She came into my office crying and broken. A lonely single woman in her 70’s, she had been scammed by someone she met online. He had befriended her, spoke sweetly and lovingly to her, then asked for her help.
You’ve heard the scam before. He had money he couldn’t get to right away. He could send her a check for her to deposit but she should withdraw the same from her funds and wire it to him. In just a few days, the check would clear and she would be reimbursed.
Of course, the check was no good. She was taken for tens of thousands of dollars. At her age, she was still working to make ends meet, so it was obvious, this money was her life’s savings. Now she had no money to pay her rent or even to buy food. The bank put a hold on her account to collect any monies that came in against the debt. They also refused to help saying that she had allowed the deception and was therefore responsible for the lost money.
My heart broke for her, but at the same time, I couldn’t help but think – how could she fall for such a ruse? Why on earth would you trust someone you had never met in person with that kind of request?
It happened because she thought she knew him. He had gained her trust and the rest was easy.
But still, I shook my head and thought she had been reckless and foolish.
And then, just yesterday, it almost happened to me.
This time, it was a stranger posing as someone I knew well. Someone I trusted. Someone with a plausible request.
Through my work email, our Senior Pastor purportedly sent me a message asking for a favor. The ruse was that he wanted to reward those on staff who had been diligently working through this crisis by giving them gift cards. He was busy with something and couldn’t take care of it.
There were some subtle inconsistencies I might have caught had I not been distracted by something else I was doing. In fact, I did pause once or twice, but dismissed my misgivings.
I wrote back that I could find time to help this weekend. What exactly did he need?
I should purchase 8 of a particular type of gift card – I could keep one for my trouble and I’d be reimbursed for all of them. I just needed to scratch off the numbers on the back and send him a clear picture once they had been purchased.
Ding, ding, ding! That was the kicker that made me turn my full attention to the conversation and realize this was a scam. Had I purchased those cards, and given away those codes, the email sender would have had everything he needed to spend $800 on Ebay, and I would have been out a lot of money.
Now I was the one feeling reckless and foolish.
How could I have been lured that far in? I had written back and forth to this scam artist two or three times before it became abundantly clear I was being led astray.
I’ve heard it said that we are misled by the enemy because he doesn’t show up in a pitchfork and horns. He’s not that obvious.
Instead, he speaks sweetly to us. He gains our trust. Sometimes, he takes advantage of our distractions, counting on the fact that what he says will make sense if we don’t think about it too hard. And in that moment, when we let down our guard, he goes in for the kill.
I Peter 5:8 tells us “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”
Being deceived about money isn’t the worst thing that can happen to us. There’s something far more permanent. Far more evil.
Matthew 24:4-5 says “And Jesus answered and said to them, ‘See to it that no one misleads you. For many will come in My name, saying. “I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many.”
We need to be on guard. We need to be reading the Word. We need to be so well versed in the Truth, that when someone comes along and tries to lead us down a different path, we can spot it a mile off. Not after we’ve lost it all. Not even two or three conversations in.
There is only one way to heaven. Jesus Christ. Not good works, not because your parents were believers, not by another path.
He is The Way. The Truth. The Life. He’s not going to cheat you out of everything you have. He’s handing you the keys to everything you’ll ever need. Life with Him.
Don’t be deceived.