At some point we've all been on the receiving end of a scam. It is usually asking us whether we're up for spending a load of money to save a Nigerian prince from the jaws of death in a faraway prison, helping to smuggle them from the depths of their despair. Then, because of your heroics and donations, the family of the wealthy prince pay you back. Win-win.
However, those of us with little more than an ounce of sense can instantly see that these emails and online messages belong in the bin. The scams are commonly known as '419 scams', or 'advance-fee scams'.
Maria Grette is one of the people who unfortunately fell for the '419 scam', and in the process of doing so fell in love with a man who she believed was a 58-year-old Danish man. The 62-year-old soon found out that the man was actually a 24-year-old Nigerian 419 Internet scammer.
Maria was distraught, but that was until she went to meet the Nigerian native and those feelings suddenly turned to love.
Credit: Maria Grette/BBC
The pair first came into contact on a dating site, the BBC reports. The man made up a story that he was a Dane living in the US, but was coming to meet Maria in Sweden.
On his way, stopping off in Nigeria to meet his son Nick, he fabricated the story that he'd been mugged and his son had been shot in the head. While in hospital he told Maria that he needed 1,000 Euros to cover the medical costs.
"I will never forget how I rushed to the Western Union
office, trembling while I did the transfer," Maria told the BBC. "All I could think of was to get the
two people in Nigeria out of danger."
Following the initial transfer, the man (who has been named Johnny to protect his anonymity), asked for more and more money. A few grand later and Maria had finally realised the game he was playing.
"The most terrible thing was not that he had cheated me, but that he had lost his innocence," she said.
The 64-year-old Swede stopped contacting 'Johnny', disappointed in herself for not realising the scam earlier on. However, a few months later, the man she'd fallen for got back in touch, confessing his sins.
He described himself as the devil, as well as admitting that Maria was not who he thought she was - which is funny, because that's literally the opposite of what his original plan was supposed to achieve.
Maria explained: "He said he had never met anyone like me before, that he had been fighting his feelings for me for a long time. He said his scamming mates had warned him about falling in love with a 'client', that he had ignored them because he trusted me and did not want to lose contact with me."
After coming clean and revealing himself as a Nigerian man less than half her age, the pair began a genuine relationship, eventually meeting up with each other.
She made her way to Nigeria where she met 'Johnny', his friends and his family. After seeing that most of his friends were scammers, she decided that she could try and make a difference in not only their lives, but the country as a whole.
"I asked myself what I could do to prevent a situation where healthy, good young men fall into this trap," she said.
Credit: Maria Grette/BBC
The Swede made an effort for budding African artists to visit arts exhibitions, workshops, conferences and competitions in Europe. She also sourced grants and helped fund their work.
After two weeks with her Nigerian toy boy scammer, she moved to Norway, where she regularly keeps in touch with him. Though they haven't met up again, she helped him financially to study in America - which could possibly mean he is still scamming her, in one way or another.
Despite this, Maria claims he has 'given her more than he took'. Did his son ever recover from being shot in the head, though?
Featured image credit: PA/Maria Grette