Just One Of Those Days…
The last two blog posts have dealt with the subject of Job and the challenges that he faced in his life. I thought that it might be appropriate to relate a real life circumstance that shares some of the principles that I discussed in those posts. So here is a true story...
Have you ever had an “off” morning? I had one not too long ago.
I was running late for work, trying to accomplish everything I needed to do before leaving the house. I had exchanged a few frustrated and unpleasant words with my wife and was just about to walk downstairs when the phone rang. My wife picked it up. I could hear the voice in the phone that said, “Grammy?”
My wife replied, “Ann, is that you?” Then she continued with a tone of concern, “What happened, you sound different!”
Ann explained that she had been to a gathering after a funeral for a close friend the night before. She said that had a glass of wine and on her way home she had been involved in a traffic accident. The airbag in her car opened, hit her face and broke her nose. The police arrived and did a breath test and arrested her for a DUI. She was emphatic that she only had the one drink and didn’t know how she could test over the limit.
She was taken to the hospital, treated and released to police custody. She waited until she knew we were up to make the call to us. She told my wife that she needed bail money so she could make her flight home that night. Her attorney said we could wire the money. She gave my wife the name and number of her attorney, John Williams, from the Public Defender’s Association.
I was literally opening the door to leave to go to work, but I grabbed an extension phone and asked Ann if she was OK. She said she was in some pain and sounded like her nose was clogged. She said that she was mostly embarrassed that she had to ask for help like this. I told her to give her attorney my cell number and I would take care of it as soon as I got to the office. I gave her the number because she said that the police had her phone locked up and she didn’t have my cell number memorized.
She said, “Please don’t tell mom about this. I want to tell her myself when I get home.” I told Ann that I wouldn’t and we could keep it between us. I knew that my daughter would be in a panic because Ann’s brother had just died a few months earlier. With a tone of panic, my wife said, “You have to help her, she is our granddaughter!” I left for work expecting a call.
It was 8 am when I arrived late for work...
The call had not yet come, so I called my wife. She said that the attorney, John Williams, had just called her and that I should call him. She gave me the number and I dialed.
I thought that it was odd that it was an out of state number but Alex answered, “Public Defender’s Association, how can I help you?” I was surprised that a New York number would be handling a DUI case in San Diego, but I was assured that they were a nationwide organization and that I had just reached the call center. I gave him the extension #541 as directed by my wife and was connected to John Williams.
John explained the situation and what happened with the accident. Ann had broken her nose from the airbag in the accident, was treated in the hospital and was now in a holding cell waiting on bail. He said that he could post bail for her and get her released in time for her flight. The bail amount was $4,900.00 and the only way to get it there fast enough was to wire the funds to his associate who handled the bail processing. I asked John where Ann was and he said that she was in New York being held for a DUI. I was surprised to find that she was in New York, and I asked if I could talk with her. John explained that she could not make any calls until she was released.
John gave me all of the bank wire information and I agreed to make the transfer. He said he would call me back in 3-4 hours to give time for the transfer to occur. He asked if I had any message for Ann that he could deliver to her. I just said to have her call me as soon as she was released. I made all of the arrangements for the wire transfer. When it was completed about 30 minutes later, I called John back to let him know that the transfer was done. He said that he would take it from there and be sure that Ann was taken care of.
The adrenaline rush of the early morning phone call, the panic of my wife, the stress of getting to work on time, the challenges of getting the wire transfer set up and my concern for Ann had begun to subside. I was caught up in all of the activity to “rescue” my granddaughter, but as I hung up the phone, reason began to set in.
Something just didn’t seem right. I was told that Ann did not have her phone, but I thought, “Why not give it a try anyway?” Ann answered her phone, “Hi Grandpa”. My heart sunk, I knew for sure that I had been scammed for nearly $5,000! I explained to Ann what had happened and then reviewed all of the “Red Flags” that I chose to ignore. I let the circumstances and my propensity to be “Mr. Fix-it” get the better of me.
