By Dr. Harold Sala

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Galatians 6:7

If you believe everything that comes to you by e-mail, you’ll also believe that the Taj Mahal is for sale, that elephants are pink with purple polka dots, and that the world is really flat. There are some who unscrupulously profit from the vulnerability of people who will fall for anything. That’s why some scams never die; they just resurface with a new veneer.  Take, for example, what has been called The Great Nigerian Scam. There’s a good chance that if you do e-mail, you’ve already gotten a version of this.

This urgent message says that your name was given to someone in Nigeria, or Ghana, or Manila or Timbuktu. You are represented as a trustworthy, compassionate, sincere individual who can help a poor soul get her late husband’s stash of $32.5 million USD, and, of that amount, you will make a cool $2 to $4 million just by sending a few thousands to expedite the whole matter.

The latest one which hit our Guidelines’ e-mail box rambled on and on with a logic which was hard to follow. It outlined how Mrs. Nina Zakolo’s late husband was Chief Security Officer for President Mobutu of the Congo; and since he purchased military hardware, he happened to be carrying $32 million when he was killed “only God knows why.” However, you might guess. Send some money, and you get a slice of this.

Scams are nothing new; however, they are more popular than ever. Among the hottest scams today are the following:

Scam #1. Business opportunities. Make money fast. Short on details but long on promises, these scams require an initial investment. The promoter gets rich fast. You lose your money.

Scam #2: Bulk e-mail. The offer: millions of e-mail addresses which you can access to advertise whatever you pitch. The problem: it’s illegal, and, furthermore, internet providers may shut you down. There’s fine print in their contracts which you signed saying you would not do this.

Scam #3: Chain letters.  You are asked to send a small amount of money, which, in turn, will put your name on a list which you forward to your friends who do the same; as your name works up the list, you get rich. The catch: It’s the old pyramid scheme, which is illegal. Almost all those who take the bait end up losing their money.

Scam #4: Work-at-home schemes. Stuff envelopes. Do cottage crafts. Assemble a product. Generally for a lot of money you get needless advice or suggestions you can find in a self-help magazine on the news stand. Or your product isn’t up to quality standards so you get rejection; the scam-artist gets your money.

Scam #5: Health and diet promises. Who doesn’t want health and strength? The catch is that the promises of super new products, which you can’t get any other way, are fraudulent.

Here’s another five which are on the list of something for nothing. Effortless income, free goods, investment opportunities, cable descrambler kits, guaranteed loans or credit. And, yes, vacation or sweepstake prizes.

Scams appeal to our greed–something for nothing; something you don’t have to work for. Getting a good deal at the market is one thing, but getting the widow’s savings and promising her what you can’t deliver is totally another matter.

What’s the bottom line?  If something seems to be too-good-to-be-true, IT USUALLY IS. There’s really nothing that’s free. It’s the law of the harvest, as old as the story of humankind who grew their first crop by manual labor. You reap what you sow, and your sweat is rewarded with a harvest, with profit, with bread and fish. Long ago Paul put it like this: “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows” (Galatians 6:7).  It’s still true today.

Resource reading: Galatians 6