Have You Ever Been Scammed?

The Most Recent Scam Attempt

I just received an email message that wasn’t clear about what it was about or whom it was from.  I researched a bit and found that others had received it also, saying it was a scam.  The claim was that I had won a lottery type contest, and my winnings were supposedly $900,000.00 and a new Audi automobile.  The Scam reports related that attempts were made to collect money before the awards could be sent, an obvious ploy.

First Example

A much more subtle attempt was made to collect money just before Jan and I resumed our missionary work in Hopkins, Belize last October 17th.

I was attempting to sell a solar generator on “Craig’s List.”  Much as I wanted to keep it, shipping it to Belize would be costly, and I decided we could use the extra cash.  I listed it for $1,000, but immediately was confronted by a rude buyer, who began making demands regarding the money transfer and pickup procedures.  Strangely, every time he contacted me, his name was different.  Before long, he began to claim he was a Christian to gain my confidence.

Briefly, he wanted to send me a money-gram through WalMart for nearly $4,000.  When I received the check, he wrote via text message, I was to deposit it immediately into my bank account, then write a check to the person he claimed was doing the pickup in my area, along with numerous other items he had purchased.  The $3,000.00 to be sent to a woman to reimburse her travel expenditures, as well as pay for her time.

I became suspicious, telling him I couldn’t send out money until I was sure his check had cleared. Using an ungodly obscenity, he said he was a “man of God,” and he would never sxxx on anyone.

After receiving the check, I took it to my bank and deposited it.  The bank teller was even more suspicious than I, telling me to be very careful.  I told her I would wait until I had assurance from the bank that they check had cleared. The note inside of the envelope was hidden, so I didn’t see it until I took the check to the bank.  It insisted that I deposit the check immediately, but that I had to contact him first before doing so to let him know that I’d received the check.  I only texted him after the check was deposited, but he only was interested in knowing how much I could withdraw:

“My bank said part of the money is available to withdraw so how much is available today to withdraw? . . .So please can you check your online phone bank app to confirm the available amount?”

He then asked me to send him a picture of the account deposit slip, but I wrote back, “No way.”

His reply was immediate, Oh no, Charles I’m not trying to scam you and you can trust me, I’m a God-fearing Christian and there’s no forgiveness for me if I try to cheat on you.  Try and cover the account details just to see the balance and you can go ahead and get the shipper money sent through Walmart transfer.”

I wrote back and told him, “Jesus will forgive you for all your sins if you give your life to Him completely (John 3:16.”

He replied, “Thanks a lot I’m glad to buy from you.  So please will you help me to get it sent through Walmart ASAP?”

I wrote again, “I am not at liberty to spend any money on this until the check is cleared.  I will inform you immediately when I know it is cleared.”

“Okay no problem.”

He wrote again the next morning,

“Hello good morning to you and how was your night?  I really need a response from you asap thanks.”

Writing back, I told him I was still waiting for confirmation on clearance and was told it could take a week.  I also wrote that I hoped it would be sooner because “I really want to get this done!”

Later that same morning, I called the bank to ask about clearance and was told that the check had cleared. Therefore, I went right down to WalMart to send the shipping money.

Rebuking the Devourer

Working with the WalMart clerk to send the money was troublesome, but the Lord’s protection was evident from the beginning.  She was rather demanding, telling me what I should already know about filling out the forms.  This was my first time, though, so I admit I was ignorant.  Since I was planning on sending a rather large amount of money, I decided to check again with my bank to be sure the money would clear.  Talking to a very pleasant young man at the bank counter, he immediately related his suspicions that I was being scammed and that I needed to take care.  He told me the check had cleared, however, so I went back to the WalMart clerk to continue the transaction.

When it came time to transfer the money, I found that my credit card would not work.  Rather upset, the clerk told me to try a different card, which I did.  When that card would not work either, I decided to go back to the bank teller and withdraw cash to send in the money gram.

Ironically, even though the man’s check had supposedly cleared, my bank could not release the funds in cash.  The teller renewed his cautious advice that I not proceed to send out the money, even though I eventually was able to get some cash from another (third) credit card.

I decided to consult with my wife, who is very wise and cautious.  She advised me not to send any money because if I did and the check was a bad check, I would have to reimburse the bank with my own money.

I decided to stop the process and come back another time.  Afterwards, a rather contentious exchange occurred with the buyer, who was very upset.  I decided to cancel the transaction altogether, which made him even more upset.

Overall, I became suspicious to the point of wondering whether the purpose he had for the generator might be dangerous to some people.  I didn’t know if he was a terrorist, but I didn’t want to risk any ramifications in closing the deal, not to mention the loss of money and the loss of the generator itself.

My wife ultimately texted him and told him to cancel his check with his bank, and the next day we found that the funds had been withdrawn from our bank account.

The entire situation was stressful and troublesome, but we rejoiced in the Lord’s protection, especially through the good advice given to us by the bank teller.  He told me he was concerned that the original check didn’t look like a true check from the Bank of America, so I believed him.

Conclusion

Some weeks later, I was reminded of the words of Jesus in His “Parable of the Sower,” as found in the fourth chapter of Mark’s Gospel:

And others are the ones on whom seed was sown among the thorns; these are the ones who have heard the word, but the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. (Mark 4:18-29)

Consequently, I realized that the Holy Spirit had led me away from the thorns and turned me back to the good soil that leads to fruitfulness in my daily walk with Him.  The lack of peace I had felt, as well as the good advice I had received, all during this transaction were indicators that the Lord’s “seeds” were falling on thorny ground, and that I needed to change my heart’s desires to conform to His promises and blessings, not the supposed benefits of worldly wealth.

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