AKA My actions and subsequent thoughts. Heads up, this is not a short read.
For the longest time, I have always been the first person to accuse a scamming victim of being an idiot – more precisely, a gullible idiot. I have, on many occasions, even yelled at the television and declared I have no pity for people who give away their savings believing they are doing the right thing or helping out (someone they believed to be) a loved one.
Sadly, I can now say I have become one of these victims.
Have you ever done something, thinking you’re doing the right thing, only to realise all too late that you should not have done what you did?
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I was had, taken for a ride, DONE like a Sunday roast left in the oven too long and even though I thought I was awake up to being scammed, I was caught and reeled in – hook, line and sinker.
I thought I was chatting (texting) with my daughter, I thought I was helping her out in a crisis.
I thought! I thought! I thought!
And before you go thinking that (obviously) I didn’t think at all – let alone hard enough – let me say this, all I did was think. It’s just unfortunate that it was too late before the alarm bells began ringing. And Oh MY! When those bells did start ringing it was at exactly the same time a klaxon went off in Dean’s head. Yeah, we were both fooled.
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As I said, unfortunately, those bells peeled too late because by the time I called my bank, and I did so within 10 minutes of transferring funds, the bank all but admitted it was already too late. The chances of getting the money back were slim – very slim – and highly unlikely.
I’m talking about more than a small amount of money but not so much that we will suffer financial hardship and I can hardly believe I’ve just said that – not so much that we will suffer financial hardship. Wow! We do have a tight budget and limited finances to service that budget without willy-nilly handing over a large sum of money to unscrupulous [insert expletive here].
After calling the bank, I reported it to the police, spent some time entering all the details into The Australian Cyber Security Centre reporting system, and then I called IDCARE – another organisation the bank put me onto. They are our national identity and cyber incident community support service.
With all those vital steps taken, the ramifications of what I had done hit home and the tears started flowing. Racking sobs of remorse over what I’d done, not just to me, but also to my husband because we are both going to pay for my stupidity.
While I sit here tapping away on my keyboard it brings to mind the words of Washington Irving.
The entire quote is:
There is a sacredness in tears.
They are not a mark of weakness, but of power.
They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues.
They are the messengers of overwhelming grief,
of deep contrition and of unspeakable love.
(I have always loved this quote.)
The mention of ‘deep contrition’ swirls in my mind and pierces my heart.
So the next thing to do was to call our children and, through my blubbering, we told them what had happened and to be aware. I know my tears upset our girls and knowing that only made my heartache and tears significantly more painful. There is such a thing as heartache and I could feel the pain emanating from behind my ribs.
Dean then proceeded to call a few of our friends to warn them with one dear friend saying:
“Thank you so much for letting me know. My mum would have handed over her life savings.”
There was no evening meal for me. How could I eat with my stomach in such close proximity to the aching in my heart? Poor Dean almost set the kitchen alight preparing something for himself. He can cook, he just prefers not to.
I knew sleep would be difficult so I took a mild sedative when I finally decided to go to bed.
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I finally stopped crying when that sedative kicked in and permitted me a solid six hours of nothingness. When my drug-addled state dissipated in the wee hours, all too soon my thoughts returned to my actions of the previous day and suddenly I could feel a rock in the pit of my stomach and bile in the back of my throat.
I am now aware I was roped in by the “Hi Mum” scam. (You can read about it here.)
I’m so upset and embarrassed that I fell for their shit, but (as our eldest daughter put it) “They played on the fact that you’re such a good mother and would do anything for your children”.
With all things said and done, I’m so grateful I have the most wonderful husband and the most beautiful daughters in the world. Melissa, our youngest daughter, sent me a link to this news article on the ABC website – I don’t know how I missed it. The ABC website is where I get my news and keep up to date on what’s happening. Melissa wanted me to know I was not alone.
Kate, our eldest daughter, called to share the reaction of her friends when she told them – they immediately called their parents to warn them this was real, it had happened to their friend’s mother and to not get fooled. Kate also said, “Mum, these people use sophisticated AI to analyse the conversations they hack and then use that against their victims.”
Shelley, daughter number two, and I talked about cleaning up my digital footprint and the possibility that now, after some 30 years, it might be time for me to get a new phone number. I am going to give this some serious thought but will need to clean up my digital footprint first.
