Over three months ago I sat, computer on lap, in the buddy seat at the front of our bus, which was parked adjacent to a California Walmart.
Because wifi is a scarce commodity, Walmart’s free wifi accessible from the bus seemed like a godsend.
After connecting, I began working on bookkeeping, taxes, and blogging.
Soon, a webpage rudely interrupted my my productivity. It stated a message similar to the following: “Your Mac is infected with 3 viruses. Our security check found traces of 2 malware and 1 phishing/spyware… your personal and financial information are at risk.”
The screen redirected me to a page that featured pictures of two Apple support reps with the Apple logo and design. After giving a representative access to my computer, the rep began to “remove” the malware.
Soon, we transitioned the conversation to over the phone. In order to fully fix the “problem” Alex, an Apple technician with a distinct Indian accent, told me I would need to pay $200. Unfortunately, since my financial information was already at risk, I would have to pay using two Apple iTunes gift cards. I bought one online through PayPal, but had to walk a few minutes to a store to purchase the other $100 gift card.
After I submitted the codes to the iTunes gift cards, Alex resolved the issue and installed a “cleanup” program on my computer. Before leaving, my friend Alex gave me his number, telling me that he would be my official representative if I needed help again.
I heaved a sigh of relief, thankful that my information was now secure, though at the expense of $200 and three hours.
Two weeks later, back home in Kalona Iowa, crisis struck once again. Alex called, notifying me that my computer had been compromised. After I allowed him access inside my computer, he showed me that an individual from Dayton, Ohio had logged into my email. This time, I would need to pay $700, and would have to drive 15 minutes to buy the necessary iTunes gift cards.
At prompting from my wife, I called my brother-in-law, who quickly assured me that I had been the victim of fraud. First, Apple never calls someone. Second, iTunes gift cards are not multipurpose.
After five minutes of persuasion, I realized that my kind, thoughtful, representative had in fact been nothing more than I wolf in sheep’s clothing.
In reflection, I’m thankful that this false shepherd only swindled off a few pounds of wool, rather than taking fleece, mutton, and all. I’m grateful I payed only $200 and not $2000 for my crash course in internet scams. Aside from the financial lessons, I gleaned six spiritual lessons from the ordeal.
1. Lies are often quite persuasive.
Satan craftily persuaded Eve to eat the fruit. “But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3).
2. Lies look appealing on the outside, but will always to destroy us.
There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs 14:12).
“The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).
Deception appeals to emotions, not truth. Satan promised Eve that they would “Be as gods, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5).
3. The lie is most dangerous that is closest to the truth.
“For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works” (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).
4. Deception can only be discerned by God’s Word.
“Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32).
5. Discerning truth takes more than knowledge; it takes courage, commitment, the fear of the Lord, and God’s empowering grace.
Though Solomon was the wisest man on earth, he fell to lust. Unlike Eve, Adam was not deceived, but he still sinned.
6. Spiritual warfare requires eternal vigilance.
“Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion walketh about, seeking whom he may devour. Whom resist steadfast in the faith…” (I Peter 5:8-9).
The Ultimate Battle
After my brother-in-law persuaded me that I had been scammed, Alex called back. After answering the phone, I confronted him with his deception and theft. I assured him iTunes gift cards were not multipurpose and exhorted him to bring forth fruits worthy of repentance. I told him I forgave him, but that his sin would certainly find him out.
I should not have been shocked by what I heard next.
After hearing the truth, Alex expostulated, claiming that I, in fact, was the one who was mistaken. I should have known that he would not feel any pang of remorse or twinge of regret, for he had come to practice depiction as a way of life.
For all deceivers like Alex, and for Satan, the master deceiver, a final day of reckoning will come. Proverbs assures “The lip of truth shall be established forever, but a lying tongue is but for a moment.”
Until that day, may we maintain spiritual vigor and alertness, as we battle with confidence in the One who has given us “All things that pertain unto life and godliness” ( II Peter 1:3).
Question: How have you been scammed? What lessons did you learn from your experience?