When Forgiveness is the Only Way Out
About three weeks ago I received an innocently forwarded email from a dear friend. When I received it, I opened it to a beautiful website entitled Global Watch Institution. It was offering an international seminar in both New York City, (USA) and Madrid, Spain. The topic was Human Rights and Racism for the NYC venue and Human Rights and Human Trafficking in the Madrid venue. I submitted proposals to speak and was accepted. I was excited.
I was told that all expenses were paid - airfare, hotel in NYC and food - EXCEPT the hotel in Spain with a link to a picture of a beautiful hotel and the choice of rooms. As all hotels accept credit cards, I tried to use mine. No good. I was told their credit card system was "being overhauled" and to send a wire transfer for the room. I believed it and I did it.
Then, there were forms to fill out on letterhead plus a copy of my passport for the travel to Spain. I did it.
Next I was told that those papers would be sent to the US Immigration and Spain Immigration. I received an email letter entitled US Department of Immigration saying an Insurance Bond was required and listed all the reasons and that it was law. I check it out and there is such a US law. The Bond was $1530 USD. At that point I wrote and told them to take me off the event. They wrote and said their "advisory committee" would pay $1100 USD and I was to pay $430 USD. I did it.
The day after I sent it (Western Union, of course) I woke up and knew without a doubt in my head that I had entered - willingly - into a scam. I checked out Global Watch Institution on Google - nothing. I called the said insurance company - no one by that name ever worked there. I call the said immigration law office - no such location. I called the toll free number on the email letter and it was Canadian Immigration. Never heard of him. The hotel number was no good.
I called the FBI's fraud division and filed a report. I call the US Federal Trade Commission and filed a report. On and on and on, one agency after another. I paid the fee and filed the forms to cancel my passport and to be issued a new one.
I went through anger, anxiety, fear, disappointment, not feeling safe and depression. Mostly, I found myself beating myself up for "being stupid," "a total idiot," and so on. I felt totally embarrassed.
When all was said and done a few days later, I sat down with myself, took a deep breath, and decided I must forgive them. If I don't forgive them then I have to judge them. I could very easily judge them as "bad," "horrible," or anything else like that. I was tempted. But then, I would only hurt myself by carrying around those feelings and quite frankly, I am sure they would not care how I feel anyway.
Then came the hardest part: I decided I had to forgive myself for allowing myself to be deceived.
I see no other option. For me, forgiveness is the only way out.