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I got an email from someone who I suspect is a scammer. Several red flags, I won't go into details, but one that I wonder about is, she (assuming it really is a "she") says that she is a "missionary with the Peace Corps and UNHCR". (UNHCR=United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) That struck me as unlikely wording and possibly another red flag. Are people who work for the Peace Corps and UNHCR called "missionaries"? Or is that something they call themselves? When I hear the word "missionary" I think of someone working for a religious organization, not the UN.

Also funny that she says she works for both, but I wouldn't be shocked if the two co-operate.

She hasn't asked me for any money (yet) but she told me how poor she is since her husband died, so I'm wondering if that's a build up.

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    What makes you even consider that this might not be a scam? Apr 23 at 21:52
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    I’m voting to close this question because it is about the Peace Corps and United Nations, not about personal finance. Apr 23 at 23:30
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    When she mentions how poor she is, that's a good clue that she's either going to ask you for money, or (if she's good at what she does) manipulate you until you offer to give her money without her actually asking. And AFAIK people working with the Peace Corps are called "Peace Corps volunteers", not missionaries.
    – jamesqf
    Apr 24 at 3:05
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    @ttt Yeah, I've only been at this for a couple of months, but so far, of women who have initiated contact with me through the site, 100% of them have been suspicious. Not 50%, not 90%, but 100%. I've initiated contact with some women who appear to be genuine (lest anyone wonder: haven't gotten anywhere with any of them!), but of those who contacted me first, all likely scammers. Which makes me think, Even if someone does appear to be for real, is she actually real? Or just a more skillful scammer?
    – Jay
    Apr 27 at 16:07
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    @jamesqf Yeah, a big red flag was that she "casually" mentioned that she lost all her money when her husband was sick (sure, that part's plausible), but that she has some money coming to her from her father (was vague about that -- an inheritance?), and that she's "waiting for the UN to get her money". If it's an inheritance, what would the UN have to do with it? But regardless, this seems like an obvious set up to later say, "Oh, the UN says that to get my money I need to pay $X for mumble mumble and I just don't have the money. If you could loan me the money ..." etc.
    – Jay
    Apr 27 at 16:12
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This is a particularly well-known scam.

This one is popular just now (at time of writing.)

If you simply google "UN missionary scam" or similar, you'll get every detail about it.


Just one point - SRiver makes a great point. There's a weird psychological phenomenon where folks just cannot resist responding further to things like scams and even just spam phone calls. Even when they know it's just a silly scam.

Just Don't respond any more. For goodness sake.

Simply delete the emails like you would delete any old "giant penis" spam email.

You don't have to say goodbye politely, you don't have to break it off, for goodness sake. Simply delete the emails like you would delete any old "giant penis" spam email.

Something I mention to try to help folks get over this weird problem:

Note that the "old lady" emailing you is not even one person - !

Scammers just use organized teams of minimum wage workers (you can easily hire such a team yourself, it is such a big business) to "talk" with idiot prospects. They just keep a simple spreadsheet and share the chore 24/7 of working up marks.

(This makes it particularly hilarious / ridiculous (or sad I guess) in "romance based scams" where not only is someone so absurdly hooked on the perceived "Nice old rich guy" or "Hot young babe", or whatever - but they don't even realize it's not actually one person they're talking to! Good grief.)

Just Delete The Emails.

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  • This answer fails to explain why you shouldn't reply to scammers, so I will do the author's work in a comment. Scambaiting can seem fun at first and it seems better for everyone if the scammers waste their time on you rather than someone more gullible. But keep in mind that you are dealing with criminals here. So when they find out you were deliberately wasting their time, then that fun past time can easily become very serious.
    – Philipp
    Apr 26 at 12:43
  • @Philipp I would say the risk of a scammer targeting you for retribution after discovering you were on to them and messing with them, is relatively low. But to your point, the chances are greater than 0, so I agree, why bother?
    – TTT
    Apr 27 at 16:32
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If you have to ask if it's a scam, the answer is already obvious.

That's the way I generally answer these. Yes, they haven't asked for money yet, but they will. They have to lay the foundations and warm up the orchestra first before the violins start playing.

These things start with seeing if a) you're willing to answer, b) are you willing to keep corresponding, and c) do you seem like someone who is sympathetic to a sad story. And the best hook is to sound like they have ties to something official or important that will be impossible to confirm, but they count on you accepting it at face value.

Then, and only then, will the effort to extract money from you begin.

In short, QUIT ANSWERING before it goes any further.

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    I would add that these messages come loaded with 'filters' to weed out people who 'smell a rat'. The idea is to get responses from people who are most worth the scammer's effort, people who don't know much about scams, and who are less inclined to be suspicious. These can include strange spellings or grammar, incorrect facts (e.g. Peace Corps/UNHCR 'missionaries'), and the number one - it mentions Nigeria! Other West African countries can be used, but Nigeria is a big tripwire. Apr 25 at 13:53
  • @michael, yup! Great points, my friend!
    – RiverNet
    Apr 25 at 15:33

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