Scammer Red Flags

I don’t know what it is about the generation before me that makes them so trusting, or why they refuse to adapt to the brutal realities of the current world. I must say I find their naivety extremely frustrating. Times have changed. Period. 

Gas is no longer one dollar. Paid internships and apprenticeships no longer exist. One cannot simply walk into a local business and walk back out with a job. Everything is done online, and computers/smart-phones are essential to our c. (I promise we’re not just forwarding funny emails and playing games.) Most importantly, we can no longer trust people to be who they say they are, especially on the phone.

I cannot count how many times I’ve watched my mother in law take calls from supposed “collectors” and believe every word they say, and no matter how many time my husband and I tell her these people are not real and to hang up, she insists on continuing to argue with them. We continually tell her what red flags to look for. We beg her not to answer calls from toll free numbers. I have even come to the point where I unplug the phone line in the middle of these calls just to get her to stop talking to them. Today I had to yell at her to keep from giving a caller her social security number.

She doesn’t understand we are trying to protect her from destroying herself. She doesn’t understand that there are people out there she cannot trust. She may never understand, no matter how hard we try to reason with her.

In spite of this particular hopeless case, I hope to use this experience to educate as many people as possible. So I have compiled a list of red flags to consider should a questionable call come your way.

1. You’ve received no bill in the mail. This is the number one sign that you are dealing with a scammer. Legitimate creditors always send bills in the mail. Hardly ever do they simply call with a balance. If you receive a collection call without at least having received a bill, DO NOT give them any information. DO NOT give them your credit card. Simply ask them to send a bill in the mail and hang up. Then, check your credit score. If the bill they claim is not listed, then you know you were dealing with a scammer.

2. They ask for sensitive information. In my experience, legitimate creditors only ask for three things: phone number, address, and credit card number. Under no circumstances is it appropriate to give them anything further, especially your social security number. In fact, you should never give your social security number to anyone unless absolutely necessary. As a child I was raised never to write on any forms, use online, or even carry my card on my person. Instead, I committed to memory. It has remained in my memory ever since. Your social security number is extremely sensitive. It is more important than your name and birth date put together. I cannot stress this enough. Never ever give it to a caller. If they ask for it, say NO. If they insist, hang up.

3. They deny knowledge of any fact to the contrary. It is always good to ask questions and demand details. If they lack crucial information, chances are they are not legitimate. Twice, scammers have called the store where I work attempting to collect on an unpaid electricity bill and threaten to turn off the lights. Fortunately, I know my business better than to fall for such nonsense. They didn’t even know my boss’ name. When I challenge them, they always respond with “All I know is…” Tsk. Tsk. A real call center should fire someone so ignorant. These people rely on the possibility that you don’t know the details of your credit and your business. They count on you to panic. You must know yourself, know your credit, know every in and out of your business. The more you know, the less likely you will fall for a scam.

4. They’re pushy and rude. More than that, they feed off of conflict. The longer you are willing to stay on the phone and argue, the more they fight you for your money/information. And the more likely they are to get something useful out of you. Do yourself and your self respect a favor, and HANG UP. There is no shame in hanging up on abusive conversations. Be strong.

Leviticus 19:11 tells us, “Do not deceive or cheat one another.” (NLT)

There are few things in this world that boil my blood as much as a scammer. People who would rather spend their time lying and cheating hard working people than to make an honest living for themselves. It takes a special kind of sociopath to justify doing this everyday and sleep at night. 

Please, please, please, head my warning and protect yourselves from this rampant problem. 

Unfriended

Unfriended is a simple story shot from the point of view of Blaire Lily’s laptop as she struggles to investigate the person behind a serious and distasteful hacking. Someone had hacked the Skype account of her deceased friend, Laura Barns, who had committed suicide exactly one year previous. Even more distasteful was the reason she ended her life.

A humiliating video of her had gone viral. However, the more she investigates, the more she realizes that the user could indeed be Laura. The real mystery is what the mysterious user demands to know. Who posted the humiliating video? Who is responsible for the heinous crime of cyber bullying? Who is responsible for ending Laura’s life?

If ever there was a movie that fit in today’s culture, no other can hold a candle to Unfriended. Everything we do is done online. Skype, Facebook, YouTube, Google, chat, email, downloads, and music. All accessible on our laptops. All achieved simultaneously in one sitting (thanks to high speed internet). Horrifying haunting aside, I found myself watching exactly how a young person today would spend their time on their laptop, including myself sadly enough. We can never focus on one thing for more than five minutes, which is what I found so impressive about this film. It was extremely well paced. Every few minutes, Blaire pulls up a new window to do something new.

