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November 02, 2015
Life on Planet Kathy
Ravening Wolves
by Kathryn H. Kidd

Several things have happened lately that have reminded me of Jesus’ warning in Matthew 7:15:

Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

We live in a time where we probably encounter these wolves every day of our lives, unless you decide to spend the day in bed with your head under the covers. Here are just a few examples from the past few months.

Fluffy and I have been on Facebook for a couple of years. We resisted it for many years, but kept getting emails from people inviting us to be their Facebook friends. All things considered, we enjoy the Facebook experience. It has brought us closer to family, friends, church folks and other groups that we support and enjoy.

We probably get on Facebook once or twice a day, but sometimes go for days without looking at it. We are not the kind of Facebook people who document our daily lives there. If you want to find out when we use the restroom, you will not find that out on Facebook.

One morning Fluffy turned on his computer to find a couple of strange questions sent via email. “Did you really win $100,000 in the DC Lottery?” asked one. Another email asked “Did you send me a Facebook friend request? I thought we were already friends.”

About that time the phone rang. It was some friends warning us that Fluffy was being spoofed on Facebook. Somebody had opened a new account using the same name as his. They even stole his picture from Facebook and used that for the account picture.

We didn’t even realize you could have two accounts with the same name, but we guess Facebook allows that (good news for all you John Smiths out there).

Then the perpetrators sent out friend requests to all of the friends that Fluffy already had. Those who were unlucky enough to accept those requests then started getting messages “from Fluffy” inviting them to play the lottery or help out a Nigerian prince willing to share a fortune.

Our friends on the phone had realized what was happening, and decided to have a little fun with the fake Fluffy. They responded to his messages and tried (without success) to get a phone number or address from him.

Fluffy did some research on Facebook, and filed a complaint against the new account. There was even a complaint category of “someone is impersonating me,” so this must be something that happens quite often. Within an hour, the new account had disappeared.

The second “wolf” experience also happened on Facebook. We were not involved with this one, but did read about it after the fact. In this case the wolf was not trolling for money, but was just having a little fun at the expense of others. We had to admit that it did give us a chuckle.

Like many businesses, the Target stores have a Facebook account. They use it to advertise sales and new items and to get feedback from their customers. But someone else (with no connection to Target) opened a new account named “Ask Target,” and used the familiar target logo as the picture associated with the account.

“Ask Target” then visited the official Target area on Facebook, leaving snippy responses to the comments of other Target customers as though he were a bona fide Target representative.

If someone complained about the quality of a product or service, the fake Target representative would give a helpful response like this one: “Maybe you are too stupid to shop at Target, and you should spend your money somewhere else.”

Needless to say, “Ask Target” is hardly a great ambassador for the Target name. He does provide a little entertainment for people visiting the Target website, however. The people who suspect that “Ask Target” is not legitimate get a little enjoyment out of his shenanigans. The people who believe he is a legitimate Target employee provide the entertainment by getting angrier and angrier at “Ask Target’s” comments.

My last “wolf” example happened just yesterday. Someone left an “urgent” message on our phone that we needed to call him back toll-free at a number with an 876 prefix. There was something familiar about that prefix, so Fluffy decided to do some research before returning the call. Sure enough, Wikipedia gave us the real scoop:

The 876 area code (Jamaica) has been linked to a form of telephone fraud known as the "one ring scam." The person perpetuating the scam calls the victim via a robo-dialer or similar means, sometimes at odd hours of the night, then hangs up when the phone is answered with the hope that they will be curious enough to call the number back.

When the victim does this, an automatic $19.95 international call fee is charged to their account, as well as $9.00/min thereafter. Similar scams have been linked to Grenada (area code 473), Antigua (area code 268), the Dominican Republic (area code 809) and the British Virgin Islands (area code 284).

President Ronald Reagan used the phrase “trust but verify” when he was in the process of negotiating arms agreements. That is probably a good motto for those of us who live in the age of cross-dressing wolves. We try not to be cynical or negative in our dealings with others. But sometimes a little research can save a lot of grief when that little bell starts ringing in our heads.

I will close, as I opened, with a quote from Jesus:

And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matthew 10: 28)

I’ve met wolves who have stolen my money. That annoyed me and made me less trusting, but I do not fear them. But we should all fear those wolves who covet our souls, and use their dangerous ideas and philosophies to lead us gradually but relentlessly down to hell.

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