August 16, 2012

Don’t Think it Can’t Happen to You.

Lessons from a Yoga Teacher Who got Scammed.

Not too long ago, I threw away nearly a thousand bucks.

Yeah, I got conned, big time. It’s an embarrassing story, but one I think I should tell to help save another vulnerable person from a similar fate.

It started when this guy contacted me by email.

He claimed to have gotten my name from the registry of yoga teachers with which I was affiliated. That made him sound legitimate. He said he lived in an Asian country, but would be coming to town with his wife and father-in-law in the near future, which seemed plausible given that I live in a university town with a significant Asian population. He said he wanted to secure some private yoga sessions for himself and his family during their visit.

He said he would pay me well, and in advance.

A couple things struck me as odd. If money was no option, why didn’t he want to go through the studio where I was working at the time? And why did he want me to come to their hotel?

Still, the lure of easy money drew me in.

My new client sent me a money order for an even greater amount than we had agreed upon. My excitement faded when I received a frantic follow-up email. His wife had gotten confused and mailed me too much money, he claimed; and please, could I wire him the difference by money order as soon as possible? Because he was traveling, I should send the money to him at a London address, which I did. Of course, his check bounced and he stopped responding to my emails.

I know, I know.

He played my trusting, compliant and yet surprisingly greedy nature perfectly.

I was too humiliated to even report the crime. But it took a big toll on my psyche and didn’t do much for my faith in my fellow human beings. What’s wrong with people, I wondered?

How could someone perpetuate such deception?

But, mostly, how could I be so stupid?

I dropped my affiliation with the yoga cooperative although it wasn’t their fault. I just didn’t want my name out there anymore. Yoga teachers are a vulnerable group. Something about the desire to see the good in people combined with the chronic frustration from trying to make a living doing what we love, plus the likely access to other resources that enable us to pursue our dreams.

Yep, I was the perfect victim.

But now I see that my reaction—or lack thereof—compounded the crime. I should have said more sooner and tried to do something to prevent this from happening to someone else. I should have reported it.

I was simply too stunned and ashamed.

These days I’m much more cynical, although I’ll always be an easy mark for practical jokers. I won’t be wiring money to anyone I’ve never met again. And I’m wary of things that sound too good to be true.

There are bigger lessons here. When you put yourself out in the world, there’s always risk involved.

Most people are well-intentioned, but some are not. It takes discernment and some psychological armor to negotiate a public arena. You have to slow down and take time before jumping into anything.

Most of all, I learned to always heed that nagging voice that tells me something’s not quite right. That may not be convenient. Sometimes, it might even offend people. But I don’t plan on making it so easy for anyone to steal from me again.

The money can be replaced.

It’s the self-respect that’s harder to restore.




Editor: Thaddeus Haas

Like elephant yoga on Facebook

Read 7 Comments and Reply

Read 7 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Amy Taylor  |  Contribution: 3,100