I must have hugged Dean and told him I was so sorry at least 100 times.
My dear friend Denise popped over. It was lovely to be distracted for a short time, but I couldn’t bring myself to tell her exactly what had happened. I believe she’ll read this at some point today and (hopefully) when I see her tomorrow I may be able to talk about it without being reduced to a blubbering mess.
I commenced the clean-up of my digital footprint. I deleted WhatsApp from my devices as this is most likely where/how they obtained my details and information about my family. I’ve enjoyed the quirky way WhatsApp lets our family have a group conversation, but I’m sure there are other ways we can do that.
The digital footprint clean-up continued. I spent several hours removing my social media connections to any site or app with even the slightest hint of a connection to Meta and I must admit, I feel liberated. I said goodbye to some friends I have bested, and tried to best, on Words With Friends for years and promised I’d keep in touch via email. The only connection left was Facebook itself but I had more cyber investigations to go before I could sever that tie.
Once again, I took a mild sedative when I toddled off to bed.
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Two nights of taking a sedative going to bed were all it took for my head to yell “ENOUGH!” and I woke feeling like I’d been hit with something around 3:00 am. There was still rock in the pit of my stomach and bile in the back of my throat and I got out of bed and started writing this post.
It has taken more than 48 hours for me to even begin to forgive myself. The tears were still bubbling just below the surface, but I managed to control them for the better part of the day – that was when our daughter Kate visited with delicious sandwiches and cakes to devour for lunch.
Although I still couldn’t eat and was not feel hungry, I was ever so grateful because Dean and I had those sandwiches for our evening meal.
More social media connections were removed. More time was spent discovering other elements of my digital footprint that I could disconnect and delete.
I had a lovely FaceTime call with Shelley and she reminded me to not be so hard on myself, that I was the victim and (if it helps) to look at it as being robbed. I’m trying to do that.
I had a nap in the early afternoon, then sat and laughed at a few episodes of The Big Bang Theory. I did not take a sedative going to bed.
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Day Four (Yesterday)
I finally found the setting I was seeking and deleted my Facebook account this morning. It does mean my blog posts will no longer automatically publish on a Facebook page I created, but that seems like a minor price to pay – a very minor price indeed.
Initially, this was going to be a password-protected post because admitting I’d been had is embarrassing and I’m still so upset with myself. I spoke to Dean about these feelings and he said, “No, post it. We need to tell as many people as possible.”
He’s right and I know telling other people that it happens is more important than me and my feelings of shame at being a target of immoral activities conducted by corrupt [again – insert expletive here] singling out females over 55.
Today I will step next door and tell my neighbour – not because she is my age, but because she and her husband are the same age as our children and they need to warn their parents.
I’ll call my sister and if I start crying, so be it. I’ll call my sister before I hit the publish button. She needs to hear this from me, not read about it on my blog. (I spoke to her without crying.)
Today I will email friends I won’t/can’t catch up with in person and tell them because they need to know. Our friends have children the same age as our children and that makes them a target.
Tomorrow, and the following day, I will tell our clients – they need to know.
The next day I will think about anyone I haven’t told and I’ll tell them too.
Everyone needs to know about this, so I’ll tell as many people as I can.
And I will start to forgive myself.
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Day Five (Today) – Some Final Words
I know we won’t get the money back – it’s gone – and I have to stop thinking about all the horrible things our money is financing. Because – let’s face it – that money is not going to charity.
The following struck a chord with me. It was mentioned in a podcast I was listening to this morning.
In his book The Uses of Enchantment, Bruno Bettelheim says that fairy tales teach children ” . . . that a struggle against severe difficulties in life is unavoidable, is an intrinsic part of human existence, but then if one doesn’t shy away but steadfastly meets unexpected and often unjust hardships, one masters all obstacles and at the end emerges victorious.”
I rewound and listened several times. Played and paused so I could write it down. Googled how to spell Bruno Bettelheim and whether or not I’d written the quote correctly.
What I heard and will hang onto is:
If one doesn’t shy away but steadfastly meets unexpected and often unjust hardships, one masters all obstacles and at the end emerges victorious.
Amen to that.