I felt so incredibly stupid!!!
Then, I sprang into action. I immediately contacted my bank to try to stop the wire transfer and file a fraud claim. I had done the transfer through online banking and it was too early to get help from my local branch. I contacted the fraud department and explained the situation. They said that they might be able to retract the wire.
Within 15 minutes, “John Williams” called back to inform me that his associate, Daniel Duran had closed his account, the one that I had wired the money to. He said that he would not be able to receive the wire transfer and that it would be returned to me by the bank. I played along as “John” told me that another person, Raven Mori was now handling the situation and that I needed to wire the funds to her bank. I told him that as soon as the funds came back to my account I would do so. He said that he would call back in 2-3 hours to verify. He never called back.
A Painful Lesson
I have preached for years to my family and staff about e-mail scams and phone scams and then I bought in to one “hook, line and sinker!” My wife was quite convinced that it was actually Ann, and I was already prepared to believe regardless of the red flags. All I had to do was pick up my phone and call or text Ann. Either Ann’s phone would have gone to voicemail or she would have answered or replied to my text. However, I did not do that until I had already transferred the funds.
As seasoned parents, grandparents and great grandparents, we have seen our share of “unexpected” situations. The circumstances with which my wife and I were presented were suspect, even doubtful, yet plausible. This situation was a perfect storm that was set in motion by stress and strife and allowing lies to replace truth. This scam preyed upon our vulnerability of caring for a loved one.
How does the discussion about Job relate to this story?
The principles discussed in Job involve the words of his mouth that were motivated by fear and doubt. This story is not directly related to the words spoken to the con artist, but the ones that set up the atmosphere in the first place. My less than pleasant verbal exchange with my wife set up the situation, because without thinking, she answered the phone with an unfamiliar Caller ID, which we never do. Then fear and doubt set in.
What could have changed this story?
Unlike Job, I did not seek God in prayer for the situation. I reacted rather than using some critical thinking and being proactive. Had I simply taken a moment to take a deep breath, relax and pray, “Father, help me with this situation,” I would have given the Holy Spirit a chance to speak to me with reason, rather than my annoyance that I had to solve another problem and the panic that my wife felt. Instead, I let my own Ideolatry take over!
I let a combination of fear and doubt overtake my thinking. Fear told me that my granddaughter was injured and might be further harmed while in jail. Doubt came in the form of ignoring several key elements; the “Invalid Number”, the unusual sound of Ann’s voice, the fact that she didn’t know my cell number (she does!), that I wouldn’t have known about the death of one of her close friends, that she would travel to New York and I would not have known about it, that she wouldn’t have called her mother first, that she would drink enough to be “over the limit” (she doesn’t!) and where were her husband and kids?. But I never doubted the veracity of the claims of the con artist! My thinking was severely clouded.
We had both “suspended disbelief.”
Listen to God...
Deception comes in many forms in this world and some of the most powerful deceptions are directed at personal lust, greed and selfishness. However, others can be cons for a variety of other reasons. There are always pitfalls that are aimed against us, but God has provided protection for us through faith in Him. God provides some advice in 1 Peter 5:6-9:
1 Peter 5:7-9 (God’s Word Translation)
Turn all your anxiety over to God because he cares for you. Keep your mind clear, and be alert. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion as he looks for someone to devour. Be firm in the faith and resist him…
I hesitated to reveal this true story (Ann’s name was changed, but not the others), because I didn’t really want anyone else know how dumb I was! My vulnerability was exposed to the light, potentially for your benefit. I hope that this story might help someone else avoid being deceived or scammed.
Oh... by the way, my bank was able to reverse the transfer for a small fee. It only cost me $35.00 for my education, but for you, it is free!!!
Dr Rich Masek
I invite you to read Ideolatry - God Is Not Your Problem - The Character and Nature of God to learn more about deception and how Ideolatry can distort your view of Truth.
May God richly bless you in all that you do! - Dr Rich Masek
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You can read about more subjects from Ideolatry below.