Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Heart, brain, soul? Which do you trust?

That 17-year-old girl who approached us at the food court at the mall. What are the chances that she's a pawn in a most clever conspiracy to trick good-hearted people into giving up their money? Two of my friends on the Don Ray Journal list -- both veteran law enforcement folks -- are rightfully skeptical.

Is the picture she showed us really her sister? Was the letter she presented really written by the president of the association that works to improve the conditions of the Gypsies? Was her ID card another part of the sophisticated scam?

What about the bank account? What about the cell phone number of the group's president and his e-mail address?

I asked the Serbian producer I'm working with it anyone would be so stupid as to be connected with a bank account into which people place their donations -- when the money isn't really going to the stated cause. He said that, in Serbia, it wasn't likely that anybody would check.

After a few minutes of net surfing, I was able to find all of the contact information for the man whose name is on the letter and ID card. His e-mail address was different. So was the phone number.

I sent an innocent e-mail message to both addresses. I expect to hear from one of them tomorrow. Today is a national holiday in Serbia, so it's likely nobody was there at his office.

So will he confirm that the little girl is who they say she is? Or will he quickly warn me not to encourage people to deposit money into the account?

Journalistically speaking, it has the makings of a great story -- whether it's legit or it's a scam. If it's legit, it's a remarkable develoment in the way the Gypsies try to take care of their children. If it's a scam, its boldness and precision is worth writing about.

I don't believe it's going to take a lot of investigating to find out which way this will turn out.

In the meantime, I'm going to try to post a picture -- just to see how difficult it is.

That was fairly easy and painless. Now I need to hear from you -- either in the comments part of this blog (no I don't know how it works) or by e-mail to me directly. Is it a scam or an opportunity to reach out to someone in need? Let me know.

Also, let me know your thoughts about this blog approach. I figure that when I figure out how it works, I'll be able to do some nice things with it. Let me know.

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