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By Makheni Zonneveld AKA The Coolest Granny In Town

Millions kept their #ME2 pain to themselves until one woman stood up and said enough is enough! The rest, as they say, is history. Besides being sexually violated, there are other forms of pain that we keep to ourselves, mainly because of shame. Not many will shout from the rooftops that they were caught in phishing scams because they think others will think less of them.

I have been vigilant, warning others and giving them tips on how to spot scams. If they could get to someone as vigilant as I am, they can get to anyone. On Saturday, the 4th of April, I was caught in one of those scams. R100,000 (5,400 USD) was wiped out of my South African bank account within seconds. Before you think I had a lot of money in my account, that huge amount was made up of a credit card limit and an overdraft limit that I had not used because I don’t do debt.

It was a normal afternoon like any other. I was minding my own business, concentrating on the work I was doing on the computer, when an email notification arrived. I quickly opened the mail because, firstly, it was supposedly from the bank, and secondly, the title had to do with an important process. In South Africa, the banks regularly instruct clients to verify their addresses, and if you ignore this instruction, they suspend your account until you comply. I decided to do that quickly so I wouldn't forget. Getting something out of the way quickly always goes with a lack of focus. Because I had done this before, I was on autopilot, not paying attention to what I was doing.

I opened the mail and absentmindedly clicked on a link. My world was turned upside down in a wink. I received a real bank email stating that the amount was transferred from my account to a nonsensical bank account name made up of letters and numbers. I was in tears and felt like I was living through a horror movie. I could not think. Fortunately, my husband did the thinking. He found the bank’s 24/7 fraud line. He called, and as soon as there was someone on the other side of the line, I had hope that the mess would be resolved since I had taken action immediately. The nightmare went from bad to worse when I realised that the bank sends scam alert messages to clients, not necessarily to keep clients safe, but to avoid the consequences of failing to keep the money of clients and shareholders safe.

That realisation left me devastated. I was not only emotionally affected but also physically ill because the mind affects the body as much as the body affects the mind. After two days of being unkind to myself, I remembered that I should do myself a favour and forgive.

I wish someone had written these few simple tips before I became a victim:

To prevent scams:

  1. Realise that it can happen to you too, no matter how smart you are. (I also thought I was too smart to be caught out.)

  2. When you receive an email, even if it looks legit, click on reply to see if the email address is legit. (I forgot my own advice.)

  3. If an address is not legit, don’t just delete it. Block the address, send it to the junk/spam folder, and empty that folder.

  4. Do not click on links unless you are 100% sure that the sender is legit. (I forgot my own advice.)

  5. Inspect your bank statements carefully every month. (Some scammers do not wipe out your whole amount but take regular amounts that you will not notice easily.)

  6. Give everything you do online your full attention. I got caught because I did something so important while multitasking.

  7. Realise that even if you verify email addresses, keep changing passwords, and follow all the good tips that the banks, the media, and others give, the thieves are always one step ahead. So, remain vigilant.

  8. Do not keep high credit card, overdraft, and daily withdrawal limits. (You do not have to accept the high limits the bank gives you just because you conduct your account well.)

Because these scammers always come up with new tricks, you may still get caught in spite of being vigilant. If that happens, please do the following:

  1. Report to the fraud department immediately so they can cancel access to your account. This means you too will not have access until you create a new profile.

  2. Don’t be scammed further by those who advertise that they can help with recovering the money, whether they are lawyers or crooks masquerading as lawyers.

  3. Don’t beat yourself up. You’re not stupid. You’re just human.

  4. Forgive yourself for being careless and forgive these evil people for your peace and sanity.

  5. Share your story so others can learn from it. I just did. People tell me what they learned from my experience is that they should keep their limits low. If my #ME2scammed helps one more person, it’s worth it.

One last lesson from my ordeal: Apart from forgiving, a few days later, I was reminded of the fact that we are supposed to rejoice in trials. My eyes were opened to the fact that thieves can steal everything I own, but they cannot steal the wonderful TREASURE in my heart, the Lord who heals. If that does not get you rejoicing, nothing else will. Phew! I’m still on a high, rejoicing like there’s no tomorrow!

The negative power of the mind-body connection makes us ill. For more on healing through harnessing the positive power of the mind-body connection, including the power of forgiveness, see the wellness book, Healthier and Slimmer.

Makheni Zonneveld AKA The Coolest Granny in Town, is an energetic 1953 vintage model. She is a speaker, wellness coach, storyteller and author. 


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Edited by Bwalya M Mphuka

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