On a more serious note, the film also addresses a very serious, very real crime. Cyber-bullying. These days, one can take video very easily. Most cell phones come with built in cameras. I’m sure their intended purpose is meant to make wonderful memories with friends and family, which is why I carry a small camcorder with me at all times. However, the convenience of these cameras can also cause people to record and post online awful, humiliating things against the subject’s knowledge or consent. Such a thing is an extreme invasion of privacy, violation of trust, and a crime. Such actions come with horrifying consequences. In the case of Laura Barns, she feels so betrayed and humiliated that she takes her own life.

On the anniversary of her death, Laura Barns came back from the dead and haunts her assailants through the very medium used to assault her. Today’s most popular sites: YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Skype. She knows every one of her victims has secrets. One by one, she publicly exposes their secrets and drives them to suicide until she finally gets her answer. Who posted the video? Also, who recorded the video?

There is one way to end this curse and spare their lives. They must confess their sins. It seems to be a simple solution to this violent haunting. All Laura wants is a confession. Blaire even confirms this from a Google search. One would think the cyber-bully would come forward in to save the lives of his/her friends. Why not? Fear of embarrassment, perhaps. Doubt would be a reasonable reaction. The reason is unclear.

However, it leaves the viewer with a heavy amount of frustration when the credits start to roll. Why not confess? Due to the bully’s refusal to confess, the truth was publicly posted for everyone to see. In the end, no good comes from keeping secrets. In the end, confession would have not only spared them embarrassment, but more importantly, it would have saved six lives. Also, a seventh life could be spared if the cyber-bullying never happens.

Like this film there is only one way to obtain forgiveness for all of your sins, and it begins with confession.

1 John 1:8-10 says, “If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.”

Confession could have saved the lives of six teens in Unfriended, but it also could have saved their souls.

Let this movie be a lesson. Cyber-bullying is a cowardly, never-ending, life-ruining CRIME, and the consequences can be devastating. Never in any circumstances for any reason can a person justify such a thing. The internet can be a very dangerous place. Once something is posted, it is posted forever. One of few irreversible mistakes that one can make in life. No amount of regret (or memorial Facebook pages) can undo it. Only confession.Unfriended is a simple story shot from the point of view of Blaire Lily’s laptop as she struggles to investigate the person behind a serious and distasteful hacking. Someone had hacked the Skype account of her deceased friend, Laura Barns, who had committed suicide exactly one year previous. Even more distasteful was the reason she ended her life.

A humiliating video of her had gone viral. However, the more she investigates, the more she realizes that the user could indeed be Laura. The real mystery is what the mysterious user demands to know. Who posted the humiliating video? Who is responsible for the heinous crime of cyber bullying? Who is responsible for ending Laura’s life?

If ever there was a movie that fit in today’s culture, no other can hold a candle to Unfriended. Everything we do is done online. Skype, Facebook, YouTube, Google, chat, email, downloads, and music. All accessible on our laptops. All achieved simultaneously in one sitting (thanks to high speed internet). Horrifying haunting aside, I found myself watching exactly how a young person today would spend their time on their laptop, including myself sadly enough. We can never focus on one thing for more than five minutes, which is what I found so impressive about this film. It was extremely well paced. Every few minutes, Blaire pulls up a new window to do something new.

On a more serious note, the film also addresses a very serious, very real crime. Cyber-bullying. These days, one can take video very easily. Most cell phones come with built in cameras. I’m sure their intended purpose is meant to make wonderful memories with friends and family, which is why I carry a small camcorder with me at all times. However, the convenience of these cameras can also cause people to record and post online awful, humiliating things against the subject’s knowledge or consent. Such a thing is an extreme invasion of privacy, violation of trust, and a crime. Such actions come with horrifying consequences. In the case of Laura Barns, she feels so betrayed and humiliated that she takes her own life.

On the anniversary of her death, Laura Barns came back from the dead and haunts her assailants through the very medium used to assault her. Today’s most popular sites: YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Skype. She knows every one of her victims has secrets. One by one, she publicly exposes their secrets and drives them to suicide until she finally gets her answer. Who posted the video? Also, who recorded the video?

