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A Consulting Session With an Unfortunate Victim (James Bach’s Blog)

On January 27, 2012, in Syndicated, by Association for Software Testing
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This poor girl from Ghana inherited many kilograms of gold and can’t get at it because she can’t pay the back due rent on the gold storage unit. She has reached out to me, a total stranger, for help. I use my testing skills to help her understand that she’s being scammed. But you know, sometimes it’s hard to help people see the truth when fantasy seems less painful…

A stranger approaches on Skype…

[12:29:22 AM] Irene Kusi: Hello

[12:29:33 AM] James Bach: hi

[12:29:44 AM] Irene Kusi: How are you doing ?

[12:29:54 AM] James Bach: Why are you contacting me?

[12:30:10 AM] Irene Kusi: I am very sorry about that and sorry again if i disturb you. I am Irene Kusi from the UK but i am now in Ghana and i would like to know more about you.

[12:30:51 AM] James Bach: Why are you contacting ME, though?

[12:31:39 AM] Irene Kusi: Like i just told you .sorry if i disturb you.

[12:32:06 AM] James Bach: You haven’t told me why you came to me instead of someone else. Is there any reason?

[12:32:10 AM] Irene Kusi: Can we get to know each other personally? What do you mean ?

[12:32:27 AM] James Bach: Look, strangers contact me often for business purposes. That’s normal. I’m trying to figure out if this is for business. Usually people tell me why they are contacting me.

[12:33:08 AM] Irene Kusi: Yes is not strictly business. I just would like to get to know you

[12:33:18 AM] James Bach: So, you don’t know who I am.

[12:33:54 AM] Irene Kusi: Yes i really dont know you but i found your profile on skype and decided to get to know you if i can work with you.

[12:34:23 AM] James Bach: You just chose me at random? Seems like a lot of people from Ghana are doing that.

[12:35:13 AM] Irene Kusi: Why have some people from ghana done something like that to you ?

[12:35:18 AM] James Bach: Yes you are not the first person from Ghana to randomly contact me

[12:35:40 AM] Irene Kusi: And what did they want ??

[12:35:51 AM] James Bach: They wouldn’t tell me… Just like you aren’t telling me.

(She cuts the small-talk and tells me her problem)

[12:36:30 AM] Irene Kusi: My main motive here is to find someone who will help me inherit my property thats why i am on skype .

[12:36:40 AM] James Bach: oh, a 419 thing. I understand

[12:38:27 AM] Irene Kusi: Oh who said is a 419 thing

[12:39:03 AM] James Bach: I did, “oh, a 419 thing” See, that’s where I said it.

[12:39:23 AM] Irene Kusi: what shows is a 419 thing

[12:39:41 AM] James Bach: You said “My main motive here is to find someone who will help me inherit my property thats why i am on skype.” If you haven’t heard of 419, that’s okay.

[12:40:54 AM] Irene Kusi: Ok

[12:41:12 AM] James Bach: Usually it’s Nigerians who need this kind of help. I didn’t know it was happening in Ghana, too.

[12:41:34 AM] Irene Kusi: Ok .so are you going to help me or not ?

[12:41:46 AM] James Bach: What do you need?

[12:42:06 AM] Irene Kusi: I will like you to help me pay with the bills so that i can get the gold

[12:43:07 AM] James Bach: Oh, you want money. Why didn’t you say so at the start?

[12:43:20 AM] Irene Kusi: I dont know why

(With my tester skills, I immediately comprehend what’s going on: she’s too innocent; she sees only the good in people)

[12:44:26 AM] James Bach: Okay, but, why would you trust me? You don’t know me. I might be a bad guy.

[12:45:11 AM] Irene Kusi: Nothing i have just gotten to know that you a very giid guy and i will trsut you .

[12:46:39 AM] James Bach: I think you have to be careful, though. There are many people in the world who may try to take advantage of you. Especially if you have inherited gold. Let me ask you this: If I help you, will you share part of the gold with me?

[12:47:51 AM] Irene Kusi: I will do exactly that not just half but i will let you get the whole gold that is i will bring it to the USA and then we will sell it there and share the money. But before we share the money i will give you 5kilograms of the gold for free just for helping me get it . [Editors note: that’s about $300,000]

[12:48:30 AM] James Bach: See? You were just about to trust me and then I tried to take your gold! Irene, you are WAY too trusting. People will want to take from you and not give you anything.

[12:49:14 AM] Irene Kusi: Oh so will you do that to me ?

[12:49:28 AM] James Bach: I just proved that you would LET me if I TRIED to. That was a test. I do testing for a living. And you showed that you are too innocent and good. This is a hard world, full of cheaters.

[12:50:07 AM] Irene Kusi: Oh okay thank you so much for telling me this .

[12:50:13 AM] James Bach: They may try to contact you and fool you into giving up your money. So be more careful.

[12:50:26 AM] Irene Kusi: Thank you

(Now I go into consulting mode… First, learn about the problem. Often the real problem is not the one they come to you with.)

