Across The Lake
Tina Carlson was not robbed at gunpoint in Kuala Lumpur. Her friends will be interested to know she was not in Malaysia and that she has no plans to go there. With that information out of the way, here's what happened and why you should know about it. First, we met Tina a year ago. She was with her husband, Harlan, when they came here from their home in Alaska to see friends and relatives. Their visit included a stop at Saum, where he had attended school until the old Saum School became part of the Kelliher district.
Our story about the Carlson's visit reached them after their return to Anchorage and marked the start of an occasional exchange of e-mail messages. We learned a little more about Harlan's career while in service and after his discharge, doing the job of helping clean up old ammunition depots, getting rid of unexploded shells and making it all sound very matter-of-fact and like an ordinary have-breakfast-and-go-to-work in the morning occupation.
We hadn't heard from Tina for a while, so there was a certain amount of surprise when we got her message. "We made a trip to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia some days back, unfortunately we got mugged at gun point last night! All cash, credit card and phone were stolen." The message went on to say she was "hurt on my right arm but would be fine." Then came the appeal, "wondering if you could loan me some money to sort out the hotel bills and take a cab to the airport about 1,500 British pounds."
If this doesn't sound right to you, it didn't to us either. My Favorite Reader and I looked at each other. (1,500 British pounds is about $3,000 which we don't normally have lying around, in fact it would be pretty abnormal). Then we read the e-mail again. "How you doing?" it began. Tina doesn't talk that way. There were other oddities including use of lower case instead of a capital every time she referred to herself as 'i' as in "i will return it once i am back."
Within hours we got another e-mail from Tina. She had not been in Malaysia. She does not plan to go to Malaysia, ever. She has heard from friends who wondered if it was true. She had even had phone calls about people who had wired money. And her e-mail to us started with a very blunt "This is a scam."
All this is being mentioned because there are so many scams like this. It is aimed at getting people to send money to help a Nigerian transfer money so he can get his funds to a bank in this country if you'll just lend him enough to open an account here. Or to a distant grandson or nephew supposedly stuck in Canada with no means of getting home because he doesn't want his own parents to know he got in trouble up there. I mentioned this to a sheriff's deputy who quickly listed off a dozen others like it adding how little there is that can be done to stop it.
These scams are being run by smart crooks and once the money has left the country, it's gone. A lot of them, however, are making victims of folks by taking advantage of people's good nature.
Send a few dollars to an outfit pledging to help halt the spread of an infectious disease you've never heard of but "whatever you can give will really help" and you're suddenly a presence on sucker lists with wide circulation. We had a Cocker Spaniel and suddenly Maggie started getting all sorts of requests for helping this cause or that, because we'd used her name on a small donation for an Indian school in South Dakota.
One other note on all this: our daughter in Iowa got the same letter we did, though she's never met Tina Carlson and has never been to Saum. We're not sure how she wound up on the same list but probably a lot of other people have, too. Dick Florhaug was talking about a reunion of former "customers" from his highway patrol days, with maybe a get-together at the Saum School. I'll have to see if Tina needs his help, too!
Thoughts while drying the dishes... Last week I mentioned some songs from years back. My first caller wanted to know the tune to Flat Foot Floogy With the Floy Floy. I wasn't much help. Then in the mail came a reminder from Fred Liddle that in 40 years we'll be surrounded by old ladies with tattoos thinking that rap music is golden oldies.