It could happen to anyone, and last week it happened to me. I got scammed. I sometimes buy artwork off of DeviantArt. As the name suggests, you find all sorts on that website, although I’ve found a couple of genuine Christian artists there thankfully.
There are a few things that I should have done to be wiser with my interactions online.
Firstly, I should have looked the ‘artist’ up.
I had his email and common sense would have told me that quick Google search would have shown me some things about my art thief.
In my case, when I Googled his email I didn’t find much. But his name was a different story.
Search whatever information you can get
When you input an email for payment on PayPal normally they have a confirmation with a name. ‘Do you really want to send a payment to (name here)?’ Had I my wits about me, I would have Googled the name before sending the money, but I didn’t. It was only after the ‘artist’ deleted his DeviantArt account and spurned me that I decided to do some research.
I found his Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and discovered that he had been not only pulling this con before online, but he had concerning personal opinions (and misogynistic content) posted which should have swayed way from working with him.
There were red flags all over the place, but I didn’t see them until it was too late.
While it would be nice to shame my scammer publicly to dissuade others from falling into the same trap as I did, there is yet to be a safe space on the internet where this can happen. My scammer has some of my personal information from PayPal and could turn the tables on me if I exposed him.
All it would become would be a ‘he said, she said’ where the scammer could deny everything, expose my information or just delete all of his accounts and start conning people under a different name.
When looking into reporting fraud on PayPal, it reveals that the system doesn’t work and scammers usually face no consequences, not even having their PayPal accounts disabled.
PayPal won’t protect anybody, and there is yet to be any public consequence for those who take advantage of others online.
How to avoid being a victim
Fellow Christians, stop being as innocent as doves without being as shrewd as serpents. Research those you are going to do business with in any capacity. It is so easy to get the wool pulled over our eyes, but if we stop taking things at face value then we can make ourselves a little less likely to fall for the lies.
The easiest way not to be scammed is to not be hasty and give everything a second thought. If I had done that I would not have sent money to some unsavory guy in Venezuela pretending to be an artist.
At the end of the day, we forgive those who lie to us and use us and ask for God’s mercy on them… but most importantly we must ask for God’s discernment in all our interactions and transactions online.
Bridget Brenton is involved in Aboriginal and Islander based ministries, and enjoys tech stuff like making websites and making games in her spare time.
Bridget Brenton’s previous articles may be viewed at: http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/bridget-brenton.