By Seoh Bong-seong
On May 2, I received an email from a woman I didn't know, who introduced herself as Elizabeth Williams. She claimed to be from Abidjan in Cote d'Ivoire.
Her mail reads as follows:
``Dearest in Christ, I am Mrs. Elizabeth Williams from Kuwait. I'm married to Mr. Jerry Williams who worked with the Kuwaiti embassy in Ivory Coast for 11 years before he died in the year 2005. We were married for 18 years without a child. He died after a brief illness that lasted for only four days.
Before his death we were born-again Christian. Since his death I decided not to remarry or get a child outside my matrimonial home, which the Bible is against. When my late husband was alive he deposited the sum of $5.8 million in a bank here in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire. Presently, this money is still in bank.
Recently, my doctor told me that I would not last for the next eight months due to cancer problem. The one that disturbs me most is my stroke sickness. Having known my condition I decided to donate this fund to a church that will utilize this money the way I am going to instruct herein.
I want a church that will use this fund for orphanages, widows, propagating the word of God and to endeavor that the house of God is maintained. The Bible made us to understand that ``Blessed is the hand that giveth."
I took this decision because I don't have any child that will inherit this money and my husband's relatives are not Christians and I don't want my husband's efforts to be used by unbelievers. I don't want a situation where this money will be used in an ungodly way. This is why I am taking this decision.
I am not afraid of death, hence I know where I am going. I know that I am going to be in the bosom of the Lord. Exodus 14 VS 14 says that "the lord will fight my case and I shall hold my peace."
I don't need any telephone communication in this regard because of my health hence the presence of my husband's relatives around always. I don't want them to know about this development. With God all things are possible ...
Importantly, considering my deteriorating and ailing health in which I am faced with life uncertainty, I want you send me your direct contact information to enable me to swear to an affidavit on oath in your name that will officially and legally approved you as the next of kin to this fund from the Federal Ministry of Justice to declare whole-heartedly that I have made you the beneficiary to my inheritance in the bank here in Ivory Coast, so that even if I am no more you shall continue from there and request the bank to make the transfer to you without any confrontation from anybody.
The information are as follows; 1. Your full name, 2. Tel & Fax number, 3. Home and country address
Immediately I received this information the certificate of deposit issued to my late husband on the first day of deposit shall be forwarded to you for you contact the bank and you request them to make the transfer to you in your account as the new beneficiary.
Please, remember to put me in your daily prayers for God's healing. Thanks and God bless all in his infinite goodness and mercy.
Sister Elizabeth Williams.''
She and I exchanged several emails. But it was too difficult for me to believe and accept what she said. I therefore emailed her back as follows:
``So pleased to hear from you again. I fully understand what you meant.
Actually, I grew up poor, so my future dream has been to help the destitute, the abandoned, and the helpless. If I can, I would like to go to Africa, Southeast Asia, Central America or other countries, which need my help.
I will create an international welfare foundation commemorating you and your husband to fulfill your desire and holy purpose.
Although my answer may not be satisfactory to you, I do have a firm plan. Aside from English, I speak Chinese, Japanese, Russian, French and I'm now studying Spanish, so I can communicate no matter where I am.
First of all, though, I'd like to know how you got my email address to send me this benevolent offer of what I was already planning to do.''
Her reply: ``...You should understand that this my contact to you is not by my might or power but of God after my fastening and praying to God for his directives, I asked my house girl to search through world Christian computer searching data as it was the only means I knew that will be viable to get the reliable one which I discovered you and concluded with my spirit that you are God's sent. I discovered you on The Korea Times Web site."
Finally I believed her and gave her the detailed personal information that she requested.
The following day she sent me a declaration certificate appointing me the new beneficiary and a deposit certificate of $5.8 million. Two days later, the remittance director and advising lawyer of the Bank of Africa emailed and called me to inquire about a Korean foreign currency bank account. It was also requested that I send a procedure fee of $4,750 immediately.
At 10 a.m. the following day, the seventh day after I received the first email, I went to the bank and did everything they had kindly asked of me. Upon returning home at 2 p.m., I remained uncomfortable and suspicious about them and what I had done.
After an online search for the Bank of Africa, I realized that I had been completely taken by a complex fraud. A Korean resident living in Abidjan wrote about many similar cases on his blog.
I calculated the time difference and realized that the Ivory Coast is seven hours behind Korea, meaning it was about 5 o'clock there.
I immediately called the bank and asked them to stop the transfer to the cheaters, and luckily got all of my money back.
According to the Korean Embassy in the Ivory Coast, many priests, missionaries and professors have been swindled out of a great deal of money by this kind of fraud from many African countries, including Senegal, Nigeria, the Ivory Coast, and South Africa.
The writer is professor at Jeju College of Technology. He can be reached at email@example.com.