We've all been there: A suspicious email pops into our inbox from a scammer, often located in Nigeria. They're looking some sort of cash advance, usually in the range of several thousand dollars, and they need the money right now!
At the center of this tale we have Maria Grette, an art teacher and therapist living in Sweden. According to a recent BBC article, she had just gone through a painful divorce and on a whim set up an online dating profile. That's when she received a message from a guy who called himself Johnny. He said he was a 58-year-old Danish man who was also looking for love.
Maria and "Johnny" sent romantic emails back and forth for three months. During that time, they really got to know each other. Maria recounted to the BBC, "He had a way and a sweetness I had never known in a man before. And he was innocent in a way that puzzled me."
Then, the big scam happened: "Johnny" told Maria that he was flying in to visit her, but first had to make a quick stop in Nigeria for an interview (sound legit, right?). Then, Maria received a series of panicked e-mails from him, explaining that he was mugged while traveling to his interview and needed an immediate advance of several thousand euros to cover his hospital expenses.
Without thinking, Maria wired the cash to Nigeria. She remembered, "I will never forget how I rushed to the Western Union office, trembling while I did the transfer."
A little while later, though, she realized she had been duped. And that's where this story takes its turn.
Realizing that "Johnny" was a byproduct of his environment, Maria decided to do something to help. So, she founded a program that assists African artists with earning grants, traveling to exhibitions and securing funding for their work.
And the guy who started this whole thing? He gave up scamming and has since left Nigeria to study in America. He now has a secure job in the American oil sector, and it's all thanks to Maria's help. She hasn't seen him in person since they met in Abuja, but the two of them still communicate regularly.
"He has asked me so many times to forgive him and I told him that the most important thing is to forgive himself."