Monday, July 27, 2015

Out with the Old...In with the New...Annie Sloan Chalk Paint

This is my old kitchen table.  I have had it for ten years. I loved it for years...then it began to show wear.  It had nicks on it, some scratches not to mention a few homework answers where the kids wrote too hard.  It had developed sentimental value. I wanted a change but lost interest after a little while.  This summer I decided I should get a new table.  I shopped around, and I found a piece I loved.  I almost purchased it until a friend said, "Why not paint this one?  It is perfectly fine-it just needs a little touch up."  I decided to go for it.

I am a contractors daughter BTW but other than that, not a creative person.  Thus, I was introduced to Annie Sloan Chalk Paint. No prep work just brush that paint on and it will stick!

No prep work...I can do are the results....

Old White Annie Sloan Paint

Now to clear wax it....

Now, the regret sets in and I have a brain freeze. I did not want white...I thought this was going to be cream. So I quit.  A friend comes over (isn't it great to have friends to cheer you on?).  She says I am too far in to it to quit (no I am not, that nice table is still available at the furniture store).   But, I decide to move forward and add Dark Wax. 

Here are the results....

Happy again, I decide to move forward and paint the table. 

This is Coco Annie Sloan Paint.  

 I add some Dark Wax and decide I am pleased so I paint the base to match the chairs.

Beyond the fact that I learned Annie Sloan paint is easy to use and the wax is the hardest part, I learned some spiritual lessons.  My mind is always thinking what lesson do you have in this for me Lord. I use to love using those lessons when I taught Sunday School, now they teach me and I share them with you!

I thought my old table was unworthy and ready to be trashed.  It was used up, marked up, and gave me a dreary feeling when I looked at it.  Wow.  That is what sin does to our lives. It consumes us and makes us think we are unworthy.  Romans 3:23 says we are all sinners and fall short of the glory of God.  However, when God looks at us, he sees purity because Jesus Christ washes away that sin and purifies our souls.  Romans 5:8 "But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." He makes us white as my chairs.

God never gives up on us. He knows we will make mistakes, we are a sinful being but His forgiveness leaves us grace filled.  Beings created to bring hope to this world. Romans 3:24 ... and we are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

When I looked at my black table, that is all I saw, a black table. Now, when the blinds are open, I see so much more. The table does not draw my eye to it like the black one did. It simply is just the beginning of my perspective when I look in that direction. I see the birds, the pool, God's creation. I hardly notice the table.  May we be like that to others. Not someone hard to be with but someone who draws others eyes to Christ.  A light in darkness.  1 Corinthians 10: 31 says "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God."

What a blessing to realize we are created purposefully by our God to bring glory and honor to Him.  Live each day knowing He has a purpose for you today.  

Monday, July 13, 2015

Scammers and Temptations...A Spiritual Lesson

I have spent the last week pondering how this happened....(being scammed that is--check out my last two blogs if you are not sure what I am talking about).  As I have reflected, many spiritual lessons have come to mind.

One thing I have not mentioned is that I got the IRS scam call recently.  I immediately shut the caller down. I knew I did not owe the IRS money.  The difference was this scammer -- maybe just from pure coincidence -- happened upon something I was not 100 percent sure of.  Maybe I had been mailed a summons for Grand Jury. I was certain I had not seen such summons but could not be confident it did not get lost in the mail or tossed in the junk mail pile. I won't rehash the details of the what ifs vs what actually did happen but I will give it another spin.

The scammer, like Satan, caused me to doubt something.  He used fear as a tactic to get my guard down and wa-la---I was hooked.  I began to doubt my instincts and to some degree ignored my better judgement.

Satan is just like this.  He does not tempt us with something he is 100 percent sure we would never fall for.  He dangles a carrot we might actually eat...meaning he tempts us with sin that is more appealing to us based on our own weaknesses or is more plausible for us to fall for.  He then hooks you so that you are not clearly in tune to God given discernment.

I shared on my last post how to be prepared for the, let's talk about how to be prepared for something much worse -- a wolf in sheep's clothing.

Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. Matthew 7:15

The word speaks for itself.  Satan does not start with blatant temptations you are not likely to fall for. He disguises himself in other ways. The scammer convinced me he was a trusting law enforcement officer. It was much later that he revealed his darkness.  Satan does the same thing.  We all know the story of Adam & Eve in the garden...the apple seemed innocent enough. 

How are you going to watch out?

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8

Be alert and of sober mind. This means to be keenly aware of your surroundings. Don't allow your mind to be influenced by people or things that are not godly and wholesome.  To be alert, you have to know what you are looking for.  You can only be in tune to what is godly and wholesome if you are reading God's word and communicating with Him.  Thus, prayer and daily Bible reading are essential.

Be mindful of who you are looking for....he is not in a red cape or all black attire. He is disguised as a lion.  Prowling around seeking whom he may devour. He is lurking in the background of your life waiting for the opportunity to jump.  Like a lion who longs to satisfy his hunger, Satan has no regret when he attacks. The exact opposite, he is roaring with satisfaction.

As Christians, we are to be vigilantly aware but not fearful. We are not weak but are to be strong in Christ Jesus our Lord.

For he (GOD) will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways;
12 they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra; 
you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

This is an exert from a passage in Psalms I it, it will satisfy the longings of your soul; stand firm in who you are as a Christian. Oh, and when you fall to the tempter (you will, you are human), get back up and remember you serve a mighty God, let that define you, not one poor choice.  

Psalm 91

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”
Surely he will save you
    from the fowler’s snare
    and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night,
    nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
    nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
    ten thousand at your right hand,
    but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes
    and see the punishment of the wicked.
If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
    and you make the Most High your dwelling,
10 no harm will overtake you,
    no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you in all your ways;
12 they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
    you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
14 “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
    I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
15 He will call on me, and I will answer him;
    I will be with him in trouble,
    I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
    and show him my salvation.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Why I Couldn't Let the Scammer Win....

If you read my earlier blog "I was 'held captive" for two hours and scammed out of $1500," this is the rest of the story...

I won't recap that story but you can visit the post before this one if you didn't see it earlier.  I remained appalled that after 20 years of social work experience and as much involvement with law enforcement that I would become a victim so easily.  But, we all know I did.  As soon as I had my ah-ha moment I knew I had to come up fighting.

My personality is that of a fighter.  I never quit.  I always fight for right.  I tell others we do what's right even when it's hard to do.  I guess I should have been preaching to the choir aka myself.  So at the moment I realized I had been "hoodwinked" I knew it was not time to quit.

I went in to overdrive. I won't bore you with the details but I will say with the power and spunk of the Tasmanian Devil I started trying to protect myself.

I found out this morning that I had been able to get back $999 of the $1,500 I was scammed out of. I reported the case to law enforcement to attempt to find the scammers and to attempt to get the rest of my money back.  That is their job and I will let them do it.  

I found some satisfaction that I had out scammed the scammer and retrieved some of the money.  I know I still lost some but I am getting my money's worth out of it.  I have had over 5,000 hits on my blog and spoke about it on the morning drive yesterday with Chris Beckham to reach hundreds or thousands more.  

I don't need (or want) the attention but I did need to make sure other people do not fall prey to this.  I needed people to understand it is so much more than a call asking for personal information but a ploy to get in your head and cause you to do something you would never dream of.  Remember my trust in law enforcement was used as a way to get me to "drive to the sheriffs department" to write a statement.  Only after my "departure" did the manipulation begin.  

I have spoken to dozens of people who called me after this to tell me they were in the process of being scammed or had been scammed.  Seven people called me the next day and said they received the same call that day some of which were ready to hand over money because it was so convincing.  Another person told of having a spouse purchasing cards before they realized it was a scam.  The awareness from the sheriffs office and my blog stopped these people from falling victim to this. Mission accomplished.  People understood and could reflect on what I had written.  

Knowledge is powerful. I am thankful I could pass the knowledge on.  

