“You wire money now,” he said anxiously.
“I can’t, Steven,” I said, “It’s 10:30 at night here, and I live in a small town. Everything is closed.”
“Travel Agency need immediately. Right now.”
“I can do it first thing tomorrow. You’ll have the two thousand dollars in the morning. Is that good enough?”
I tossed and turned all night, worried that I would lose this wonderful travel opportunity.
I’d traveled to China with Steven and his tour company before…I spent two incredible weeks visiting the Shaanxi Province, with Steven as one of my tour guides and translators. I felt comfortable with this new opportunity for another two week trip that included Shanghai, Beijing, a Yangtze River Cruise and my most anticipated…Tibet.
I was at Western Union when they opened the following morning, two thousand dollars in cash tucked into my purse.
After filling out the electronic forms and answering their questions, my cash was off into the cyber world.
Later I received a confirmation call from Western Union. “How well do you know the person who is receiving the money?” asked the agent.
“Steven? Well, I spent two weeks with him a year ago, and just loved him. He added me to this new group and gave me another exceptional price.”
“ ‘Steven’ is not the name of the recipient,” said the agent.
“Oh, yeah,” I said dismissively. “They all Anglicized their names. I had no idea what his real name was til he sent that information.”
“Well, the reason we call before forwarding the money, is to confirm that you personally know who you are sending it to. Especially when the money is being wired to China, as we have had quite a bit of fraud there. They’ve got a scam going, where someone follows your conversation, and just as you start talking money, they intercept the line of communication, and the victim is now talking to the con artist.”
“No, it was Steven…”
“MmmmHmmm. Did the issue of money suddenly become urgent?” he asked.
“Uuuh, in fact, it kinda did. I told him I’d give him my credit card info, and he said, ‘no! no!’ he needed it wired…and, like, NOW.”
“MmmmHmmm. Did you ever speak to him on the phone when the wiring discussion was taking place?
“Aaaah! YES! Yes I did! He called me and we talked! It was Steven! We talked about the wiring instructions and that he’d send me the final itinerary! It was him!”
“And exactly how well do you know his voice?” asked the agent.
“Oh, it was Steven,” I said with utter confidence.
“Alrighty then. We’ll go ahead and put this one through.”
“Ok, thank you so much for checking. I really want to see Tibet! Buh-bye!”
Do I REALLY know Steven’s voice? Two weeks, a year ago, very accented and broken English. Could be anyone, really. Any man with a Chinese accent.
Ok…any ASIAN man.
He WAS awfully abrupt about getting that cash over there asap.
I knew I couldn’t text him, as that address might be compromised.
Same with the email and phone.
Ah HAH! Facebook! I messengered him and asked if I’d just wired him $2,000.
“Yes, Kiki, we are good. Airplane tickets in mail.”
Three weeks later I notify Steven that I still didn’t have the tickets.
“My father very sick. I not home, but will check ticket. I sorry.”
In case this is my real friend, and we are all on the up and up, I send my love and condolences.
It’s now been eight weeks. No itinerary. No tickets.
I feel like those grandmas the news keeps telling us about, whose “grandchildren” call to say, “Grandma! It’s ME! Heeeeelp me!”
And of COURSE…my sister keeps leaving messages… “KEEK! QUICK! SEND TWO THOUSAND DOLLARS!”