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The scamming of Christmas

To most people I know, this is a season of giving.   Whether or not one celebrates Christmas for its religious origins, this time of year has become the time of long lines, heavy traffic and non-stop advertising of every kind.  Christmas sales represent one-sixth of all retail sales in the United States.

Unfortunately for some people this is a season of taking.  It is the season of theft and stealing for some lost souls, who use increasingly sophisticated methods for robbery. Despite notices sent twice to our employees prior to the holiday season, our company has been the victim of scams three times in the past two weeks.   It is not something I am proud of, but I share these details in the hope that others will be more aware of the tactics of those who instill fear in others in order to steal.

The typical modus operandi is a phone call to a business telling the manager on duty that they are from the FBI or some other agency.   They indicate that the company has been involved in some issue and the company and the restaurant will be closed unless money is sent immediately.

The caller tells the manager on duty, who by now is talking on their personal cellphone, that they are being watched. The employee is told not to hang up the phone or they will be harmed.  The employee is instructed to take money from the safe and go to Walmart and purchase debit cards.   

The scammer never hangs up and gives hints that indicate the employee is being watched or monitored.  Once the employee has purchased the cards, they are instructed to give the card number to the crook.   At that point, the money is drained from the account and it disappears into the electronic financial underworld.

There is no way, I thought, when I first saw the warnings about these scams that any of our employees would fall for such a fraud.   I dismissed the threat even as we routinely sent out the warnings.   I sold the culprits short.

We live in a world of sophisticated lawbreakers who use different tools to prey on those least able to fight back.   This includes the elderly, the uneducated, and in our case the hard working shift leader that is just getting a start professionally in making their own life better.

These people are not common con artists trying to make a quick buck.   These are professional criminals capable of making you believe your life in is danger no matter how much you should know better.

Four thousand dollars disappeared into the electronic world instantly.  Small town police departments will never have a chance to even tell us where the money went.  Russia?  North Korea?  California?  Miller County?

Don’t be smug and think your employees could never fall for some scam so obvious.  The villains have elevated their game and know what instills fear in the minds of the unsuspecting as much as the most educated psychiatrist.

Perhaps we are in a business that makes us more vulnerable to these types for frauds.  Perhaps, despite our efforts, we did not properly train and warn our employees of the dangers of such calls.   Perhaps it was just our time to be the victims of crimes from those who have no sense of right and wrong.

That is the irony of the timing of these crimes.   For six decades I have thought of Christmas as a time of giving.  You share with those less fortunate.   It was something I was taught as a child and something that I taught my own children.

The meaning of Christmas has been steadily lost to the commercialization of the season.  It used to be that Christmas decorations went up the day after Thanksgiving.  These days they appear beside the pumpkins at Halloween.

So how do I deal with these crimes so that I am not a victim beyond the money?   How do I not allow them to also steal the warmth, beauty and meaning of Christmas?

First, I will pray for the souls of those who target their victims during this time of the year.  They need my prayers more than I need the money.   Second, I will comfort the employees who are distraught about their lapse of protocol in the handling of the company’s money.  Third, I will donate dollar for dollar the amount of money stolen from our company to those in need this holiday season.

Saint Frances of Assisi stated that it is in giving that you receive.   I have been blessed beyond measure and refuse to let those who wronged me take away that joy of giving that this season brings.

Merry Christmas to all.