One of these agencies lived in the office next door. The whole building was US military so they were able to leave that door open without fear of other "spies". Instead, they had to put up with individuals like me, who would arrive at the office and stand at the door, singing the James Bond theme, whilst pretending to either have a gun or a magnifying glass in my hand - I was informed that it was amusing for the first 50 or 60 times.
So my point is, I have encountered many of these individuals over the years, and from harsh experience I have learned that when Americans from intelligence agencies knock on your door, even if they are smiling, it is wise to politely ask "why?"
At one point there were so many spooks in Saudi they quite literally did not have enough desks, so I had to provide two desks for two different Americans. One was like something from The A-Team; he could make anything electronic out of the content of the bin. The other, despite his business card saying consultant, was a psychiatrist with two separate dissertations on warfare psychology.
Somewhere along the line months my email - which is not difficult to guess - and possibly my passport number - have recently fallen into the wrong hands. Three times I have been approached by unusual ‘individuals’ - they could be male or female - we will probably never know.
One claimed to be a young lady in Hong Kong, working in a luxury brand clothes shop. ‘She’ wanted to introduce me to a website called bet366 (nearly identical name to another famous brand online gambling site.) Another, who I am still communicating with, claims to be a resident of Singapore who works for a media company, but makes most of her considerable income from foreign exchange transactions in her lunch hour! Sound familiar?!
Out of the kindness of her heart, she has introduced me to an app that she claims I can use to make transactions of my own. Strangely enough, my computer keeps telling me it is spam. Both of these ‘ladies’ have sent pictures of themselves; both extremely attractive!
However, the third scam turned out to be far more sophisticated, creative and twisted and ruthless in both its conception and execution.
In short, the scam was as follows: an ‘individual’ contacted me online claiming to be a female US Marine, serving as part of a peacekeeping force in Syria, connected to NATO. In summary, she was lonely, so I was happy to communicate with her for an hour or so each day, when she 'apparently' returned safely from patrol.
This 'individual' claimed to be called Joyce Perez. And ‘she' appeared very toned and stunning in a marines uniform. ‘She’ also claimed that her father, who apparently was a general in that US Marines serving in Syria, had been shot and wounded fatally. His body was apparently waiting for the opportunity to be returned to the US.
I played along for a number of weeks for two reasons: (1) since this individual's behaviour was beyond the pale, I thought I would amuse myself during lockdown playing with their twisted mind, and (2) at no point was I asked for money, so I was curious how they planned to extract money from me.
Please appreciate the entirety of this ‘relationship’. There was nothing other than a conversation on Hangouts – on WhatsApp, for example. Not once did we listen to each other's voices - for security reasons, apparently.
After a number of weeks, I explained my exploits to my friend in Texas. Initially, he was amused, but I sent some of the correspondence to him and he confessed that he was somewhat alarmed by the detail and accuracy. Indeed, he had to make a few inquiries himself to ensure that it was a hoax.
Finally, the scam turned to money. This individual asked me to help apply for emergency leave, claiming exhaustion and mental stress thanks to her father's demise in battle. However, it transpired that the only person who was able to authorize emergency leave from an operation was a gentleman by the name of Gen Richard Clarke - if you care to Google him, you will find that he is indeed the 'Boss'.
I was provided with an email address, and I was even provided with a website. Both appeared to be professional and working! As I had nothing to lose, I wrote to General Clarke, and was astonished to receive a quite detailed and thoughtful response. Again that was no mention of money. This 'individual' rolled out what he was willing to do for me and my 'girlfriend'. This individual pointed out that he would be travelling very soon and we must decide what we are going to do very quickly.
The individual said:
“ I really commend your courage and the time you took to write me this email.
The release of your fiancée from camp depends on some factors. Firstly, you should understand that it is not yet time for Ms Joyce Perez to leave camp. There are dates in which soldiers are meant or supposed to leave camp and this depends on their arrival date to camp and that is the reason why they were deployed here.
I am the highest authority of US Army Special Forces Operations, but solely cannot release Ms Joyce Perez from the camp just like that; there are laws here in the military which every soldier must abide.
Soldiers do get court martialed if they go contrary to the laws and rules of the military.
I am not giving you the full assurance that I can help you yet, but I will see what I can do to get her out of camp soon….
A further email.
For your fiancée to be able to leave camp, this is what we will have to do, we will have to replace her with another soldier, that means we will bring another soldier into the camp to take over her place and carry out all her duties as she is out of the camp.
1. From the US Marine Corps Base Camp Turkey
2. From our Army base in France
3. From our military camp in the United Kingdom
And then came the bombshell.
....... I'm so happy to write you this email because finally, I have found a way to help your fiancée out of the camp.
Assigned directly from the U.S government. I have the list of the amount each soldier from each country will be taken as the fee to bring them in to replace Ms Joyce. So you and Ms Joyce need to pay them for that.
These are the list and amount for each of them below:
The soldier from the United Kingdom will cost an amount of: $6,200 USD
The soldier from our base in Turkey will cost an amount of: $5,400 USD
And this money you are paying is like compensation to them and for them to take care of their family till they are back home, as the U.S government won't be paying them any money.”
By this time I had seen enough. So that evening I asked my friend Joyce where exactly she was based in Syria. She indicated she was in Aleppo. I replied: "Is Aleppo on the mainland near Surulere, or on Victoria Island?"
Whether my hunch was right or not, the individual fully understood my implication and I was subjected to a volley of abuse second to none!
However, given the nature of the implications from the individual, I thought it only just to make one quick inquiry to the real Americans, just for clarification, and I received this reply from The Office of US Special Operations Command:”
There is no one assigned to U.S. Special Operations Command or its subordinate units named Joyce Perez. There is no U.S. peacekeeping force in Syria that I am aware of. If there is one, USSOCOM is not providing forces to support that force. There has not been a U.S. Marine general killed in Syria.
GEN Clarke would not be the emergency leave approval authority for a service member serving in Syria. The approval authority would be a local commander where the service member is serving. If the U.S. military were going to replace a service member who was returning to the U.S. because of an emergency, the U.S. military would provide transportation for the replacement.”
I was astonished at the sophistication of this scam. Maybe somebody out there has been a victim. Hopefully, if you're reading this you’ve not been one of them!