I got pwned – what did I learn?

Pwn, pronounced as “pone” means to “utterly defeat an opponent, especially in video games”, according to Wikipedia. Webster defines pwn as “to have power or mastery over someone. The word is also used to describe “the act of gaining illegal access to something.”

Recently, I blogged the disturbing experience of being scammed. When I related the ugly story to my daughter, she said, “Mom, you got pwned”. Only then did I know such a word exists, and it lives right in my scam story. It’s been a few days since the sad experience. I am getting over the personal shame of allowing myself to be victimized, and I exposed this in last week’s blog that bared naked my vulnerability. Writing it was an astute challenge, but I did anyway. If exposing my weakness could warn, or better still, save at least one other person from hideous scams, then relating my story is well worth the struggle.

After the “mea culpa”, what has come next, you might ask. For this reason, I am writing this sequel to my scam story –- the self-examination and soul searching for lessons learned.

Let’s talk about lessons.

Misplaced trust. I’ve trusted Amazon.com that I have dealt with for some few years now. So when the email said it originated from Amazon.com (a very long email address), immediately, I gave it credibility. Well, wrong! The email did not come from Amazon.com. I had not previously read the Amazon warnings about scams on its website. Second, I did not check my Amazon account to see if there was such expensive shipment for TV and iPhone on my order list as the fraudulent email claimed – there was none! Those alone are blaring alert signs. The lesson is, check the source of the message before believing it and reacting. There are many ways of checking if we make time for it, and I should have before acting on crazy impulse.

Didn’t tell anyone before and as it was happening. I could have called my son or daughter or my sister to relate the whole occurrence, even details of what was going on (before things got worse). But no, I kept the information to myself because that’s what the scammer instructed – to tell no one so that the hackers won’t suspect that we were trying to block them. Yeah, very silly! Someone else would have detected the fraud if I could not sense the deceit at that moment. Someone else would have found no proper logic in the scammer’s instructions and might have stopped me from being misguided. No, I acted on my own, allowing myself to be led astray by the deceiver. I did, however, tell my son right after I was scammed. Noting how awful I felt, my son tried to offer comfort and suggested that I likely was not the only person with that bothersome experience, but yes, there were lessons to learn. Immediately, I decided that I would try to warn others. That evening, difficult as it was, I blogged about the scam.

A shock to me – I didn’t pray during that moment of crisis. I usually am in the habit of praying to God for just about anything, but not at that time. For some obtuse reason, I let my emotions get the better of me and mask my judgment. Fear took control and blinded me to the light. Only when I got home after the run-around the scammer made me do (to purchase gift cards) did I fervently pray for help and protection. Suspicion suddenly arose, and the warning light glowed brighter, so bright that I immediately contacted my credit card company to report the scam and stop my credit card. Then, I hurriedly read the Amazon website warnings about scams and hackers. Suspicion confirmed! When the scammer called (as he said to me earlier, in order to help “erase what the hackers did to the computer”, his words) – I did not pick up the call. God clutched me back. God has always been here for me, but I just didn’t see that, until I poured out my feelings and distress to Him, in soul-searing prayer. I needed Him. I always do.

The lessons are many, but what I mentioned above top my list. An experience as this can be a potent eye opener about one’s self. So, I shall repeat here what I said in my previous blog:
I am a spiritual person. But 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, too, is a lesson on humility.

[Resulting from extensive efforts to report the scam and warn others – my credit card company has been very helpful in resolving the matter. Interestingly, yesterday, I received a note from a reader who said that after seeing my warning blog, he got a similar email from the scammer. He was relieved that he read the warning. When I wrote the story, I supposed that if the narrative could save at least one from getting scammed or pwned, I would be thankful. I am very grateful.]

Back to the word pwn – there is a humiliation factor implied in defeat and, at the same time, an element of unwarranted and unconscionable strategy in the push for victory. This leads me to a cerebral side trip to another path of contemplation tangent to my story and irregularities in society … allow me.

It is only God in His son Jesus with the Holy Spirit that we give our full trust to – a power that compares to none. But on this earth, we adhere to earthly authority. That’s just the normal order of existence. Yet, consider a hierarchy, and our place in the social milieu, if you will –- we have a responsibility to wisely give what is due while maintaining our own integrity and decency. It really is in our favor to be on constant watch, practicing caution and awareness, trying never to be caught off guard, avoiding gullibility. Yes, in the sociology of relationships and interactions, we love and serve. But it is intelligent love immersed in wisdom that forges to clear paths of understanding and steadfastness. What I’m trying to say is, we do not weaken ourselves with complacency and hands-up surrender to worldly influences and persuasion without comprehending where the spokes lie in the wheel. Humanity’s decency and well-being flow from discernment, watchfulness, respect — and a staunch responsibility to the other as well as to self. The balance is justice.

Linda P. Jacob