I was almost scammed yesterday.
Last week, I listed a musical instrument on Craigslist. Within a day, someone named Shelly contacted me about buying the piece. She said she didn’t live locally, but would send me a cashier’s check with a little extra money for the movers.
I gave Shelly my work address and yesterday the check was delivered to my office, Priority Mail. The return address was the School of Nursing in Austin, Texas. She texted me earlier that afternoon stating USPS tagged it as arrived and to let her know when I had it in my possession.
I expected the check to be $100 or so higher to cover the movers, not $1,900 higher. I was skeptical, but considered maybe she was moving other things, too, and I was the middleman. It’s interesting how our brain will justify circumstances so we can maintain our belief system. My belief system is that people are inherently good; they are trustworthy.
She instructed me to go to my bank and deposit the check. She said the check would take two days to clear and then I could get the cash (knowing that I had the option to get an advance of cash: my own money).
She told me four or five times in our communications that the movers would come pick up the piece as soon as I had the cash for their services.
During the transaction at the bank, the banker and I discussed the oddity of this exchange, but we continued finalizing it. He doled out $1900 in cash, “depositing” the amount for the instrument.
I texted Shelly to inform her I had the cash. She told me the movers were now asking for a good faith deposit and instructed me to go to Walmart to do a Walmart-to-Walmart transfer for the movers.
I told her I wouldn’t do that.
“When are you going to Walmart?” She replied.
I told her no and gave her a choice: she could give me the number of the movers and I would deal with them directly, or I would return the check to the address on the envelope.
“Go to Wells Fargo then.”
I knew I was being scammed.
I tried calling her; it was a computer generated text line. She responded: “I’m at work in a noisy factory. I can’t talk now.”
Luckily the bank was able to reverse the check. Upon further examination, we noticed the poor quality of the counterfeit check, the routing number in place of the check number and vice versa. Had the banker and I examined it further during the initial transaction, we would have caught it. He said to me he had been talking with someone that day about the threat of scams. But, the banker and I hold the same belief: we believe in the good, in the trustworthiness of people, so we went against our guts.
I texted “Shelly” back and told her I was contacting the authorities and filing a report.
I called the police and an officer called me right back. He says this happens often and most likely this scam is being run from Africa. My heart sank. I searched online and found others who have been scammed by the same fake name, for the same amount, with the same demands, and they followed through, losing their money.
I was lucky. I saved myself from substantial financial loss.
I woke this morning to a few text messages, one of which was from Shelly (sent 9 hours after my last message): “What do you mean? You have my money with you? Are you trying to scam me?”
The mornings are a period of purity, of goodness. It’s when I write, when I pray, when I feel most connected with G-d.
At 4:30AM, I read Shelly’s text and I knew I couldn’t just let this go, because, I choose to believe in the good, the good in each and every one of us.
We are all on this ship together, and it’s our responsibility to acknowledge each other, to see past our humanness to our sacred, our soul. This was my opportunity to speak through this person’s criminal behavior, to their goodness. Maybe it got through, maybe it didn’t, but I had to try:
I could delete your number and continue on. The report is filed. The banks are on alert. Your check is counterfeit and poorly made. There are reports online of you using the same name and the same amount with the same demands. I was one of the lucky ones; I caught the scam in time, but others did not and they lost their money. So since we have this line of communication, I’m going to use it for good. I’m going to use it to try and connect with you – soul to soul.
I ask you to ask yourself: would I steal from my own mother, my own flesh and blood?
I am a mother, a hard working one. I use my money to survive, to feed my children and sustain their lives. You were about to take that from me. I think that when someone steals, it’s because they are suffering; they are desperate. They are in such despair that they forget. They forget that stealing from another is only stealing from themselves. So I pray for you. I pray for you and for your family and for your mother. I pray she never learns of your transgressions because it would break her. You clearly have skills. Use them for good. Go make an honest living, one in which you don’t feel your soul dying each day, mourning your inherent goodness that somewhere got lost along the way. I’m not angry, I’m sad for you. Where do you live? What happened to cause you to do this? If only you had reached out and asked for help. I would have helped.
All of the people you have scammed would have been willing to give of their own volition, but you broke that trust. I pray for you that maybe one day, you decide to find a new way of being. There’s still time.
May G-d bless you and grant you peace. I am a child of G-d and so are you.
I forgive you.