In early November, I opened my Outlook account, checked to see if anything important had been mistakenly sorted into the junk e-mail folder, and found an early Christmas gift: an e-mail from a MR. DAVE WILSON. The capital letters, combined with the subject heading, “Greeting Dieter P. Bieny,” clearly indicated that a scam was afoot. I was delighted.
Allow me to explain. Some years ago, looking for quick, easy, cheap entertainment, I began responding to spam e-mails, using an alter ego named Dieter P. Bieny. E-mail scammers spin fantastic (though poorly edited) stories, all of which promise great riches if you’ll simply pass along your bank account info. With their one-track minds and limited understanding of English, it’s easy (and amusing) to convince them to say and do ridiculous things—guess secret codes, use silly passwords, answer questionnaires, and draw self-portraits, to name a few. I was entertained by stringing them along, and they were happy to be strung, as long as they believed there was a large, illicit payday coming at the end of it.
Dave claimed to be a senior director with Citi Trust Limited, and his e-mail explained that if we worked together, I would receive large payments in my name. “Your job is to clear the payment in your account, after you must clear it, you will transfer the payment to our office in turkey.” I would earn a 5 percent commission on the first transaction if all went well. Dave closed with polite, Frankensteinian grammar: “Look forward to hear from you as matter of urgency.” We can all be thankful that spammer budgets don’t allow for proofreading.
Inspired by a strict interpretation of his exact words, his non-capitalization of the country “turkey,” and the just celebrated Thanksgiving holiday, I accepted his offer:
[..] I will clear the payment and then make the payment in turkey (wings, drumsticks, breasts, even necks, gizzards, and tails, if required). [..] I anxiously await your reply, just as a turkey awaits its presidential pardon. Please reply ASAP regarding my earnest commission negotiations, and I will send my passport so that we can begin carving up great profits together.”
I had insisted on a commission rate of at least 5.1 percent, because… well, just because.
Dave responded (from a different e-mail address) with:
“Greeting Dieter P. Bieny, Your reply received, i have discussed with the board and they have agreed to give you 5% commission.” He also added, somewhat paradoxically, “[..] we are professionalism which you need in your life.”
Dave drove a hard bargain, and I’m not sure why. I doubt any money actually gets paid to the scam victim (I wouldn’t know, I’ve never provided any genuine bank account details), and even if it does, an extra .1% hardly seems worth jeopardizing a faux business relationship.
He included an attachment that I was to fill out, along with a scan of my passport. The form began, quite officially, with “I, _____, make this oat [..]” Oats or oaths notwithstanding, I listed my name (Dieter P. Bieny), address (47 Turkey Hill Road, Turkey City PA 16058), and occupation (turkey farmer, wrangler, fighter, lover), while explaining the impossibility of phone communication (“I cannot speak due to an recent unfortunate turkey-fighting incident. Please contact via e-mail.”)
I softened him up with flattery, truthfully noting that I appreciated his “quick response, cursory spell check, and arbitrary capitalization,” before addressing the turkey in the room:
“Now let us talk turkey, as we say here in Turkey City. I have attached the signed agreement, with an adjustment to 5.1% for my initial commission. I am an expert in turkey, and can easily explain the difference [..] between a honey-smoked turkey premium cold cut and a honey-roasted turkey store brand. I feel this is worthy of an extra .1%. If you agree, please validate the attached document and I will then send my passport for your review.”
Apparently, my hardball negotiation tactics surprised Dave; he was slow to respond. I sent another e-mail, with a subject heading that made clear the escalating urgency of our communications:
“Re: Dear Dave Wilson (An Urgent Matter of Utmost Urgency and Immediacy, and Urgency)—except even more urgent”
Playing it cool, I wrote: “Dear Dave,
While your multiple e-mail addresses fill me with confidence for our future together, I wonder if they might have resulted in your missing my last e-mail. [..] I am eager to begin our shenanigans, please reply with confirmation at your earliest convenience.”
Dave answered promptly: “Your reply received, content noted; but you fail one instruction [..]” He referred, of course, to my missing passport scan. But Dave was hopeful, and offered good news: “Look forward to hear from you as matter of urgency , your 5.1% commission granted”.
Through the magic of Photoshop, I quickly updated a passport using the turkey-like visage of the comedian Carrot Top, and sent it over. Dave didn’t flinch at the photo, but still wasn’t satisfied: “You need to send me your another identification ID CARD because the one you send do not have any signature.” He also said that I needed to fill out the information form in my own handwriting, and pointed out that “Turkey is a country of his own in the middle east not the one made for eaten”.
I sent over a Monsters University student ID card (with signature) and “hand-wrote” my answers on the form, courtesy of the Shorelines Script Bold font. I decided to be frank with Dave—turkey frank:
While there is room for humor in business, I do not consider it very professional of you to make up fake countries named after food.”
As of this writing, Dave still hasn’t replied. Maybe he didn’t appreciate someone questioning his professionalism, or maybe it was the Monsters University ID that proved the final straw. Whatever the reason, Dave seems deserving of a Thanksgiving-esque title, born of 1970s slang—he was a real jive turkey. But not as much as Dieter.