Fraud Or Friend? - Testing Your B.S. Sniffer & Restoring Hope For Humanity
Updated: Dec 13, 2019
Over the last year, my team and I have been thoroughly humbled by a series of random events from a land and place none of us have ever visited, all by people we’ve never met.
A polite exchange and a desperate request?
One evening while checking my Facebook messages, I received a strange Facebook message. It was someone from another country, another continent altogether. I don’t know about you, but I get very little spam in Facebook messenger, far less than email actually. This kid, or young man had a charming smile, wrote reasonably good English and was very polite. However, it quickly became very clear this young man and his family were not in good shape, I would later come to find, they were facing starvation.
After some back and forth, it was obvious there was something more pressing in his tone that he wanted to discuss. After some pleasantries, and only after I agreed to be his pen pal, did he being to open up.
He Went On To Explain His Situation.
Looking through my Facebook history, I cannot find the original messages at this point, but it went something like this…
"Hello Kyle, my family is very poor, we are farmers in Gambia, and the drought has been too long and we cannot grow crops. My mother sells the food to pay for our home and schooling, but now we cannot go to school, we don’t have much food left and we are out of money. Here is the photo of my four siblings, can you please help?"
SPAM Or Life Saving Plea?
Of course, the first thing we all think of from an overseas appeal like this is that it’s most likely a rip-off artist running his next con, but that day something inside me caused me to give this a deeper consideration.
As I read his messages, I thought to myself, if this story is sincere, I commend him for his courage and effort to randomly reach out to a stranger on Facebook, in an effort to keep his family from starving. If this guy is a scammer, he’s used every low ball trick in the book to play on my sympathy.
But if it were true, could I live with myself in turning him down? I mean, I could have hit delete and went on with my comfortable American life, working hard to buy a new car, or my next trip to wherever.
What if this was a real request?
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve fielded spam emails and calls just as much as anyone, and as a digital marketer I am paid to make things look “authentic” and genuine online. So like to think my sniffer is a little more tuned than most. But, of course we’ve all heard the scripts. Fake company names and representatives stating they work to take donations for disadvantaged children…. Wire me the money, I will send you something in return etc.
Can You Hustle A Hustler?
While I was certainly being asked for money, it just didn’t feel like an organized hustle to me.
After some continued back and forth, and some careful questioning on my part, it was determined he would need about $90 to feed himself, his mother and five siblings, (seven in total) for a month. $90! Per Month To Feed A Family of 7
So, I figured why not see where this goes. If it was true, we both win, if not I’m out $100, no big deal.
What came next, exceeded all of my expectations. Over the last 12 months Musa and I have been able to create an incredible relationship that has exceeded my full expectations. He has turned profit with the items and capital we gave him, he has his business license and he is ready to start his electronics booth at his local village market.
Laying Out A Business Plan
We have created a basic business plan and he is prepared to sell electronics and clothing items at an average of 25% net margins. All told with shipping costs, we plan to break even, and are happy to continue this in a non-profit fashion, putting all proceeds to ongoing education and support for people all over the world.