I am torn about writing this article, but, I believe I must do it, and do it soon.
Let me start with an episode of something that happened to me about a year and a half ago. I will try to make a really long story as short as possible.
I will actually share a couple of stories, hoping you will understand the point I want to make from one of them.
About a year and a half ago, I was on my Mac computer, and a screen came up saying that my computer was infected with a virus. The warning looked like a typical Apple message, so I heeded. There was a phone number to call and someone would help me fix it.
Stupid me calls the number (I found out later on that I should have just called Apple first). After spending a couple of hours with 'Alex' looking inside my computer and fixing the virus that I supposedly had, and about $500 in cost, I wondered if I did the right thing.
I contacted my Mac group through email, and they told me I had been scammed. I put a post about it on Facebook and my friends said that they thought I had been scammed. I called Apple and they said I was scammed. I was also told that Mac computers do not get viruses.
The man named 'Alex' had a deep Indian accent. I contacted my credit card company, and disputed the charge. They said I had to personally try to work it through with the company (BrainBro). I called and got about half of the money back.
Brainbro insisted that they were not scammers and that my computer did indeed have malware (they changed the condition to 'malware' since I informed them that Mac computers did not get viruses).
Since that time, I have gotten phone calls from 'Alex' and other people with Indian dialects. They would let me know that they were aware of my computer having more malware. I remember one time they actually hung up on me when I told them that they were scammers.
More recently, I have gotten phone calls from this company or an associate company, saying that they are going to refund me all the money. So, I stayed on the phone, talking with a woman with a deep Indian accent this time. She did not speak good English. She had me download something called 'Team Viewer' which made it possible for her to look inside my computer.
If someone is going to refund your money to you, why would they need to look inside your computer? I couldn't even use my mouse because she was using it. Not sure what that was all about.
The phone call was disconnected. She kept trying to call me back. She would send messages through Team Viewer asking me to take the call. Meanwhile, I called Apple and was able to disconnect from her on the computer.
The phone kept ringing. I did not answer.
Today, the phone rang again. The person had already called before but no one answered. This time I answered. It was a man with an Indian accent telling me that the company was going to refund my money. I told him he was a scammer, etc. I hung up on him.
(The only caller I.D. on these phone calls was that one was from Kissimmee, Florida, and the other one was from New York).
Last year, our credit card was hacked. It would have been the same credit card number I gave to Brainbro. They used the card in New York to buy groceries and gas with.
We have had our credit card number changed several times since then.
But what I want to really share with you is something kind of sad and disappointing. And puzzling too.
People know how to play on your sympathies. People also know that others are especially sympathetic toward children. Plus, people know that if you are a professing Christian, then you will give money to the poor, especially children.
Here's where the story gets tricky.
Months ago, I made a new friend at church. We exchanged our names so we could find each other on Facebook. I had a hard time finding her, as there seemed to be a couple of people with her name. She told me that she tried sending me a friend request but it would never go through.
I checked my settings and found that I would only receive friend requests from people who have at least one mutual friend in common. I wondered why I did that. So, I changed my settings to receive any friend requests from people, so that my new friend could send me a friend request and I would get it. I left the setting open and it wasn't long before I realized why I had it set to receiving only friend requests from people who had mutual friends with me.
During that short time I had the settings open, I received some friend requests. The first one, I checked over the profile page. It looked innocent. It was from a lady in India. I thought to myself, 'no harm' here, so I confirmed the friend request.
Immediately, the woman contacted me. It was around midnight, and she called me on Facebook. I couldn't answer because people were sleeping at my house. She sent me a ton of pictures. She told me about her life. Not too long after this, then it happened.
The requests for helping to meet the needs for the orphanage were being brought to my attention. What was really puzzling was that this woman never seemed to sleep. No matter when I was on Facebook, she would find me. She would send me a nice message. She would 'like' a lot of the things I posted. But I found it strange that she was always on Facebook. I thought people in India do not have much in the way of technology and the Internet, but maybe I am wrong.
The personal messages continued. And they still continue along with pictures and requests for donations. And I am puzzled.
My mom would have said, 'You are too nice'. I would just hate the thought of not helping this person if she really is in need, not that I am in a place where I can help financially, but, if something needs help, I will be glad to at least be praying for it.
I have asked what others thought about this. Some believe this woman is a scammer. I just don't know. I would feel terrible if she is just a lonely person who lacks material things and wants a little bit better life. But, on the other hand, I do know that scammers can really talk like nice, caring people.
The other friend request I got was from a woman in Africa. It seemed similar in some ways. I did not respond to her request. She also gave me her telephone number as if I should call her sometime.
I wonder if I would have 'confirmed' the friend request, if this woman would have also had financial needs for orphanages and children's health care situations that the lady from India had.
Do people in these other countries think that Americans are rolling in dough and just waiting to find a place where they can donate their money? Or, could they really be scammers in disguise? I really would like to know!!
There is a guilt feeling you get when they bring needs to your attention. But when you are supporting many people in other ministries, you only have a certain amount of money to delegate to everyone. And new needs come up everyday.
We have places we pour money into, but they are around here. We have poor people in America that we would like to help get back on their feet. Are we obligated to give to someone we really don't know, in a faraway country before we give to those who live here in this country who have great needs?
I am aware of the understanding that other parts of the world have concerning our Western World here. They would think that everyone should be equal and that those who are wealthy, which are the Americans, should give up what they have so that others in their countries can equally have their share of material goods. I think it ties in with the 'Yin and Yang' theory. (For every boy who has video games, and lots of toys, there is a boy suffering who has nothing). In other words, it is American's fault because of the wealth that's in our country. That means, to them, that an equal amount of people in another country, such as the one they live in, will be poor. If we have 50 boys with video games, bikes, computers, etc., then in India, there will be 50 boys without anything, according to their theory.
I also understand that our former president believes that people who do well (like those in America) should be forced to give to others who do not have, because everyone has to be equal. We are all equal in value, but we are all different because God made us all unique and gave us giftings and talents (skills) to use to serve in our communities and to make a living to provide for ourselves and our families. The former president believes that those who achieve and work hard have become successful, not because of their hard work, but because they 'stole' their success from others. (Kind of like the Yin/Yang theory).
Anyway, I do not want to offend any of my friends who are from India or Africa. This is not an assault on them. This is just a question of wanting wisdom to know who are the scammers and who are those in need, and how can we best help those in need. Sometimes, we think we can help people, but we end up doing more harm than good. Sometimes, we even get scammed.
Feel free to comment on this article or share your own experiences here.