which had CCTV cameras to see if they could spot them. Maybe I watch too much CSI, but I really expected them to do something. Ah well, I just took the rest of the day off and went to buy my fried yam and pork from Glady's Market. I felt I deserved a treat after the day I had lol.

Morale of the story is, IT DOES HAPPEN. Not because you are stupid, but such is life. Things happen, but you have to move on. After a shower and a nap, I was good to go. Like my mother said, once you have life, you have hope. And the worst hasn't happened yet so, what did I really loose?

P.s I met Scammer One recently at the passport office. We looked at each other long and hard, I smiled and walked away. He had the most confused look on his face. I had really forgiven him.