Ministry of Margaret Nelson
Uganda, Africa

November 27, 2009

Thief Protection

Teaching financial management was part of the theme of my last newsletter. Last week I had a personal experience with financial issues that Iíve never encountered before.

I got scammed.

Hackers had stolen the email address of a good friend of mine who works for the Rwandan government. ďSheĒ wrote me a distressed email from London, where sheíd gone to attend an agricultural conference, but had been robbed of money and passport. Could I send her x-amount to get her through til she could repay me when she got home? This is a friend I knew absolutely would repay me as she said, so I didnít even ask how soon she would be getting home. I just wired all the money I could spare to the hotel address in London.

It was that night before someone made a comment to me that made me suspicious, and I called my friend on her Rwanda business phone, hoping it would work in London ~ hoping she was in London! But she wasnít. She was in Rwanda Ö

And I knew I was in trouble.

Feelings are so intense against thieves in Uganda that many times they are caught, severely beaten (often after being stripped naked), and many times are lit on fire and burned to death. I wouldnít wish that on anyone, and by Godís grace, I didnít even get angry when I got scammed (I know, that surprised me too!), even though the theft left me in a bind. I figured, The money is gone, Iím not going to get it back, so why waste energy crying over spilt milk, as the saying goes?

But as Iím now living with the results of being scammed, Iím learning that internet and wire fraud are becoming very common ways of robbing people. The thieves are very difficult to catch. We learned that the money being wired to this London hotel was being instantly diverted to an unknown destination, probably overseas. And this gives me concerns regarding the fact that I do a lot of internet work, newsletters, website, emails, etc. And I am supported by donations from churches and individual contributors. And I do travel internationally.

So if you ever receive a distressed email from me, saying Iím stranded somewhere, or Iíve been robbed, or some other equally urgent situation, even if itís from my own email address, check with other friends of mine and see if theyíre getting the same email. These thieves sent the same distressed email to all of my friendís contacts. And if you are concerned enough to answer the email, ask a question or two that only I would know the answer to, such as the name of my youngest child, my pastorís name, or such. That will chase off any scammers, simply because they wonít have that information about me. These thieves depend upon their victims reacting out of emotion without taking time to think.

    Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven,
    where moth and rust do not destroy,
    and where thieves do not break in and steal.
    For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

    Matthew 6:20-21

Margaret Nelson