One click away from getting scammed: My story of God’s protection
Jason Goh // August 12, 2022, 11:25 am
Nearly falling for a scam was a "humbling experience that revealed not only my pride but also God’s goodness to me", wrote Jason Goh who runs a web design agency. All photos courtesy of Jason Goh.
Jason Goh never thought that he would fall prey to scams. The 32-year-old entrepreneur, who runs Banah, a web and graphic design social enterprise from Chiang Mai in Thailand, had always been able to call out a scam whenever he saw one. It seemed like his forte to help others avoid being scammed.
Me? At the mercy of a scammer? Unlikely, he thought.
But just a few months ago, Jason found himself the target of an online scam.”What a humbling experience that revealed my pride but also God’s goodness to me,” he wrote.
This is his story:
Last year, I followed God’s leading to start a web and graphic design social enterprise in Thailand. It was a challenging but very fruitful process as I saw opportunities being created for the youths that I was training in web design.
While the youths helped in the conceptualisation and building process of the websites, I focused on the sales and marketing efforts of the social enterprise.
We were hungry for projects as that would keep the organisation going, give the boys opportunities to grow in their skills, and allow us to generate resources for local ministries which we were engaged in.
When projects came in, I was elated and thankful for God’s provision.
In our fifth month of operation, we had a very special business enquiry that came in from the United States. We were excited to potentially land our first American company as our client.
It felt like a milestone.
Our excitement snowballed as my friend received the cheque and deposited it at the bank.
The client needed a simple website for his Mexican restaurant in New York and readily agreed to work with us. However, he only wanted to pay for the project deposit via cheque. Hence, I needed a representative in the US who could receive the cheque on my behalf.
One of my friends agreed to help, so I passed his details to the client.
Our excitement snowballed as my friend received the cheque and deposited it at the bank. We were already knee-deep in our research into the client’s target audience and potential website designs that would help him achieve his business goals.
I was hardly ready for what would happen next, which led to many sleepless nights.
A plot twist
Shortly after the cheque was deposited at the bank, the client texted me to say that there was an error in the cheque.
Apparently, his manager accidentally wrote a cheque for twice the amount of the deposit. To remedy this, the client wanted me to transfer the extra amount to his “private design consultant”, who would send me the required design assets upon receiving payment.
When I started to ask questions, the client responded with threats and verbal abuse.
More dubiously, the client insisted that I transfer via PayPal and did not allow me to let me contact his design consultant directly. Suspicions raised, I started to ask lots of questions. The client responded with threats and verbal abuse.
It became clear that this person was an abusive and toxic client, who hoped to scare me into action.
It was going to be a bad working experience with this client. I knew that, but I also felt that I had to accept it to get his business. The stress of being responsible for the livelihood of my staff pushed me to swallow his abuse by “humbling myself”.
After hearing about what had been happening, my wife Sheryl asked me an important question: Jason, are you ready to let go of this project?
My wife saw how abusive this client was. She wanted me to protect myself and my staff while trusting God for His provision. Why should I give him permission to continue abusing me with his words and threats?
I chose to let go.
The end … or is it?
To end the client relationship, I was going to refund him the whole amount via a bank transfer. The client demanded that I transfer through PayPal instead as it would be “faster”.
I was just one click away from making the PayPal transfer when something stirred in my heart.
As I stood my ground, the client started threatening me with lawsuits and accusing me of trying to keep his money. The cheque had yet to be cashed in but the client refused to wait for me to receive the full amount before processing the refund.
Since the client had my friend’s personal information, I was concerned that he would harm my friend in the States. That held me back from refuting the client’s threats and ignoring him. The threats intensified and I gave in: I decided to quickly refund him via PayPal to end this nightmare.
I entered the required details into PayPal and prepared my heart to say goodbye to US$3,800. The money would come back to me anyway after the cheque cashes into my friend’s account, right?
I was literally one click away from making the PayPal transfer when something stirred in my heart. I believe the Holy Spirit was prompting me to Google the client’s phone number before I made the transfer, and what happened next confirmed it.
The Google results returned in 0.44 seconds.
Reading the second article left me stunned and speechless.
Many other web development agencies around the world had faced an identical experience with the same person using the same phone number. Once a refund was made via PayPal, the cheque would be reversed or flagged as fraudulent.
The “client” was adamant on PayPal as the transfer would be untraceable, unlike bank transfers.
One more step and I would have fallen for the scam.
I was aghast. At the brink of being scammed, I was stopped in my tracks as if I was standing precariously over a cliff. I immediately closed the PayPal browser tab and told Sheryl about it.
It was a humbling, goosebumps-moment but I was filled with gratitude at the Holy Spirit’s leading.
The past few months of excitement, anger, and shock replayed in my mind as reality settled in my heart. One more step and I would have fallen into the scam!
Next, I contacted my friend in the States to update him. He reported the scam to the bank and stopped the processing of the cheque, which thankfully had not been complete yet. I was furious with the scammer and exposed him on WhatsApp. In the meantime, I was also concerned that he would harass my friend.
True to our predictions, the scammer contacted my friend.
But my friend had already prepared an ingenious way to end the harassment:
This brought laughter to an otherwise traumatic experience.
My dear American friend had learnt some Chinese in his university electives and used it creatively to fend the scammer away.
It worked, and the harassment stopped. My friend assured me that everything will be okay, and he didn’t blame me for the situation. I’m so grateful.
Trauma to testimony
While I was nursing the disappointment of “losing” my overseas client that didn’t even exist in the first place, God quickly provided me with three potential projects right after. One has already been confirmed. God is so faithful and so timely!
When I felt like I had to carry the load alone, God showed me that He is 100% in full control.
As the experience shook me, I realised that despite my tech-savviness, I am vulnerable to scams. Despite my oversight in my desire to keep the social enterprise going, God is good. Despite my pride, God is gracious.
When I felt like I had to carry the load alone, God showed me that He is 100% in full control. I know I can walk ahead and lead with faith that He holds me.
Especially in this day and age where scams are so rampant, I hope that my story encourages you to be cautious and attentive to the Holy Spirit.
At the same time, God is One who protects and provides!
No matter how savvy, we can be susceptible to scams.
For anyone who had fallen for a scam some way or another, let’s hold onto the hope that justice will be served, and that His provision is way greater than your loss.
This was first published on jasonsheryl.com and is republished with permission. Visit their website for more stories of Jason’s experiences as a tent-making missionary.
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