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.

June 5, 2009

Only it Wasn’t ‘Once Upon a Time’

Filed under: Christianity, Church — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:32 pm

Once upon a time,  or maybe some of it happened just a few weeks ago,  there was a very personable, very charming guy who we’ll call Grant.   Grant lived in a place very much like the place that I lived in when I was much younger and not too far away, so as happens when people share common interests and live in similar locations,  I actually got to know Grant, even though he’s a ‘once upon a time’ character in this story.    People often tended to get to know him quite well at first, and then later on it would be at more of a distance.  But he did make a great first impression.

Grant always had a project cooking.    He was your typical “Type A” person, except that we didn’t use the term “Type A” back then.

One day,  Grant convinced a number of people to join him in a really big adventure, but the adventure didn’t work out the way it was supposed to — not even close — and he found himself in debt to a very large number of people and decided that he would be happier living in a place that was very different and actually quite far away, and where they didn’t know about the adventure and wouldn’t be asking for their money back.

So he moved to a place that rhymes with ‘blessed toast.’

This suited the very large number of people to whom he was indebted quite fine, since they were rather upset with him, and for a few of those, this wasn’t exactly the first time.

For nearly thirty years, Grant was completely off their radar, until a more recent time, when there were rumors that he had moved back closer to his original location.   (This of course, leaving some wondering if he had run up some debts there and now had a new set of people rather upset with him.)

When he returned, the idea may have been to make a fresh start, but the problem with that logic is, we tend to take ourselves with us every time we move.   Unless God really does a work in our hearts, and unless he is shaping and us into his character, and conforming us into the image of Jesus, our actions tend to resemble someone who is caught in a loop, running the same sequence over and over and over, like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day.     So if somebody you haven’t seen in decades meets you and says, “Wow, you haven’t changed a bit;” …well, if you’re a Christ-follower, that’s actually a bit of an insult.

Because Grant was a bit of a schemer, it wasn’t long before he started telling people stories about some magic beans, and people were giving him money to get the magic beans, and the way the scheme worked, some people did think they saw a hint of magic.

Then, he sold some beans to his neighbours, Jim and Jack.   Jim and Jack were the co-pastors of a very large church.   They had a very big congregation.     People trusted them to be wise.   But buying the magic beans wasn’t the wisest thing you could do.   Jim and Jack felt very bad when the beanstalk didn’t materialize and so did their board of directors.    So they decided to take some time off church to reflect.

The problem was,  for a few Sundays, everybody came to church and said, “Where’s Jim and Jack?”   Good question.   People started making up stories involving Jim and his secretary and rumors that Jack had a drinking problem.    That’s what happens when you don’t tell people things.   It would have been better just to tell everybody about the magic beans.    But sometimes a magic beans story is so stupid that you figure it’s better to let people go with the secretary and the drinking stories.   Or you don’t know what to think.

Furthermore, there were already people looking for a different church, because in the 21st Century, church attendance tends to be somewhat personality driven.    The problem was, this church needed people to stay, because summer was coming, and we all know what the air-conditioning bill is like in a large church in the summer.

Meanwhile, Grant was told to stop selling the beans.    It turns out he sold a lot of them, maybe as many as 14.1 million  (and those are U.S. beans which translate into about 16.7 Canadian beans).    But his bean scheme could bring down Jim and Jack’s big church, which, even if you don’t like big churches, would still be rather sad for the people who enjoyed going.

The good news is, that up to a certain point, very few people know anything about the bean story.   The scribes figured Grant would be more interesting if he’d sold a few hundred million beans, and they didn’t think Jim and Jack’s bean buy was all that significant, because in their Kingdom, churches weren’t all that significant, period.   Newspaper revenue from advertising was down, and there wasn’t enough black ink to devote to a little bean bungle.

The bad news is, that sooner or later, if you’re a public figure, or especially if you’re two public figures,  you gotta come clean with everybody.

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