There is one way to end this curse and spare their lives. They must confess their sins. It seems to be a simple solution to this violent haunting. All Laura wants is a confession. Blaire even confirms this from a Google search. One would think the cyber-bully would come forward in to save the lives of his/her friends. Why not? Fear of embarrassment, perhaps. Doubt would be a reasonable reaction. The reason is unclear.

However, it leaves the viewer with a heavy amount of frustration when the credits start to roll. Why not confess? Due to the bully’s refusal to confess, the truth was publicly posted for everyone to see. In the end, no good comes from keeping secrets. In the end, confession would have not only spared them embarrassment, but more importantly, it would have saved six lives. Also, a seventh life could be spared if the cyber-bullying never happens.

Like this film there is only one way to obtain forgiveness for all of your sins, and it begins with confession.

1 John 1:8-10 says, “If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.”

Confession could have saved the lives of six teens in Unfriended, but it also could have saved their souls.

Let this movie be a lesson. Cyber-bullying is a cowardly, never-ending, life-ruining CRIME, and the consequences can be devastating. Never in any circumstances for any reason can a person justify such a thing. The internet can be a very dangerous place. Once something is posted, it is posted forever. One of few irreversible mistakes that one can make in life. No amount of regret (or memorial Facebook pages) can undo it. Only confession.

In Memoriam for Mother’s Day

In this morning’s service, my choir sang an old hymn, And Can It Be:

Amazing Love

How Can It Be

That Thou My God

Should Die For Me

It spoke to me in two ways. Not only did Jesus die, but my mother also died for me. How perfect a song for Mother’s Day?

Mother’s Day holds several different meanings for me. With each year that passes, a new mother appears. Most recently, my sister had a son. I also have ten nieces mothered by four women in my family. Several of my old friends have children. Sadly, I have no children of my own, but I have three mother figures who have played crucial roles in my life: my step-mother, my adoptive mother, and the focus of today’s post, my biological mother.

Her name is Donna Jane Bruce, and she is the primary source of the strength of my faith in the Lord.

She gave birth to me on February 14th, 1986 while she was in the midst of battling with breast cancer. From the moment her doctor informed her of my conception to the moment I was born, she refused treatment. She understood the risk she imposed upon her life, but that did not matter to her. It was her desire as a mother to bring me into the world. Her love for me was so great that she chose my life above her own. Despite her treatment efforts after my birth, the disease claimed her life after only eleven months.

I cannot even begin to imagine the amount of agonizing pain she endured. All to keep me alive. Not to mention how hard she tried to see my first birthday, or the emotional turmoil she suffered due to the abandonment of her husband, the one man who vowed to stand by her in sickness and in health. Despite it all; the agony, the stress, the exhaustion, and the heart break; she did it willingly. Her love for me, a helpless unborn child, was so great that it surpassed everything else. She didn’t hesitate to refuse treatment. She most certainly objected the possibility of an abortion. Such is the extent of a mother’s love.

The Bible says in John 15, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

This is my testimony. She would give her own life for her child, just as God died for all His children. My mother died to give me life. Christ died to give my me salvation, so that I might continue to live.

Today, I celebrate many mothers: adoptive mother, grandmothers, mother-in-law, step-mother, sisters, and cousins. Above all, I celebrate the one who the ultimate price for me. For there is no greater love a mother can give to her children.

I urge you to remember the mothers who are no longer with us as well as the mothers you can take to lunch and give a card. Let us celebrate ALL the mothers in our lives.

Jupiter Ascending

Jupiter Jones is a poor house cleaner with questionable citizenship status. Her father is murdered before she is born, and her mother becomes a harsh workaholic. Despite her humble lifestyle, Jupiter can’t help but sense that her destiny involves something greater. She is correct.

Her destiny involves something far greater than she could imagine. The fate of every living, breathing soul on Earth rests in her hands. Due a one in a million coincidence, she inherits the entire planet. During a very well paced series of events, Jupiter learns a great deal about the purpose of Earth and its inhabitants.

She then embarks on an incredible journey through space to save the planet from its gruesome fate from the family of evil beings who would seek to “harvest” the humans. They use human DNA to keep themselves immortal, and these beings would do anything to harvest the millions of lives on Earth to stay that way.

