The other day I received the following e-mail:
Hi – is this the Marc Honea who went Abelard elementary school and then spent teen years in Coweta county near Peachtree City?
If no – sorry! Â If yes – Hi Brigham Fairview here – would love to catch up!
This kind of mail was a first for me. Â All the facts were true (I’ve changed some names to respect privacy), but I was suspicious. Â Yes, it would be a kick to catch up with Fairview–someone I haven’t seen since high school–but might not this be a strategy used by internet scammers either to gain personal info or send viruses? Â It seemed to me it would be easy enough to assemble a bit of identifying info (why not by stealing info from people who use searches to track down old acquaintances, even?). Â Or what if Fairview was exploiting old acquaintances to boost his Amway sales (something I have been on the receiving end of in the past)? Â Or perhaps he or some scammer wanted to lure me into a questionable investment. Â My disposition (and myÂ naivetÃ©, probably–a healthy dose of doubt prevents it from being diagnosed as paranoia, thank you very much) made it difficult to take the message at face value (plus, the word to was left out). Â I sent the following reply:
Â I am he.
But how do you know for sure?
And how do I know you are “the” Brigham Fairview?
Wouldn’t it be interesting if we both turn out to be Internet Scammers, neither of us truly who we claim to be, both of us now locked in a game of cat and mouse deception, each of us daring the other to take it a step further?
Fairview, if I remember, had a sense of humor. Â In his reply to this he managed to present enough evidence, including websites, to make me feel safe and silly. Â Blame it on my mother: Â People will walk all over you if you let them. Â And my father: Â People are no damn good.
But I like the premise I articulated in my message. Â The Assignment, then: Â what I imagine is a “story” that is just a series of e-mail messages with no commentary or explanation. Â The reader would not know going in that this was a series of exchanges between two people pretending to be who they are not, neither knowing at the outset that the other is anÂ impostorÂ trying to exploit the other. Â Dirty Rotten Scoundrels would be a useful film reference, but I think the “e-mail form” offers some unique possibilities at a more…microscopic level. Â Good hunting.