The phone rings in the office at around 10 in the morning and my secretary answers it. It was from a priest, a Monsignor in fact looking for me. I wasn’t around at the time so my secretary asks for his number and purpose of the call. She got the number but the priest didn’t leave any specific reason, just that he wanted to talk to me urgently.
As I arrived in the office later, my secretary informs me of the call and asks if I want her to call the Monsignor back. Of course the natural reaction of anybody when a priest wants to talk to you would be to return their call as soon as possible. (Maybe he wanted to bless me, who knows right?) So I quickly make it a priority to talk to the man of the cloth.
So as the phone was handed over to me, things quickly began to unravel.
“Maaark! (as if he knew me for a long time), how are you? This is Father something-something (I’m leaving the name out as I will explain some more on this later)”
“Yes Father, how can I help you?”
“Well you see Mark, I’m currently involved in community work for some military and police people, you see they have several good projects for their community and they are in need of some financial help…(a deliberate pause)”
“Yes Father, go on…”
“Okay, now I’m selling a few tickets for P5,000 each for an event that will happen on this date, can you purchase a few from me to help their cause?”
Now if this was the younger, naive and inexperienced version of me, I would have answered this way:
“Okay father can you give me some more details for this event? I can probably buy one ticket to help your cause, where and how can I give you my contribution?”
And I would bet that a lot (not all, but a lot) of people who talk to this priest would most likely say the same thing or some version of it if they had the money. Why? Because the mere mention of him being a priest would make most God fearing people instantly want to help the request of a holy man.
But you see, because I’m a little older now a little more experienced I don’t quite buy it just yet. So instead of rushing into giving a total stranger my hard earned money, I ask a few hard and straight to the point questions.
“Ah okay father, by the way what’s your name again? (then he repeats his full name), Okay father, just a quick question before anything else (he says sure!) — is it normal practice for priests to call people soliciting money for tickets?”
“(Pause)… (He was quite obviously surprised to get this question from me)… Uhm…No…it’s not… which is why I’m a little embarrassed to be calling you like this”
Honestly, he would have had a slightly better chance if he answered this way: “Actually my son, yes, when times are tough, even priests have to do what they can to help others.”
But he didn’t. Now at this point, I remember recognizing his voice from somewhere before but could not place it until now, then it dawned on me that he had called me a year or two ago, I remember his distinct voice pretending to be the head of customs and at that time selling me “smuggled” Johnny Walker for P5,000 per bottle.
So I continued asking a few more questions, but this time a little more direct as the plot became a little clearer:
“Okay father, I have to be honest, I do not know you, and I hope you understand that I do not just give my money to strangers. Also, how did you get this number?”
“Well, Mark, yes you are right, I understand what you are saying, I don’t know you, but my name is Monsignor something-something, you can actually look me up on the internet and a retired General gave me your number”
Now, when he said “you can look me up on the internet” this should have been good enough, but in my mind, anyone on the phone can get the identity of someone already established and claim that that is him / her so I just said.
“Okay thanks Father, but I will have to pass.”
“Really, hindi mo talaga ako matutulungan?”
“Sorry Father, I have helped many people in my own way and through various means, and I still do so until today but I will have to decline politely. Thanks for calling anyway.”
And the phone went dead.
Okay so the reason why I decided to write about and publish this particular incident of my life is to teach you 3 important lessons from it so that you avoid being scammed.
1.) Do not be intimidated or be awed by titles or designations or positions of people over the phone. You always need proof of the person’s identity especially if it’s just by phone. Now offering of proof on the internet will not be good enough as I mentioned, you need social proof, who knows him/her that you know too? what does that mutual person say about him/her?
2.) Remember this saying: “To catch a thief, you must think like a thief”. Although this is pretty self-explanatory, most of the time we tend to play a role in the scene that the other person sets up. In the example above, the person paints the picture that he is a Monsignor, so normally people opposite that person will play the role of the good Catholic constituent. Etc.
3.) And lastly, if you work hard to make money for you and your family. You must also work hard in protecting that money from people who will constantly try to take that money from you and your family.
Remember, being generous is a good character trait to have, but we must also be prudent and smart.
About the Author:
Mark So is a fervent businessman, forex trader and educator. He is the Chairman and CEO of Businessmaker Academy—a business, finance and corporate training center. He is also the Chief Forex Trainer of Forex Club Manila. A sought after speaker for business and forex, he is scheduled to conduct his signature seminars on Business Start-up and expansion as well as his Complete Forex Trading Course this month. To know more about these seminars, you may visit www.businessmaker-academy.com or http://www.forexclubmanila.com or call (632)6874645. You may email your comments and questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org