What to do?  

1.  If someone claims to be law enforcement -- even if you think you know them -- remember he gave me a name of a true law enforcement officer --- hang up, call 911. If they are legit, they won't fault you for verifying.

2.  If someone tells you they have your address & they are coming to your home, be safe not sorry. Call 911.

3.  Trust your instincts.  Remember I had that "this doesn't feel right" kind of feeling more than once but doubted myself.

4.  Never give your location to anyone. I allowed the impostor to convince me I had to share where I was since I was "turning myself in."  I could have been abducted anywhere along the route.  Scarier thought than losing money.

5.  Remember knowledge is power so if you make a mistake let others learn from it.  Scammers aka criminals want you to feel embarrassed or afraid so you will not issue a warning.  Don't let them control you. 

My blog has always been just a way for me to share my story, a way to share insights. It does not meet most ELA rules. Its title Romans 8:28 Living was derived from that verse..."and we know all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose."  How could I consider letting this not be  used for good?  Shouting it from the rooftops to help others protect themselves and those they love. It doesn't just happen to elderly (which is truly what many of you were thinking)-- it could happen to you, be ready to rock if it does! 

You are now armed with the knowledge of how to protect yourself. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

I was "held captive" for two hours and robbed of $1500--BEWARE OF SCAM

I am the most skeptical person you will meet. I question almost everything and analyze most things from all angles.  This being said, I am still in shock that I fell prey to this scam.

I was threatened with jail, accused of missing grand jury duty, and manipulated by one skilled con artist.

It was 4:40pm when I received a call that a bench warrant had been issued for my arrest. This was allegedly issued because I missed grand jury summons on June 23rd.  I was told if I hung up the phone, I would be interfering with an arrest and jailed for the night.  I was told I was being "done a favor" to keep this off my record since I had a clean criminal record, therefore, if I produced $1,500 and brought it to the Lowndes County Sheriff's Office, I would get to go home tonight.

I protested and asked for the deputies name and sergeants name. I was given legitimate names of officers I knew by name. I told the deputy I was not comfortable with this conversation and insisted on speaking to someone else. Another person, posing as a Captain, gave me a name of an officer that I also knew of by name through my work.  When I resisted stating I had worked with the sheriffs department for 20 years and I wanted to speak with the sheriff, I was told if I disconnected the call, I would be arrested and spend the night in jail.

When I protested and said I had not been served jury duty, the alleged captain told me I could come to the sheriffs department and write a statement as such but I must present the $1,500 or go to jail for the night.  I argued that you can't wait until 5:00 pm to call someone and expect them to produce that much money.  He said he will walk me through how to get Reloadit Cards so I can go home to my family tonight.

Multiple times I asked for confirmation, he mentioned other officers names I knew, he referenced judges who I told him I had cell number to so I would call them to verify; impostor said he had worked with the sheriff (whom he called by name) for so many years. He told me if I attempted to call any of them he would not release my warrant which he was in complete control of and have me in jail for the night.  I said I have a right to an attorney etc. He told me if I wanted to call people, I could come there and he would let me spend the night in jail.  He knew my address. I still tried to call a judge I knew.  No answer.  The "captain" called back said deputies were en route. I hung up, called my husband.  "Captain" calls back.

I hesitated but then decided if he is telling me to come to the jail with the money, what do I have to lose?  I would go get the cards and go to the sheriffs department.  I was not being asked for any personal information or anything. He knew my address, knew names of officers I knew, threatened me with jail, accused me of trying to use my connections to avoid consequences for which he would make me spend the night in jail.  I caved.

I was told my calls were being recorded, I had a limited amount of time to get to the sheriffs department, I could not use a bondsman because of the time of day.  I was threatened if I sent a text or tried to call anyone else, I would be interfering with my arrest which would be another charge.

