Thinking Out Loud

March 17, 2016

Before You Can Scam Me, I Need Your VISA Number

Filed under: Christianity, Humor — Tags: , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:36 am

After trashing another idea for today’s blog post, I decided to see what my friend Lorne Anderson had written lately. You can click the title below to read this at source while I’m busy asking Lorne for permission for an article I’ve already posted.

Who Is The Traffic Department?

“Mr. Anderson, this is the Traffic Department calling. We are calling about a claim regarding an accident involving a vehicle registered to your address.”

The caller had a thick accent. Indian or Pakistani I would say. A little difficult to understand, but I know a scam when I see one. But I had a few spare minutes and these calls can be amusing.

“Do you remember having an accident last year sir? There is still an outstanding amount owing”

Nobody in the family had an accident last year. I should have asked whether it was with the BMW or the Lexus (we own neither) and had fun with that, but I went a different direction.

“I didn’t have an accident last year,” but I think Willow did.” it was obviously an unfamiliar name, I had to repeat it several times. The caller kept referring to “he” and “him” and I had to correct that.

Mind you, calling Willow “she” is stretching it a bit also. Willow was spayed a couple of years ago. Willow is a cat, one that I would just as soon be rid of. I saw an opportunity.

“Did Willow tell you the details of the accident?”

“No, Willow doesn’t talk to me. But I know she is accident-prone. She is always having accidents. If someone had an accident with the car it must have been her. I’m sure it was her fault.”

The scammer can smell the money at this point. Apparently there was an accident and I am not doubting the legitimacy of his “Traffic Department.” Time to move in for the kill.

“The amount owing is $600 and you can pay by phone right now, all I need is your VISA card number.”

If I had been really paying attention I would have given him my VISA card number. I was preparing dinner and not really concentrating on the call. I only have one VISA number memorized, the number of my very first credit card issued in 1973. I’ve switched financial institutions since then, haven’t had that card for twenty years – it probably would have been safe to give him the number. But I didn’t think of that until after the call.

It was by that point time to concentrate on preparing the food for dinner.

I asked what would happen if I didn’t pay. Turns out that would be very bad. Could Willow go to jail, I asked. Yes.

I’ve been trying to get rid of that cat for a year. Jail seemed like a nice spot for her. But I doubted the scammer was able to deliver on that threat. Too bad really.

So I went on the offensive.

“First I will need your VISA number.” He was confused. Certainly he couldn’t have heard me correctly. I was supposed to be giving him a number, not asking for one. He asked again.

“No,” I said, “You need to give me your VISA number first.” Silence. If confusion had a sound that would be it.

“Sir, Willow had an accident and you must pay $600. You must give me your VISA number. You need to pay me. Why would I give you my VISA number?”

It was time to concentrate on dinner, time to end the call as amusing as I was finding it. “You need to give me your VISA number because you are a scammer and I want to get some money from your card.”

There was silence again, then he hung up. I guess he didn’t have much of a sense of humor.


There’s a picture of Willow if you click through, although, as it turns out, Willow was actually featured right here at the top of the December 23rd link list.

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March 8, 2010

When Pastors Lie

Over the years, I’ve heard stories where people will say something like, “My pastor looked me straight in the eye and lied through his teeth.”   I’ve personally experienced things where a pastor can claim palpable denial of having said something, when in fact they did.   I’m not sure that “lied through his teeth” is the phrase I would choose, but there’s no doubt that these days the art of spin-doctoring is highly cultivated among professionals of all stripes.   Others claim to have been lied to outright by their priest, rector or minister.

The problem is, I still respect the office.  You may not respect the individual, but I still think you have to respect the sovereignty of God in placing people in charge of shepherding a portion of God’s flock.   At least until proven they are guilty.   In general though, most of the pastors I’ve met  had a considerable degree of integrity and most of the ones I know today are worthy of my trust.

But they aren’t perfect.   There are stories told by people in the hospitality industry of how pay-per-view screenings of pornography in hotels is either the same or higher than normal when there’s a pastor’s conference in the house.   That’s not the subject for this discussion, but if a pastor — presumably traveling at church expense — can think nothing of requesting Debbie Does Dallas (and it’s not a movie about the seminary) on the hotel’s movie-on-demand service, then they are clearly capable of doing anything else unethical.

So what does it look like when a man of God looks another man straight in the eye who is committing adultery with his wife?  How does he justify that action?

I can’t show you what it looks like, but I can let you hear what it sounds like.   This weekend I came across the website yourpastorlied.com aka Pastor Mike Hylton Lied to You Just so He Could Sleep with My Wife.   Last updated in the summer of 2009, it’s a very sad story of a woman swept up in the arms of another man.   Both have children.

David Gray, the website’s author, sticks to the facts in what must be an otherwise emotional time for him.   But the highlight — about 3/4 of the way down the webpage — is the mp3 file of a phone call he made to both his wife and her pseudo-husband.    While the minister in question doesn’t try to lie to Gray, he is living a lie.

This is what justifying sin sounds like when you hear it over the telephone.   This is what rationalization sounds like when it’s spoken out loud.    You need to read a bit of the text to understand the story, but then you really need to hear the 6-minute (or so) audio transcript of the call.

People — all of us included — are capable of minimizing the most blatant sin.   Even people who’ve worked in vocational ministry, who have taken vows to be the shepherds of God’s flock.  Pray for your pastor, that he does not fall into sin, and if you take time to click and listen, pray for repentance, confession and forgiveness to take place in this particular story.

James 3: 1

(The Message) 1Don’t be in any rush to become a teacher, my friends. Teaching is highly responsible work. Teachers are held to the strictest standards.

(NLT) 1 Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly.

(Amp.) 1NOT MANY [of you] should become teachers (self-constituted censors and reprovers of others), my brethren, for you know that we [teachers] will be judged by a higher standard and with greater severity [than other people; thus we assume the greater accountability and the more condemnation].



October 13, 2009

Same Old Con Game

Filed under: theology — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:58 pm

clock spiralI take no pride in the fact that I get more junk e-mail in a day than some people get regular e-mail in a month.    It’s just a consequence of keeping the same address over a long period of time and having an address that’s “out there” in dozens of different contexts.

But I’m thankful that my ISP does such a good job of separating the e-sheep from the e-goats and placing the unwanted messages safely in quarantine.

Reading the subject headers of the junk mail reminds me of what it might be like to walk the downtown streets of Philadelphia or Miami or Baltimore back in the early part of the last century.

Guys in trench coats whispering, “Hey kid, wanna buy a watch?”

I get more solitications to buy timepieces than all other forms of e-junk combined.   It just seems so old.   I want to climb on a mountain and shout to all the junk mail senders, “Is that all ya got?”

You would think that with all the advances in technology, somebody would come up with some new thing that is worthy of all this presumed economic activity.   But no, the wristwatch remains the business opportunity of choice.

…And somewhere else on the planet a snake is telling someone to have a bite of the magic fruit.   “Hey kid, wanna be like God?   It will make you oh so very wise.”   Offering what is not his to give; promising what is not his to promise.”

Hopefully the discerning temptee can say, “This is so old.” And, “Is that all ya got.”

But the oldest con jobs don’t die easily.

What do you think are the biggest lures and temptations people face in 2009?

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