I was scammed – humiliating and painful, but spiritually humbling

I was scammed today! Not smart enough to detect the deceit. Not alert enough to stop the scamming process. Too trustingly foolish. Though not a pleasant story to tell, I am sharing this in hopes that this won’t happen to you.

This morning, I received notification from an email address that included the words Amazon.com, asking me to confirm my order of Samsung Smart TV and cell phone totaling $4,600+, for shipment to Massachusetts. I did not make the order, so emotions immediately peaked. The same email said that if that was not my order, I should call the Fraud Production Team no. 1-888-343-2253. I followed a crazy impulse without checking anything, and called that number. Not aware at that time — I was calling the scammer’s number!

Hair-pulling craziness … but I didn’t know then.  Pure nuts!

My call triggered a series of actions prompted by the scammer who said that he stopped the order and the shipment. But to block the hackers who created an Amazon Visa account in my name, I would need to purchase several gift cards from certain stores. That should have been a huh? moment, a blinking warning sign – but no, I didn’t see the light.

I went to my car to drive to the store. Since I had not driven in many weeks due to the shelter-in-place pandemic guidelines, the engine would not start. The battery died. In hindsight, another warning sign that I didn’t heed. So, I called my sister who lives close by, requesting her to drive me to the store. She said her husband, my brother-in-law, would be at my place to pick me up in 15 minutes. All this time, the scammer who claimed his name was Sam Parker (tel. 347-667-4570) was on my cell phone, because he said he would continue to give instructions on what store to go to and what gift cards to buy, so that the hackers can be blocked with those purchases. Hmmm … very silly sounding now, and stupid – but not then.

As I write this, I feel so very humiliated realizing that the scammer played me like a fiddle. But in humility, I’d like to continue my story, so this would not happen to you. In the car, my brother-in-law commented that what I was doing was allowing the scam. It now hurts me to think that I kept defending the scammer by saying that was Amazon’s way of blocking the hackers (his words). How foolish was that … but not then.

I bought 2 eBay and 5 Google Play gift cards, just as the scammer instructed. At this point as I’m writing, I feel very ashamed! To make this worse and really, really absurd (though not to me then), he asked me to clear the scratchers on the gift cards and give him the coded numbers. Shame, shame! I did. But when he insisted I buy five more gift cards and pay for them with my cash because the store would only accept debit cards or cash for those cards – something flicked in my brain. Suspicion started to creep. The man detected the frustration and doubt in my voice and said in a deceivingly kind tone (I think now of a seething snake) – go home, relax, wait for his call because he would help me erase what the hackers did to my computer.

The good light in my brain started to glow brighter by the time I got home. Suspicion pushed to the surface of my sensibility. I called my credit card company, told them this story and asked them to cancel my credit card asap. I googled the Amazon alerts about scams and then realized fully that the email I received in the morning was not from Amazon.com. The alert mentioned specifically how the company’s legitimate email address should show – and the email I got did not have the genuine marks as indicated by Amazon’s alerts.

As soon as I read the Amazon warning about scams, my cell phone rang. Who could it be? You guessed right – the scammer. Of course, I didn’t pick up the call. I then continued to find email addresses of eBay and Google Play to report the scam. This was after I spoke with my credit card company.

Whew! Writing this makes me feel very tired, very humbled, and to be honest, disappointed in  myself. I thought I was smart. I thought I was discerning and quick to detect deceit. For a little while, the evil one was smarter. But the light of understanding and protection overpowered the darkness – God saved me from further destruction and distress. I did not let the scammer get into my computer (like he said he would to help me block the hackers). But he led me astray for a while, until grace clutched me back.

I am a spiritual person. But you know what — sometimes when I think I’m so smart, I’m not. When I think I’m so wise, I’m not. When I think nothing can fool me because I have enough intelligence, then I’m fooled. When I think nothing can touch me, something touches me. This is a very humbling experience for me – with many, many lessons to learn.

But this, I’m convinced — always, always, in humility – pray for God’s protection and loving care. He’s always here for us. Thank God!

Linda P. Jacob