I watched in horror as it rained relentlessly this spring throughout the upper Midwest and Ohio River valley. This came after a winter with record breaking snows in some of the same areas. When snow melts, it produces water. The rivers had been running high since March. Now they are at record levels. I honestly feel badly for those whose lives are being turned upside down by floods, tornadoes and other natural disasters. Everything within me wanted to help, but the funds were not there to personally do much of anything.
A week ago, while on the road delivering supplies to needy groups, I received an unsolicited e-mail from a person overseas who knew of me and what I was doing and wanted to help. This person said she was dying of cancer and the doctors had put her in hospice. She was trying to hide her assets from greedy step-children and honor the wishes of her deceased husband which was to open a huge charity/foundation for disadvantaged people with an emphasis on medical care and vocational training.
This person offered a huge amount of money to start this foundation with the stipulation it had to be used for charity except for 5% to cover my trouble in setting it all up. The money was to come to me by way of an inheritance upon her soon decease. I of course was very skeptical of the message and responded with short messages explaining I was on the road. I checked the person out from every angle available to me. There was absolutely nothing amiss.
Of course I was susceptible to this at the current time. Right when I was thinking I could do nothing to help other groups directly helping those hurt by the storms and floods I have an offer of millions of dollars dropped in my lap. I allowed myself to think it was “God” supplying a need and once I did, my ability to objectively look at the situation vanished.
Monday morning I received a message from a bank in Liverpool, UK with instructions for handling the inheritance. I checked everything out, and it all appeared legit. I called a lawyer friend to confirm that the requests were genuine when dealing with an overseas inheritance. He said everything was being done exactly correct.
Everything within me wanted this to completely genuine. Everything within me simply wanted there to be the means to provide much needed funding to various small groups trying to help others. I knew the risks and weighed the pros and cons of following through with the instructions and decided it was worth the risk just in case this whole thing was God’s way providing for His people. With little trepidation I sent a copy of my driver’s license and an account number to a bank account.
Almost immediately after sending this information I felt that feeling deep inside one feels when they have just done the stupidest thing they ever did in life. I wanted so badly to press the key on the keyboard that is not there; the “I want to take it back” key. I knew within a minute of sending the information I had screwed up even though I had no verifiable proof.
As soon as this happened I prayed and did another search on the internet and buried deep on page 5 of a search I found a troubling thing. On a page dealing with scams, someone was writing about the exact same thing I had just been through earlier this year. Obviously no one listened nor did anyone do anything about it for I had just fallen prey to the same scam.
Once I took off my rose colored glasses and honestly looked at the e-mails I had received, I began to see small discrepancies I had not noticed before. I raced to the bank and closed the account which I had sent the number to. The bank manager, who I know quite well, just shook his head when he looked at some of the documents and said they were 100% the work of scammers. Thankfully they had not yet withdrawn the funds we were sure they were about to do.
Upon leaving the bank I was left with the depressing realization that I had voluntarily sent a copy of my driver’s license to people who were about to use the information on it to either steal my identity or destroy me financially. I felt like I had taken all my clothes off and was standing in the middle of the highway.
I called the State Attorney General’s office and explained the situation. They suggested I bring all the correspondence to their office (100 miles away). Yesterday morning I went there and to various other offices and found out there was nothing they could do since the scammers were obviously out of the country. Even though my social security number is not on my driver’s license, I was told all the horrible things that will probably happen as my license is duplicated and sold to criminal interests.
My cell phone and land lines received about 50 calls from these people starting at noon yesterday. They relentlessly called every few minutes, obviously upset about the account being closed. My cell phone has been turned off since yesterday afternoon and the land line disconnected. Even though I sent these crooks an e-mail telling them I was onto to their scam and that I had turned the case over to the Attorney General’s Office; I have no idea what will come next.
As upset with myself as I am over this, I know I did the right thing to close the account and take the situation to the state’s highest legal authorities. I can do nothing but pray about the driver’s license situation and the release of personal contact information to unscrupulous people. Through this ongoing ordeal I am left with one overwhelming question: How could I be so stupid?
Why am I sharing this with you? Because I do not want anyone to have to go through what I have the past two days. I don’t want anyone to have to worry about identity theft and losing their assets and their good name. I don’t want anyone else to fall for something that looks 100% legitimate on the outside, only to find out it was all a lie.
Listen, I am 55 years old and have lectured groups on protecting themselves from scams. I had never fallen for one in my life. I feel like the biggest creep on this planet that I would allow my personal desire to help others to blind me to an attempt to totally ruin me. I cannot believe I could be so stupid to not see what was happening. All I know is that I so wanted it to be true, I made it true in my own mind. This ladies and gentlemen is called DECEPTION.
Please remember what has been said countless times; “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t”. In my case I have had to learn this the hard way.