[12:50:31 AM] James Bach: Why don’t you keep your money? You will need it.

[12:51:16 AM] Irene Kusi: Ok so are you going to help me pay for the bills so that i get the gold ??

[12:51:46 AM] James Bach: I thought you said the gold belonged to you.

[12:51:52 AM] Irene Kusi: Yes

[12:52:04 AM] James Bach: Then you have much much more money than I have. You can pay them yourself, can’t you?

[12:52:21 AM] Irene Kusi: Oh no not right now. You know my dad left the Gold as a form of inheritance for me and since he could keep all that in his house he had to give it to his lawyer.

[12:53:14 AM] James Bach: Okay, so the lawyer has it.

[12:53:42 AM] Irene Kusi: Yes and what the lawyer is also saying is that he gave it to a security house here in ghana

[12:53:55 AM] James Bach: That’s good. Then you know where it is. What happened when you went to get it?

[12:54:42 AM] Irene Kusi: They told me that i have to pay for the number of years that it has been there so that they can give it to me . And the lawyer told me that i also need to get a man who will stand by me just to help me

[12:55:42 AM] James Bach: Is this place a bank?

[12:56:03 AM] Irene Kusi: No is not bank but a storage house .

[12:56:19 AM] James Bach: Is it licensed to store gold?

[12:56:29 AM] Irene Kusi: Yes. Is a licensed company. It has the sole mandate to store gold for people

(Use my knowledge of local laws and customs to reveal the true culprit. A consultant should have deep knowledge in useful domains.)

[12:56:57 AM] James Bach: Then they are violating Ghanan law by charging you to release it. Your lawyer should have told you that. Do you trust that lawyer? Do you know him well?

[12:57:27 AM] Irene Kusi: Yes he is the family lawyer .

[12:57:51 AM] James Bach: Then why is he telling you something that is against the laws of your own country? I think you need to talk to a different lawyer.

[12:58:59 AM] Irene Kusi: When we went there they told me that is not like they are charging me for the gold which is mine said by my late dad but for the number of years they have kept the gold for safe keeping thats what they mean. The lawyer has got nothing to do with this at all.

[1:01:34 AM] James Bach: That’s called an “advance fee scam” and they are trying to trick you. You need to go to the police. But I think your lawyer may be in on this. He may even have paid off the police.

(My kind of consulting involves tough, direct speech, on occasion. Sometimes that’s hard for clients to hear.)

[1:02:07 AM] Irene Kusi: You cant talk to my lawyer like that

[1:02:12 AM] James Bach: Your lawyer, if he knows Ghanan law, knows that they aren’t ALLOWED to charge you. They can’t charge you! You are being tricked!

[1:02:26 AM] Irene Kusi: Ok

[1:02:39 AM] James Bach: I told you that you have to be careful. Gold is VERY valuable. People want to steal it.

[1:03:03 AM] Irene Kusi: so now are you going to help me pay the bills or not ?

[1:03:46 AM] James Bach: I’m telling you that you don’t owe any bills. It’s a trap. They want you to pay them and then they won’t give you anything. You need to wake up Irene. You are a crime victim.

[1:04:05 AM] Irene Kusi: Stop what you are saying

[1:04:06 AM] James Bach: That gold is yours. You deserve it.

[1:04:08 AM] Irene Kusi: i hate it.  what do you take me for ? you are not ready to pay fpor the bills thats why you are doing this

[1:04:40 AM] James Bach: I think you put too much belief in people who are now trying to hurt you.  Now you are upset and you want to blame me. But I am just the messenger.

[1:05:08 AM] Irene Kusi: do you think the storage house is an orphanage home where they keep things for free?

[1:05:59 AM] James Bach: Stand up for your rights, Irene. Even in Ghana, there are laws and people have to follow them. They can’t just steal your gold and say you can’t have it because it’s been “sitting there for a long time”

[1:06:24 AM] Irene Kusi: Stop what you are saying

[1:06:26 AM] James Bach: Under GHANA LAW a licensed gold storage house CANNOT charge for storage AFTER the fact. They take payment UP FRONT. Your father already paid. Your lawyer knows that. You have to fight for what is right.

[1:06:49 AM] Irene Kusi: no he didnt pay

[1:07:06 AM] James Bach: THAT’S WHAT YOUR LAWYER TOLD YOU? I can’t believe what a liar this guy is. Do you think you can just bring gold to a storage house and not pay them to store it? He must have paid. So now you are asking strangers to help you pay a bill that YOU DON’T EVEN HAVE.

[1:08:23 AM] Irene Kusi: Bye

[1:08:29 AM] James Bach: I hope you get your gold. Think about what I said.

(If the client is not ready, it doesn’t matter what you tell them: they won’t benefit. I like to think Irene is taking my words to heart. But I have to accept that she probably won’t. Meanwhile I can only hope that her lawyer has invested his ill-gotten gains in an American solar company.)


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