We had been out of state for 2+ weeks and, consequently, out of the loop upon our return. Last week I received an urgent email from our associate pastor. The email said he was on vacation in London at the moment, and just been mugged. His cash, credit cards, and everything but his passport had been stolen, and he received minor injuries in the hold-up. His return flight was due to take off in 6 hours and with no funds he wasn't able to settle with the hotel and they were being insistent on their demands. He needed $2800 to resolve hotel and flight matters, and, obviously, as soon as possible. Could we help and, if so, wire the funds via Western Union.
I immediately informed my wife of his plight and we got on the Internet and our phones, contacting W.U. in a frantic attempt to get him out of this predicament. We thought we should provide some "cushion" in case other expenses arose, so we told W.U. we wanted to wire $3200. They set the process in motion and shortly informed us that our credit card co. was not allowing the transaction. We quickly call them and the initial rep said there shouldn't be a problem and referred us to the accounts dept who would take care of the difficulty. In a minute or two this would be resolved and the funds would be on their way to the United Kingdom. My wife is on the phone with them and my phone rings and I don't recognize the number but decide to answer and it is our associate pastor. "Steve, someone hacked into my email address and stole my identity; disregard any plea for help. I am and have been home." I screamed to my wife, "STOP all proceedings!! It's a scam!!" She told thr rep to disregard everything and hung up. Another minute or two and we would have sent some wannabe homosapien scumbag $3200 of our hard-earned money.
Some lessons learned:
** Hit the pause button; do NOT respond to any request or need immediatley. Get perspective. I'm always telling clients that seldom does a decision have to be made this second; we call those life-and-death circumstances and we typicaaly don't have a lot of those during a given week, do we.
** Do not let the emotions stirred to be the sole driver of a decision. Utilize rational thinking, as well. My heart was freaking out, "HELP HIM NOW!!!" My mind would have said, "Whoa, just a minute. . . "
** Obtain several reality checks. One phone call would have served to either confirm or rule out the veracity of this plea for help.
Particularly embarrassing is the fact that I am, by nature, suspicious of motive and hesitant to trust without one having earned it. I am frequently debunking some of these claims made by some Christians that aren't true, but merely urban legends. I've gotten forwards from friends that make, to me, suspicious claims and I scope it out and typically find it to be fiction rather than fact. For some reason, in this instance, my radar excused itself and took a smoke-break, and I don't think it was tobacco that my radar inhaled.
Jesus told his followers "to be shrewd as snakes and innocent as doves." (Matt. 10:16) Both qualities are essential. I think we were "innocent" in our compassion; there was a naivete about our concern. However, we weren't exercising any shrewdness or wisdom. We didn't act very street-smart in this incident. In fact, some snake in the grass nearly bit us.
A lesson learned. I'm embarrassed but no poorer.
Feel free to take your best shot and rub it in my face. As an example, see ckd's comment on my previous blog. Go ahead; I can take it.
I just hope this lapse was a mere temporary glitch, and the label eventually washes off my forehead.