It happened to me: I Lost My Phone To Scammers/419.

This is a story I rarely tell. It’s quite shameful really. It has to be one of the top three most ridiculous events in my life.

It was early 2016. I was at Oshodi, on my way home from school, when this man stopped me and started speaking French to me. He claimed to be from Benin Republic and was looking for directions to pick up some merchandize at Cele. Let’s call him Frenchie.

I didn’t know the directions and I let him know. As I continued on my journey, another guy approaches me and asks what’s up. Not paying much attention to the unfolding events, I brief him, and continue moving along. Let’s call this one, Number Two.

But then Frenchie was persistent. Normally this should have been suspicious but like I said, I wasn’t exactly paying attention, I was acting on reflex. I tried to ward him off, but Number two, the newcomer, apparently caught the gist of what was going on. (In hindsight, this should have been very suspicious.)

Number two was also spouting some “help your fellow humans” bants. He offered to go to Cele with me, so we could show Frenchie the way So, I decided that the logical thing to do was to go with them to Cele, which wasn’t too far from my destination: home. (I checked in with hindsight once again, and I must say, I have no idea how I thought following two strangers to an unknown destination was the “logical” thing to do). My mental alarm systems (my gut feelings) were going off like crazy! But I re-assured myself with the thought that I was doing the right thing.

We eventually arrived at our destination and if this whole situation was weird before, it became full blown outrageous when we got to Cele.

To save time the full summary goes thus: Frenchie met his contact who then gave him the package he was supposed to pick up: chemicals. He then proceeded to test the chemicals by dropping a piece of paper – which resurfaced as 500 naira – into a bucket full. Then this prophet pops out of nowhere and claimed to have been sent by God for this moment. Let’s call him… Prophet.

In Prophet’s words, he has just come back from a fast in the desert, and had come to deliver all of us present, i.e. myself, Frenchie and Number Two from a curse. Apparently, the piece of paper Frenchie held was one out of huge stacks and according to the prophet, it was cursed; anyone who touched it – yeah, I touched it to see if it was real; curiosity killed the boy – would die, along with their family members of a terrible disease.

I can sense the amazement running through your minds as you’re reading this. You’re probably wondering how I ever believed the story yeah?  Let’s just say I was overwhelmed and confused at this point in time. And also, being over-imaginative has its downfalls.

I was eventually asked to go bring all the money I and my family members had in our possession, so that Prophet could add it to the bundle of paper and pray over the whole bunch, thus delivering us from the curse. The prophet also suggested that I leave my phone, so they could be sure I was coming back. And yeah, like you just guessed, I did.

Number two escorted me to the bus stop, to ensure I got a bus ASAP. In the bus, as I thought about how I was going to get the money, the thought ‘what if they’re lying?’ struck like lightning, bringing with it the realization, that I had to be the most naïve individual I had ever met. Naïve is an understatement, but there’s no point bashing myself for stuff that happened a year ago.

I didn’t go back; my common sense was finally able to get through and land a heavy blow of shame. I told my parents about the incident. My mom was sympathetic and boiled it down to jazz. My dad being the realist knew it was just plain stupidity and a lack of awareness and did not hesitate to give me a piece of his mind.

All in all, I left the incident with valuable lessons about the world we live in:

  1. Be careful and pay attention to the information you receive; if I had been more attentive to what I was hearing, I doubt I would have followed Frenchie.
  2. People lie (duh!!)
  3. Be informed; learn about the environment you live in. The world can be a dangerous place; ignorance will land you in trouble. It was after the incidence with Frenchie that I learnt people like him are a regular part of Lagos.

Peace.

Photo Credit: Guardian NG 

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