However, no amount of bribes or threats will sway Jupiter Jones. Her tragic and humble background teaches her that all lives are sacred. She does everything in her power to save the world, even at the risk of her family. For we are more than a rich boy’s anti-aging cream. We are more than, as Jupiter’s uncle gently points out, a chicken. Each and every one of us is a beloved child of God.

Genesis says, “So, God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

I absolutely adore this film. It is refreshingly original, and it is filled with a balanced amount of sorrow, humor, romance, and action. Most importantly, it bares an incredible message about love, life, and humility.

Christ, the Humble

ChristPhilippians 2:3 says, “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.”

There are days where I am very ashamed and embarrassed to call myself a Christian. The behavior associated with the Christian name is appalling. I hear it everywhere. There are websites dedicated to it, including one called Sundays are the Worst.

As a customer service representative, I have seen this behavior first hand, and what I have experienced is unbelievable. People claiming to be Christians lying and cheating with an unbelievable self-righteous, entitled attitude. If I hadn’t been saved already, I would never want anything to do with the kind of god associated to them.

I wish I could say it was exaggerated. I wish I could say the media loves to report nothing but horrible things about the church. I wish I could live with the comfortable ignorance that this kind of behavior didn’t drive lost souls away from God, instead of saving them.

However, my own personal experience has taught me different, and the non-believers I’ve encountered have every right to be angry and not to trust me. Every time I encounter a non believer who wouldn’t listen to me, even if Christ himself entered the room, I find myself wondering why. 

Why did the “Christian” who drove you to this impression give him/herself the right to ignore their calling, all for the sake of some personal gratification?

It violates EVERYTHING that Christ called us to do.

In Mathew 28, He commands, “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

To those doubtful nonbelievers, I can assure you. You are not alone. The same Christian who look down your nose at you have also spent a good deal of time looking down their nose at their fellow Christian of a more liberal nature, including myself.

  • How dare I wear that swimsuit.
  • How dare I wear jeans to church.
  • How dare I work on a Sunday. 
  • How dare I enjoy, let alone watch, this or that film.
  • How dare I support my Reverend mother.
  • How dare I associate myself with someone running such an “inappropriate” facebook page.
  • How dare I write down my own personal thoughts.
  • How dare I be anything else than what they expect me to be.

For this, I say to them, how dare you. 

How dare you for not following calling given to you by Christ himself.

Shame. SHAME. SHAME.

The very definition of Christian is “one who follows Christ.”

If you are not using the gospels to guide your daily life, than you have no business calling yourself a Christian.

So, who is Christ?

Christ was a poor, humble, selfless man. He never judged, only taught and forgave. Even knowing he was the son of God, he remained humble before the Lord. He threw himself at the mercy of God, the Father, when he prayed. He resisted Satan’s offer to rule the Earth. He took every opportunity to show people God’s forgiveness and unconditional love. He dared to associate with society’s outcasts. He touched the untouchables. Above all, he lived what he preached.

So, I ask you, my so-called fellow Christians. What have you done to follow His example? What have you done to embody God’s unconditional love? What have you done to earn the trust of our lost fellows?

If your answer is nothing, then you need a new approach.

While She Was Out

Some will say, “Difficult times develop character.”

Others say, “Difficult times reveal character.”

I have to say I prefer the latter. True character is always bubbling beneath the surface. Some people just need an extra push to show it. Such is the case with housewife Della Myers. Beneath the surface she is a strong mother who would absolutely anything for her children. Beneath the surface she is an educated, intelligent and hard working woman. Beneath the surface she cannot tolerate threats and abuse. Beneath the surface she is an advocate for justice. Above the surface she is an insecure battered housewife incapable of making decisions.

Christmas Eve in a desperate attempt to escape her husband’s rage she takes an unwise trip to the mall. Of course, the mall is crowded and noisy, and parking is a nightmare. In a single heated moment she provokes a group of selfish hooligans, which escalates into a battle for her life. Those four hooligan chase her into the woods with the intend to kill her.

All she has to protect herself is a toolbox and her mama bear instincts. Her desire to see her children again what drives her to survive. She not only protects herself, but also she fights to protect her children. At any time the hooligan could drive her her home and murder her family, meaning there is no room for failure.

In a moment of panic and rage, she screams to God, “Where are you?”

That is a question we all ask at one point or another.

  • “Where are you, God?”
  • “How could you let this happen?”
  • “Why have you forsaken me?”

It the number one question nonbelievers throw in the face of Christians.