I went to Winn Dixie. I bought the cards. They only come in $500 increments.  I was told I had to stay on the phone. I was told if I mentioned to anyone at Winn Dixie why I was buying the cards, I would not be allowed to purchase them so I would not have the money to get out of jail so I again would spend the night in jail.  At 5:20pm, I buy the first card.  I got disconnected. He called back immediately and told me I was trying him and he was about to refuse to drop the warrant. I bought card number 2.  I then was told by the cashier I was not able to buy the third card because of limits. Alleged officer tells me to walk to my car.  He tells me to read him the card numbers to include a private scratch off serial number.  I hesitate, tell him this does not feel right.  I tell him it feels like a scam. He tells me I am going to be arrested...a deputy would be on the way....this was protocol.

I am sure it is part of their intention. I am nervous at this point, not thinking as clearly as I normally do.  Therefore, my guard is down. I have been "held hostage" on the phone for an hour at this point.

I drive to the sheriffs department. I tell him I am in your parking lot and state if you want this, come outside and get it. He tells me I am trying him.  If I contact any officer or come in without the money, I will be arrested.  I hesitate. I pray. I determine in my mind, I can't spend the night in jail.  I decide the worst thing that can happen to me is I lose the money which I came to terms was better than sitting in jail for the night.  I would take my risk.

I give him a false serial number. He tells me it is wrong and he is beginning not to trust me (hello!).  He tells me to go to the bank and get the other card.  He asks me to give him the serial numbers. I tell him I am driving and cannot. He threatens me.  I cave and give him one.  I pretend not to find the second one.  I am threatened continuously with jail time.  Mind you the entire time, he is answering a radio, answers another call stating Lowndes County when he answers the phone.  He talks to officers by name who I know to be legit names.  He talks on the radio using Valdosta addresses as if he is talking to other deputies on the radio.  He tells me over and over again names of the clerk, judges, officers and basically dares me to hang up unless I want to be arrested.

I return and get the third card.  I begin to get scared. I am scared of a scam, but I honestly was more scared of going to jail. I give him the cards.  He then tells me there are technical difficulties so I can go home but I must stay on the phone to him for 45 minute since I have an active arrest warrant. I must mail him the receipts where I bought the cards. He gives me the name of someone to send them to at the clerks office. I go to Dollar General which is close.  I mute him.  I ask to use the phone. I call a detective I know who says I have been scammed. I return to Winn Dixie. It is too late. Nothing I can do.  I come home and hold for almost four hours with Reload it who opens a scam case.

I am savvy enough to open a reload it account online rapidly and attempt to outsmart the scammer. I think I grabbed the last two cards back before he cashed them out. I am waiting to see.  IF that is the case, I am out $500.  If not, I am out $1,500.

I am warning you because this felt real. I work with the sheriffs department all the time at work and I fell for this. I have multiple judges cell numbers in my phone. I have the sheriffs cell number. I know the detectives and have their numbers. I drove to the sheriffs department and let him scare me in to not going inside!!!  Yet, I FELL FOR THIS! It scares me who else will.  Thus, I warn you.  The cell number was 229-206-8660. It said Sylvester, GA on my phone. I googled it, and the number is out of Worth County. I am sure it is a burner and there may be nothing that can be done but I can warn you.  BEWARE!

I felt like I was a prisoner on the phone for two hours.  I believed I could not hang up. I am shocked at myself.  I am embarrassed on so many levels but I knew I needed to share to protect others.  This consumed SIX hours of my time by the time I got on the phone to Reloadit.  It is as much a mind game as it is anything else. I NEVER believed I would allow something like this to happen or that I would be able to be manipulated!  Therefore, don't say I would never let something like this happen to me.  Believe me, if it can happen to me, it can happen to you!

In the beginning of this call, I would never have agreed to give a serial number or any personal information.  They know this.  They spent two hours playing with my mind and emotions so that my guard was down and I would fall prey to this.  Never say never.  You will eat those words---and that will be the most expensive meal you ever have.

I believe there is a reason for everything so I knew I could not just sit over here embarrassed and not tell people because of my pride. I knew I must need to warn someone.  I am on a mission to find out who did this but even more so to keep anyone else from falling for this.