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Discussion 2 to Q&A 195
Ignoring it is the easy way out

by: JT

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Will:

I'd say I was considerably more than "a bit harsh." But I have no regrets. Of course there may be those who consider that I have totally misread the situation and who might wish to extend a helping hand to Mr. Feeghe. I will retain his email address for three months should anyone wish to take the risk of making a genuine offer of assistance to him. (I will only give the address out for that purpose, not for harassment.) But I will stand by my interpretation and my response.

Suppose you came home and found someone on his knees in front of your apartment door picking the lock. He sees you coming, mumbles something to you about "management hired me to polish everyone's door knob," and gets up and moves on to your next door neighbor's door.

Do you ignore it? Do you do nothing? It's the easiest thing - just go into your apartment, shut the door, grab a beer, and watch a crime show on TV. Not many of us would do that. Even if you understandably want to avoid confrontation, I think you would at a minimum call 911 (perhaps first calling the building superintendant to check the knob-polishing tale.) And then you would be prepared to spend time giving a statement to the police and later testifying in court. Doing something about crime instead of ignoring it is the right thing to do.[1]

I don't see that a theft attempted over the internet should be treated any different than a theft attempted in person. In the rare cases where valid tracking information is available (thanks to this approach being made via the contact form rather than as an email solicitation), we should take some action to discourage fraud.

To whom do we owe an obligation when we consider that we do have an obligation towards our fellow human beings? Is it to the thieves? Or is it to the vastly more numerous victims, both real and potential?

Getting any police action seems highly unlikely in this particular case, so publicizing the name and the type of attempted fraud is in my opinion a reasonable way to attempt to warn other potential victims.

But, if I got beyond my own "beyond reasonable doubt" about the intentions[2] behind Mr. Feeghe's message, could I have given him non-spiritual advice? What he would need is financial counselling from someone who has an in-depth knowledge of the Nigerian financial system - he is not going to get that from contacting North American churches.

If he is indeed $60,000 in debt, then Mr. Feeghe owes an amount equivalent to the per capita income of fifty of his fellow countrymen. If he got that deeply in debt legally, he already knows the local financial system and he already knows the "right people" to negotiate with. If he got that deeply in debt illegally (in trouble with the police over the debt suggests this, but does not make it certain), I have no sympathy. He can go for a plea deal.

Note:

  1. That probably makes my feelings clear on the idea that the street code "Don't snitch" has any positive moral value.
  2. Superficially he is asking only for a handout - not such a big deal. But, in my view, his opening message is just that - an opening. Those that respond positively will find themselves ensnared in an ever more elaborate and costly scheme to solve Mr. Feeghe's "problems."