While the technology has changed, scams are not a new problem.
Take an article in a January 1922 edition of the Jamestown Alert.
The headline read, “Spanish Swindle seen in letter to Jamestown Resident” and the article detailed what was already considered an old form of crime.
The letter was sent to a Jamestown resident by the name of August Jansick and postmarked in Barcelona, Spain.
“I am imprisoned here by bankruptcy,” said the letter. “I beseech you to help me obtain $360,000 I have in America, being necessary to help pay expenses.”
According to the newspaper report, Jansick was asked to cable money, the article doesn’t say how much, so the swindler could get his baggage that had been seized. Supposedly, inside that baggage were two checks in secret compartments. Once the swindler, who signed the letter R de S, he would send Jansick a third of the money or $120,000.
If the scam sounds familiar, it seems to have been copied by a number of Nigerian princes.
Maybe the man in Spain should have copyrighted the idea.
“The letter is written in a clear hand and has been turned over to the post office authorities,” wrote the Alert.
The writer at the Alert then continued to ask a question that I ask myself every time I hear about a scam.
“It would seem that nobody in this country can have missed hearing about it,” wrote the Alert, referring to information about the scams that had been attempted in the past. “From the above letter, however, it appears that the swindlers are still finding, or are in hopes of finding victims in the United States who are credulous enough to bite at such offers.”
Technology and times have changed. In 1922, scams were communicated by letters and cablegrams.
Now, its email and cellphones.
And life moves faster and is different.
After all, right next to the article about the scam was an advertisement for a Rudolph Valentino movie at the Ruby Theatre for 25 cents.
While the world has changed a lot in the 98 years since August Jansick received his letter from Spain, human nature has not.
It would seem that at least some people hope that they can get something for nothing.
And there is always somebody willing to try and take advantage of that.
Even if no one goes to Valentino movies at the Ruby Theatre no more.
Author Keith Norman can be reached at www.KeithNormanBooks.com