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Sunday, February 16, 2014

It's Not the Problem... It's How I Reacted That Made This Upside Down ... Real Story Revealed!

It was December the year 2009, the trend of iPhone was great here in Egypt. Everyone was so desperate to have a phone like this. I really didn't have enough money on me to buy at least one Iphone. I was a dental student back then, who was eager to explore business without having a slightest clue on how it works. I remember this time Apple launched the new 3Gs iPhone. It was around 599 $ (USD) and that was far beyond my budget. So I searched the web seeking to find a decent price to come across a company who sells each 3gs iPhone for 250$. When I saw this I was like noway. I checked the company's legitimacy by searching for genuine reviews from real people to find over hundreds of people saying great stuff about it. Amazing videos from real people testimonials on how the company delivers iPhone 3gs around the globe. This company named Phone-link limited it was in Birmingham, UK.

I got more excited when they said this is a special offer (because of Christmas) that will end this month. So I rushed myself to call them on the provided UK phone number (on their official website). To find a decent guy named Mr. Hammad Ali replaying in a welcoming tone. My conversation was based on 3 simple questions?

- How much is Iphone 3gs?
- Do you deliver to Egypt?
- How do you take payments?

(( now if I had a time machine I would go back and slap me on the back of my head for being so stupid and naive for asking silly questions like that))

In order to get an iPhone for 250$ i needed to buy 4 (based on their offer). So I contacted some of my friends and they agreed to be included on that offer with me. They gave me the money and the next thing I was at western union sending 1000 USD to UK under the name of this company.

Transaction completed for the first time he called me and said; " thank you for your purchase, Mr Saleh. You will need to wait 7 business days" .... "You are welcome" .... "Mr Saleh we would like to offer you a free ipod on top of your purchase to become our loyal customer" ... "That is very generous thanks Mr. hammad" ((Conversation ended))

3 days later he sent me an email attached with it a piece of paper from Phonelink limited saying that all of my purchases are held at the UK customs and its needed to pay an estimate of 500 USD to free them. I was a bit furious to here this news! so here I was again at western union sending them the requested amount. A day later he called me and kept apologizing for the inconvenience and requested a 150 usd for shipping fees. Then I disagreed with complete temper so I ended the call and kept self thinking if this was all a big SCAM. My mind was so far away to believe its a fraudulent scheme. I ran to my all previous emails to analyze it more. To find a new notification message from him with a tracking number to all my purchased products. This dissolved any suspicion born during this momentum. It was a tracking number on "Flynex" company. So far I am back to my comfort zone I called him to resolve any misinterpretation from my behalf. However the call ended with him needing this 150 USD. So I said to myself the guy isn't lying and its my first time to proceed in stuff like this. Hours later, I Paid the amount needed.

It didn't end there and the story had many details that can be written down in 20 pages long. The courier delivery service "Flynex" wasn't really  a real company. It was a huge fake website that generated tracking numbers. It was very similar to Fedex only without the delivery. I contacted a friend to visit the provided address of "Flynex". Guess what it was a name of a guy who lived in the address they provided. The England authorities interfered to put an end to this. Not only because of my highly frequent reports to but along thousands around the world who got scammed too. However The wild part didn't come yet, there were actually a company named Phonelink limited in the given address on the official site. But the owners knew nothing about the site in their name nor the whole scam process. It did not end there. I began doing personal investigation tracking all messages I got from the whole beginning... I got shocked when I checked the IP it was sent from to find it wasn't from UK!

It was from Lagos, Nigeria. It seemed the suspect had a UK phone number running all this whole scam business offshore. Along with several assistants in UK and in Egypt. I don't know how he did it but the rest of details I skipped in my story was here in Egypt. He kept giving me Egyptian phone numbers telling me these are from Egyptian customs and your shipment is held there. They were native Egyptian speakers who kept giving me believable reasons on why my shipment was held. To be honest after hearing someone talking to me with my mother tongue it was a huge relieve to believe that it wasn't fraud. But I think this was an awful tasting experience that I had to get along that wrong path I was set. And it felt more painful than a brick hit on a bold wet head.

My dad was great help as he raised me up to move on from this awful experience. He supported me but with complete criticism and he was absolutely correct. Along with my mom's words to relief the ace of lack of self esteem that I dropped into. After getting myself into several deceptions along with fooling, cheating and ultimate lies. Their guidance were from another continent, another land but I guess their voice and guidance was so near to my heart to reclaim lost faith.

It is one thing to be deceived by another person, and quite another to "fool yourself" to belief that "another person". Finding myself became subject of manipulation and control defrauded from the truth. This doesn't mean I never been lied to before but usually lasted short term. A moment or two. But this took nearly a month. He was so good covering his dirt of lies and as the time my status of uncertainty and suspicious rose he dropped a blanket on it with powerful persuasion words and actions.

The old saying that "truth is stranger than fiction" couldn't be more accurate. Being deceived on such great scale making it for me a difficult time in comprehending the full extent. got controlled for a whole month by someone anonymous !!! how the fudge that happened!!? I was so angry at myself.

Then this turned me into reading this book "Vital Lies, Simple Truths: The Psychology of Self-Deception". Every page I was reading I replied to it with a nodding. The author revealed all the dark corners and full explanation on the human mind. Especially when he mentioned the 3 following principles;

(1) The mind can protect itself against anxiety by dimming awareness.

(2) This mechanism creates a blind spot: a zone of blocked attention and self-deception.

(3) Such blind spots occur at each major level of behavior from the psychological to the social.

who reads this book should recognise dysfunctional aspects of themselves. Therefore I recommend to read it. However my journey did not end their I took it a challenge to learn what is the web? How do you market through the web? Is it reliable like any other business? How to differentiate between a legitimate and a scam website? This problem took me into a wild journey that opened my mind and eyes to diverse aspect of the human nature and behavior. My struggle has just started. I have to address that truth must spread by word of mouth, by we the people, or else it's never told. For that reason I wrote this story that contains critical information along with self-analysis to my reaction. I bet you might have a different point of view on how to react in a catastrophe like this. you are welcome to comment and share your thoughts. Thanks for reading