This summer, a Wisconsin woman answered her phone. A scammer claimed to be from the Social Security Administration and told the woman she would be arrested for money laundering if she didn’t buy thousands of dollars’ worth of gift cards.
She had already given them $4,000 in gift cards from stores around the area when she went to buy another $1,000 from the gas station where she was a regular customer. Employees sensed something was wrong. They wouldn’t process the transaction and held the money until the police arrived. Thankfully, the employees’ intervention saved the woman from bankruptcy.
Stories like these are common, though the phone calls vary. In some, the person is told that their college grandchild has been arrested (the “grandchild” even yells, “Help me, Grandma!”). Others claim the FBI or IRS or SSA is on their way to arrest them for human trafficking, drug trafficking, or money laundering. All of them ask for thousands in gift cards. Now, in print, it’s easy to think critically about this obvious scam. It’s not as easy, however, when the voices on the phone catch you off guard and yell at you.
Maybe we can empathize with people who’ve fallen for these scams when we realize how often we fall for a different kind of scam. We listen to the messages and lies we tell ourselves and receive from others and believe they’re true. In reality, they’re no different from scam phone calls. Instead of believing these lies, we need to hang up the phone.
When you see the money other people earn and envy them, hang up the phone. When you’re told you aren’t good enough or that you’re weak, hang up the phone.
If you think you have to let your past define you, hang up the phone.
When you think you’re the reason you’re successful and stop seeing every good and perfect gift as something from the Father, hang up the phone.
If you start to think your appearance, your job, your children, or your performance is where you get identity, hang up the phone.
When you believe you’re a complete failure because your marriage failed, hang up the phone.
If you still hear voices telling you to feel guilty after knowing that Jesus took away your sin and guilt, hang up the phone.
When your pride leads you to think you’re better than other people, hang up the phone.
Sometimes, even though you know the messages you’re getting aren’t the truth, you fall for them anyway, don’t you? That’s when you need somebody who can see clearly and stop you, just like the gas station employees did. Call a friend and ask for advice. Talk to your pastor. Reach out to your wise coworker. Pick someone you trust to speak the truth to you. God tells us that “as iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17).
Finally, open your Bible and let the Holy Spirit work in your heart and mind. He will remind you of the truth, open your eyes to scams, and stop you from going bankrupt emotionally and spiritually.
Linda Buxa is a writer and editor who’s reminding you that if someone calls you and asks for money because your grandchild has been kidnapped, hang up the phone and call your family—even and especially if the callers tell you not to! If they tell you the FBI or IRS or SSA is coming to arrest you, hang up the phone.
For more encouragement from Linda and other Time of Grace writers, sign up here to receive email notifications of new blog posts.