“If God is real, why would he let this happen to me?”

However, I believe God was with Della. He was inside of her driving her to fight, to survive, and to discover her self worth.

Della embarks on a remarkable journey filled with danger, violence, and temptation. In doing so, she discovers the survivor inside of her, the same survivor she takes home and uses to put an end to her husband’s abuse and achieves her independence.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

I’ve heard quite a bit of outcry over this incredible film, because of the lack of war and violence. It’s true that this film does not return the viewers to the arena. However, the time for arenas is over. The story progresses to the cry for an uprising. That’s what the story is all about. The cry for war, not the war itself. If you want a war so badly, then wait for the next film.

People seem to have lost touch with Katniss’ character. It should be evident that Katniss never was a violent person, which she directly expresses in her talk with President Snow. All she ever wants out of her trials in life is to keep her loved ones safe. This includes her current efforts to rescue Peeta and the other victors held captive in the capital.

Everything she does that inspires those around her is done out of love, not violence.

The weapon emphasized in Mockingjay is information. District 13 uses Katniss and Finnick to discredit the Capital’s propaganda and reveal the true nature of the tyrant, President Snow. This information is enough to drive the people to fight for themselves. Of course, a revolution is inevitable. District 13 merely provides an effective form of motivation.

As Katniss embraces peaceful resolutions, so did Christ. The Christ of the Gospels is Christ, the Humble. He too was a messenger. His people were expecting Christ, the Conqueror. They were more interested seeing in a war against the Romans than to accept the deliverance he had to offer, deliverance from sin. His message involved hope, peace, and love. Not war. War, though justifiable in the context of Mockingjay, should never be a first resort.

Information can be just as powerful a weapon as a bow and arrow. It is unfortunately an underestimated weapon, but it is one I feel more compelled to embrace. Therefore, I urge you to listen and learn as much as possible throughout life. Embrace facts. Embrace knowledge. Embrace peaceful resolution. It can greatly improve your quality of life.

Far From Home

Far-from-Home-2014One hit wonder author and struggling associate professor Nicholas Boyd is suddenly called back to his childhood home when his uncle Charles dies. We learn very early in the film that he spends his youth with a great passion for writing. However, somewhere along the way that passion completely extinguishes.

With no direction and family bridges burned, fifteen years pass without a single trip home until he receives an invitation to his uncle’s funeral. Instead of a simple funeral he finds himself plunged in a campaign to save the small, idyllic island from developers. Charles knew even before he died that Nicholas could finish that campaign.

Above all, we learn of a falling out between Charles and Nicholas that causes him to leave home and motivates him to write his one famous novel. Whatever the incident (they don’t say until near the end), he struggles to forgive.

It is only when he opens up about this incident does he finally let go of his anger enough to take a good look at his uncle’s work and figure out his plan to save the island from a serious threat.

Letting go is hard. Forgiving is hard. However, I never heard of an instance where the choice to forgive has failed to benefit the health and welfare of one’s quality of life. It opens our eyes the real threats around us. Keep your vision clear from the clutter of frivolous issues. Keep your life’s passions alive.

The Town that Came A-Courtin’

townThis is a film that takes meddling friends and neighbors to a whole new level. Though I cannot imagine the event in Bliss, anything close to reality, there is a certain level of entertainment involved, not to mention a feeling of comfort for the hero, Mayor Spencer Alexander. Bliss is a town that truly loves their mayor, and it knows a genuine lady when they see one.

When independent author Abby Houston passes through Bliss during a book tour, she doesn’t stand a chance resisting the pleas of Bliss’ citizens. All they want is to go on a date with their tragically lonely mayor. However, a series of hysterical misconceptions and disasters cause the failure of three attempted dates.

Despite it all, not a soul can deny the spark between them, except, of course, for Abby’s obsessive fan. With everyone in town focusing their attention on hooking up the couple, no one noticed an awkward, little man following Abby around town making it easy for him to abduct her from a public parking lot.

Fortunately, Spencer is able to accept his feelings for Abby enough to sense something amiss and begin a campaign to save her.

Of all the Uplifting Entertainment films I’ve reviewed, I can honestly say that Town That Came A-Courtin’ is my favorite so far. It contains humor, drama, adventure, romance, and tragedy. Most importantly, it contains unconditional love. As infuriating and meddling as that town behaves, it is a comfort to see how much they love.