There’s this older gay man, I’ll call him Algernon. He’s not a Friend but has recently been attending Quaker meeting in an eastern state. Early last year he and his longtime partner parted, and Algernon wanted to find some new companionship. So he went onto the net. Soon he was in touch with a man we’ll call Moncrieff, who said he was a UN peacekeeper stationed near Baghdad. This appealed to Algernon. While he was once in the military, he’s since developed a strong concern for peace issues; I think that’s what helped draw him toward Friends.
The conversation burgeoned and soon became intimate. Algernon says that Moncrieff was very articulate, expressive, and appealing. Before long, Algernon was in love, and even asked Moncrieff to come to the US and live with him. Moncrieff answered yes, he was ready to leave the onerous work of Iraq peacekeeping, and said he would put Algernon in touch with his lawyer, to begin arrangements.
Shortly thereafter I saw Algernon, and with a broad grin, he told me he was “engaged,” and mentioned the basics of this story.
I admit: this suspicious old Quake’s antennae started vibrating as soon as I heard what was up. “This,” one thought, “is a case for a friendly but no-nonsense clearness committee, if there ever was one.” I wrestled with approaching him about the idea, hesitated, then thought: next time I see him, I’ll mention it.
When that time came, before I could speak, Algernon volunteered that his “engagement” had, in his words, “crashed and burned.”
Turned out that Moncrieff’s attorney wanted copies of Algernon’s birth certificate, passport and driver’s license. This made Algernon nervous (Let the church say, “Identity Theft!”) So he did some googling about the attorney, and discovered that his “office” in London was informally known as “Scam Central.” That and a few other clues made plain what road Algernon had (almost) been on.
Algernon was disappointed, but seemed less than devastated; his sense of personal loss was doubtless soothed considerably by awareness of the bigger bullets he had barely dodged.
Many folks know about the “Nigerian 419” family of scams, ( http://www.snopes.com/fraud/advancefee/nigeria.asp ) and routinely delete those endless emails purportedly from the widow of a west African potentate, or some such, who wants to send you millions, for a small handling fee. But such trolling goes on in many other variations and venues, such as “respectable” dating sites.
And according to an independent list of active UN peacekeeping missions, there isn’t one in Iraq.
Word to the wise. And the lonely.