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.

Crisis Realized

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.

Crisis Resolved

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.

Crisis Redefined  

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? 

Categories: Character

16 Comments

Anonymous · August 7, 2018 at 10:27 am

Joshua,

I would be willing to bet that you had way more impact on Alex than you realize. Out of all the people he ever dealt with, most of them were probably so mean and out of control to him that Alex felt almost justified in what he had already done to them. But not you, you were different and the difference was and will be recognized by him. It will be enough to make him think why you handled it so differently. You never know it could be just the thing that down the road flashes back to his memory and immediately steers him to Christ and Salvation. And if that is the case and it only cost you $200 and your time, I bet Joshua you would do it again. I’m sure that you prayed for him. How many other prayers do you think that Alex got from people that he scammed?

Stevie · August 7, 2018 at 10:37 am

Why didn’t you call the police so that other people night have been saved from scamming?

    Joshua Bontrager · August 7, 2018 at 11:55 am

    Stevie,

    Great question! I probably should have, but I didn’t think about it at the moment. However, I did report the phone number and the case to an official Apple support technician. Unfortunately, crooks like Alex are hard to track.

      Terri · August 10, 2018 at 1:12 am

      They also called me posing as the IRS saying I owed back taxes. The IRS never calls people. If they need to contact someone it’s always by mail. The man also had an Indian accent and said his name was William. This scam has been going on for awhile now. Just a heads up, in case they call you.

Anonymous · August 7, 2018 at 2:11 pm

Joshua,

Do you think that this set of scripture is applicable as guidance for how to treat someone who scams you?

Matthew 5:38-48 King James Version (KJV)

38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:

39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.

40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.

41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.

42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.

43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.

44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?

47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?

48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

    Joshua Bontrager · August 7, 2018 at 6:17 pm

    Anonymous,

    Great question! I think this passage definitely applies.

    God calls individuals to forgive those who wronged them just as he for forgave us. However, God requires governments to reward those who do good and to punish those who do evil (Romans 13). Therefore, my Christian responsibility is to forgive, love, and pray for the scammer, while the duty of government is to seek to punish him for his wrongdoing.

    Our response to these situations should set us apart from the world.

      Chad Anderson · August 7, 2018 at 7:01 pm

      Your response on this reminds of that congregation in Lancaster where the man went into the schoolhouse and shot most of the children and then killed himself. The congregation forgave the man and his wife and family and sought no restitution from the government and on top of that sought to bear the burdens of the surviving wife. They even gave the surviving family gifts and set up a fund for the family of the murderer. That is a completely set apart response. A response that seems supernatural in it’s source. Not something normal humans do. Amazing and admirable to me!

Anonymous · August 7, 2018 at 2:37 pm

Being the victim of deception of any kind does two things:

1. Teaches with great clarity that bad things happen to anyone.
2. Challenges the victim’s faith – it’s easy to practice faith in the good times, much more difficult when things go awry.

Beings scammed sucks!

Chad Anderson · August 7, 2018 at 4:43 pm

I’ve been scammed before. I try to lean towards counting it all joy no matter what I go thru and towards leaving vengeance in the hands of God and letting it be God’s place to repay and settle things.

    Joshua Bontrager · August 7, 2018 at 6:19 pm

    Chad,

    Great perspective!

    We must remember that we are stewards, not owners. Therefore, scammers ultimately answer to God, not to us. We find peace in remembering that vengeance belongs to the Lord (Romans 12).

Naomi Hunsberger · August 7, 2018 at 11:17 pm

I have gotten scammed in almost the exact same way you did, although it was thru someone claiming to be from Microsoft. (I don’t have an Apple computer). They took $400+ from my bank account, thru my debit card, which I had to give them to clean up the viruses you know… I was able to get my money back thru my bank, but I still get calls from Robert. Sorry this happened to you! We definitely live and learn. 🙂

Mary · August 8, 2018 at 4:37 pm

Using free public wi-fi to take care of financial business online is very unwise. You don’t even need to have a scammer contact you. Someone could get your information from the network. You should only take care of financial business on a password-protected private network, and by that I do not mean one where the restaurant posts the password. Go to a friend’s house if you can’t wait till you’re home.

Bami · August 9, 2018 at 1:06 pm

We were scammed by purchasing a used vehicle by a deceptive “secure” place with eBay address to secure the payment until we received the shipped car.
Many lessons learned !! Police are searching and it probably originated in Nigeria. We do have great pictures of the vehicle!!😄

    Chad Anderson · August 10, 2018 at 9:52 am

    This makes me think. In the Bible, there are passages that would say for us not to trust other flesh and bone, not even to trust your own lover who lies in your arms. Yet, I think that the Bible would say that Love always trusts. God is pure love. How much does He trust? How vulnerable does He make Himself by giving everyone their own free will? He entrusts to us free will and we use it to let Him down and betray Him by not obeying Him, and we do it left and right. Could you imagine putting yourself in the position to be done wrong by every person on earth all at the same time? This makes me feel for God and think about what He may feel when He trusts us and makes Himself vulnerable to be done wrong by us. Yet, He always forgives, He doesn’t count our wrongs against us, and He chooses to remember them no more. Oh how God has been and still is done wrong by me and how He responds back to me just makes me…..I can’t even explain what it makes me! I just can’t. It’s indescribable! It’s too much. I put my mouth in the dust.

    Joshua Bontrager · August 10, 2018 at 3:22 pm

    Bami,

    Seems like scammers use all different types of disguises. While being scammed financially is unfortunate, being scammed spiritually is the greatest loss. Satan disguises himself as “an angel of light.” Christ warned of wolves in sheep’s clothing.

Anonymous · August 10, 2018 at 3:22 pm

Very well handled, sir. I was humbled to read your reaction, as mine would have been less than worthy of my Calling.

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