She agreed to meet him the following Saturday at a coffee shop in a mall near where he lived. Hook, line and sinker, he thought.
He had known all along that if he cast his net wide enough and painted a picture of almost instantaneous wealth, one day a fish would get caught; now one was in the net.
She was the last person he had expected to respond positively to his numerous posts on social media, and he was feeling quite proud of himself. With the meeting confirmed, he went back online to find pictures that he could Photoshop to corroborate his story.
They were not exactly friends. They had been in college at the same time, although they were taking different courses. She was pursuing a degree in finance and he one in biostatistics.
They shared some common courses, and although he had had a crush on her, he realised after a few interactions that she was just like other college girls — out to have fun and use whoever she could to get ahead .
She graduated before he did. A few failed exams and disciplinary committees later, he found himself having to make the difficult choice of either repeating the course or moving to a diploma programme. He chose the latter.
It was around this time that he developed an interest in trading currencies, wooed by the prospect of making quick money and spurred by the success stories he read online.
He immersed himself in learning everything he could about forex trading, spending hours online opening dummy accounts with different online brokers.
He put his blood, sweat and tears into this venture but despite his efforts, he could not turn a profit.
Convinced that the problem was the dummy accounts, he opened a live account and with an initial capital of $100, hoped his luck would change.
However, after a year and a half of coming up empty and losing more than $1,000, he realised that trading currencies was not going to be his forte, however hard he tried.
For a man with visions of grandeur, he felt the walls closing in on him with each passing day. He needed to find another way to make quick money before he was old, broke and unaccomplished.
As all young men do, he had made bets with his friends about how rich he would be in a year, and he was losing them fast. He posted the profitable part of his trading online, and soon his inbox was filling with messages from people asking for advice and currency tips.
And so he hatched his plan. His forex trading may have failed, but he had the gift of the gab and the ability to spin a yarn.
He had sufficient knowledge to fool a potential investor with little or no knowledge of how the markets worked. All he had to do to set the ball rolling was post a few pictures of himself on social media enjoying the fruits of his successful trade.
He hired a professional photographer to take pictures of him in different locations, and touch them up to create an illusion of success. It was expensive, but he considered it an investment.
To add credibility to his success story, he would pay $5 to his friends to leave positive comments on his posts.
The first few months had been slow, but he was making enough to get by. He upped the ante; a post on social media saying that he sold forex signals for $100 for a month, and would become a personal currencies trader for anyone who had $1,000 to invest.
He promised a full refund on both the forex signals and the investment if the investor did not receive at least 100 per cent profit in the first five trading days. Then his phone started to ring continuously.
At 10am one Thursday morning, when he saw a text from her asking how he had been and if what she had seen on social media was true.
She had seemed a bit apprehensive, whining about the number of conmen in the city and asking him, for old time’s sake, to be forthright with her.
The call caught him completely by surprise. He had forgotten that they were friends on social media.
He alleviated her fears, telling her that it was not a favour he was doing for her but an investment. He did not have to do it, he said. It was, after all, her money. If she was impressed with his work, she would trust him.
If not, then she was free to turn away. What he would not do was entertain questions about his honour. He told her to think about it and get back to him.
She called him two days later, saying she had $2,000 that she wanted to turn into $8,000 to help pay for her Master’s degree. If he was willing to meet and walk her through the process, she would appreciate it.
They met at the coffee shop. He came prepared with charts and graphs. He saw her face light up when he assured her that in just one week, she would have doubled the initial amount.
He left the meeting 15 minutes later, with a brown envelope holding the $2,000 and knew his rent and upkeep was covered for the next four months.