Once when I wore a younger man’s suit I would take anything free. I assumed it was my right to get something free.
Then I had a conversation with my grandfather. If anybody knew how to squeeze a buffalo out of a nickel, it was my grandfather. But you couldn’t trick him by offering him something free.
He said to me, “Son, if it’s free, it ain’t for me.”
Explaining that, he said, “For everything free, somebody, somewhere has to pay for it.”
At the time, I just chuckled and fluffed off this advice. After all, if I’m offered something free I’m going to jump and even dance to get it.
Getting something free wasn’t too bad, and I tried to be careful about some of these free offers. But that was back in the day when there was no Internet or websites. Oh, those were the good old days.
I would see a free offer in the newspaper and immediately cut it out and send it in and wait for that free offer to come. I must say I did get a lot of free things back in those days, but if I would examine them, they weren’t worth the postage I used to send for them.
Also, there were free offers on TV programs at the time. I applied for as many as I could get.
But then came the Internet, and everything has changed.
When I first started seeing these “free” offers, I jumped at the opportunity. After all, it was the Internet, and you didn’t have to spend any money on postage. So I was in my glory. After all, you can trust the Internet.
I got free pens, a free hat, a free notebook, and boy, it goes on and on and on. All I had to do was send my name and address, and everything was fine.
My fun was just beginning.
The change was that now I could get something free if I just paid the shipping. I didn’t think that was too bad, I was just thinking about what I was getting for free.
Not being too sophisticated about how this works, I entered my name, address, phone number, and then [drumroll] my credit card number. After all, I was getting something free, and I only had to pay the shipping.
I know I’m an old country boy that’s very naïve along these lines. I wouldn’t rob anybody, so I don’t think anybody would rob me. It goes both ways.
Pretty soon, those sunny days were overcome by a dark cloud of rain and thunderstorms.
In checking my bank account, I noticed some suspicious withdrawals on my account. I thought maybe I bought something I had forgotten about, so I didn’t give it much thought.
Then one day, I noticed in my bank account a withdrawal of $1,699, which took place in California. I was in California, but that was 20 years ago. How I was able to purchase something in California for such an amount of money, I don’t know.
Then the next day, a withdrawal of $3,699, which took place in Texas.
I rode my snorting horse to the bank to see what in the world was going on.
“Have you ever,” the banker said to me, “ordered something online and used your credit card?”
“I don’t order anything online, particularly that expensive.”
She looked at my account very carefully and then look back at me, “Have you ever used your credit card online?”
“The only time I do is when I am taking advantage of some free product where I only pay the shipping.”
“So,” she said rather hesitatingly, “you have used your credit card online for some purchase.”
There was a long pause in the office while she continued looking at my account online.
“You do know that when you use your credit card online, some people can scam that account and use it to make purchases?”
Staring at her, I said, “Who in the world would do something like that?”
I don’t think I heard a chuckle but I thought I sensed a smile in her direction.
“Who would do something like that?” Then she read to me from my account the fraudulent companies that extracted money from my account.
She then explained to me the new normal for online transactions. According to her, when you apply for some free gift and only have to pay the shipping, you expose yourself to some fraud scheme.
“Somebody out there,” she said very soberly, ” is interested in your money, and they don’t care how they get it.”
From my side of the room came a deep, heartfelt sigh. I never expected people just to take advantage of me to get my money. They need to find out that I don’t have enough money to go around.
She then explained to me that she could reverse all of these transactions and turn them over to the bank’s fraud department, and they would take care of it.
In a few days, those transactions disappeared from my account. I then understood what my grandfather used to say, “If it’s free, it ain’t for me.”
I can only trust God. “O Lord my God, in thee do I put my trust: save me from all them that persecute me, and deliver me” (Psalm 7:1).
God will never scam me.