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The Email

      Mildred and I have had a long correspondence, for many years by surface mail and after the invention and popularity of the computer, by email. Mildred, who is a retired teacher, had been my high school history teacher many years ago. Sometimes we would have spirited disagreements by email, over historical subjects, archaeology and The Theory of Evolution. We had been in the middle of several weeks of contentious debate by email, when I received an email from her, in which she complained that she had not heard from me and wondered if I had received her last email. I immediately responded that I had received her email and apologized, if I said anything to offend her.
She then sent me a reply, stating that she was sick with the flu and needed me to purchase a gift card, on-line for her.
      My birthday was coming in a few days, and I had mentioned this in an email. I worried that Mildred was feeling guilty, that she should give me a gift. So, I worried that the gift card, that she requested, was actually intended for me. It seemed peculiar that she could not purchase it on-line herself. However, Mildred was elderly and sometimes forgetful and now, she also said she had the flu.
      I knew that Mildred had several adult children and grandchildren, who lived nearby her and were very helpful, so I did not think she was in great need. I responded to her request for the gift card, asking how much it should be for, and where it was to be used, making it clear that it should only be used in her city. I wanted to make it clear that I did not want her to buy me a gift card (or in effect, ask me to buy my own gift card).
      Much to my chagrin, Mildred responded with very detailed and clear instructions on purchasing, not one, but two gift cards, each $150, obviously intended only for her use. So, this was clearly not her desire to buy me a birthday gift at all. Instead, on my birthday, she was requesting me to buy her two extremely expensive gift cards.
      Alarm bells rang in my head, as this did not seem like Mildred. I replied to Mildred that I was not able to purchase these gift cards, but showed concern for her welfare and asked, “How is Duncan? Is your brother, Eduardo, back from Italy yet?”
(Mildred had no brother and no people in her life, named “Duncan” or “Eduardo”).
The reply from Mildred came swiftly: “Duncan is fine and Eduardo is still in Italy. Thank you for your concern about my welfare. Please send me the gift cards.”
      By now, it was perfectly clear to me, that these emails were not from Mildred. I was alarmed and sent Mildred a text, warning her that her email had been hacked, instructing her to warn her family and friends NOT to send money, and asking if I should notify the police. This text shocked Mildred, but she quickly realized what had happened and took appropriate measures to notify her family and friends. Unfortunately, one had already sent the money, which had been immediately taken by the hacker. Mildred spent hours on the phone with her email provider, to straighten out the situation, as the hacker had had her email forwarded to his address. While this was going on, the hacker “Mildred”, had the audacity to send me an email, insisting that he was STILL REALLY Mildred and demanding the gift cards from me.
      Mildred got her email straightened out, and notified all her contacts, and improved security and we continued our spirited debate, which had only been briefly interrupted by the hacker’s intrusion.
      What can we learn from this? It is always prudent to know our friends and contacts and have multiple ways to contact them. One should be vigilant in spotting scams. As with our friends and acquaintances, even more so, we should cultivate a close relationship with our Heavenly Father, so that we can recognize His voice and leading and not be deceived by an imposter. As my friend, Mildred, would never have asked me to buy her a gift on my birthday, so Our Heavenly Father only desires good and never contradicts His Word, the Bible.
      Jesus said, ‘“I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own and my own know me.”’
[John 10:14]. We must strive to know our Heavenly Father intimately, so we know His voice.