Behind a Scammer’s Disguise

by Feb 26, 2020

“Max just paid $3700 in Lowes’ gift cards to a scammer.”

I reread the text with growing disbelief, sympathy, and annoyance. A flurry of texts told the story.

“A scammer told Max he was heading to jail for laundering money but before they incarcerated him, he would be stripped of all assets. When Max hedged on paying anything, they said he also has unpaid hospital bills, something that would add reason to be jailed. The sheriff, supposedly, was already on his way. Max thought he had no choice. He went from store to store collecting gift cards and, by including a fine, avoided jail.”

A fine. In Lowes’ gift cards.

I wish I were making this up.

Incredulous or not, I sympathize with the victim. I know the sting of being scammed. During our years in Ghana, a man we respected turned out to be a drug dealer, breaking our trust and, not surprisingly, our friendship. The knowledge of being duped combined with annoyance towards the scammer and became an ugly mixture of emotion for me to process. It wasn’t fair. For years he made us believe he was a missionary and a Good Samaritan, gaining our trust and financial aid (not much of the latter, thankfully). Then we learned the truth.

Unfairness and dishonesty was all I saw. I tend to feel the same way when I hear about American frauds. The souls of scammers lie hidden behind an ugly disguise of sin. My sympathy lies with the victims; my judgment on the deceivers.

But wait.

Jesus looked past Zacchaeus’ money-grubbing disguise and saw a person. He loved Zacchaeus enough to treat him as a friend and go to his house. We have no record of Jesus telling Zacchaeus His thoughts on swindlers. He made no satisfying, barbed insinuations to let Zacchaeus feel deep guilt. He loved him into the kingdom.

Perhaps my sympathy has been misdirected or at least disproportionately given. Behind disguises of sin and deceit, scammers are real people in danger of eternal death and in need of the compassionate mercy of Jesus.

As a Christian whose calling is to share hope with sinners, what is your reaction when you hear stories of scams? 

About the author:

Sara Nolt is the wife of John and the mother of three extraordinary children. Since their return from Ghana, they live in a little yellow house in Stevens, PA, one situated close enough to the road that passersby can wave to them at the kitchen table. Homeschooling, freelance writing, and a never-ending laundry pile fill Sara’s days while God and His eternal purposes fill her heart.