“Davey, is you ok?”
His mother’s accent came through stronger than usual whenever she was panicking. David sighed, turning off the speaker on his phone. Another melodrama! He was sure it would be something not worth discussing. As always.
“I’m fine, mom. What happened this time?”
“Oh, I glad you ok. So, they get money all right?”
David sat up feeling like something yucky stirred in his stomach in anticipation of trouble.
“What money, mom? What are you talking about?”
She went into a long confusing story but he finally was able to get the gist.
His mother just got back from another doctor’s appointment. She was tired, her sugar was getting low and she remembered she didn’t have a proper breakfast yet. She rushed to the kitchen getting her little containers out of the old fridge with a squeaky door. Mom always liked to surround herself with her favorite snacks so she could sit down and enjoy her food uninterrupted. It was her routine for many years. The kids knew it and tried not to disturb her during that time since they were very young. That was her “me” time.
She just poured herself some tea when her phone beeped and lit up with a text message. She hesitated but decided to check on it, grabbing for the phone impatiently. However, as soon as she read it, she slapped her hand on her chest and plopped down heavily in her chair with a loud “oh” sound. The message read:
Attention! Your son was arrested yesterday near the JFK Airport. He is in urgent need of bail money. Please use the link below to transfer $5000 and reference a case #5789KS00
David’s mom rushed around not sure what to do and where to call. She knocked down her tea cup but didn’t notice it. Raised in a communistic country, she could only imagine what they would do to her baby in that jail! It didn’t occur to her to call him – surely, they took his phone away! A momentary thought skipped through to maybe try to call her daughter. Helen was five years older than David but she had a lot going on so his mother decided not to bother her. Anxiety was building. She felt how minutes were ticking away while she tried to decide what to do. Five thousand was a lot of money! It was nearly all the money she had in her bank account but that didn’t matter when the well-being of her beloved boy was at stake.
Deciding, she clicked on the link in the text message which opened up a ClickPay Hub screen. She sighed with relief – this looked familiar. She used to send money back home to her sister once in a while and always used this program. David taught her. After a few tries, she was able to accurately enter the number of her debit card. She double-checked the case number that was in the text message to make sure the funds will be sent to the correct account before she pressed send. Phew. It will be alright. David is smart, he has his own business. A lot of people worked for him all over the world.
David’s mother glanced at her watch. It would probably take some time for them to process his bail so she should wait. Lunch was forgotten, the spilled tea was drying on the wooden floor that desperately needed some refinishing but she didn’t care. She was sitting and waiting for her boy to call her to say that he was okay. Surely, he will call and thank her. He will explain that it was all a silly misunderstanding, maybe he will even stop by to make sure she was all right after all this worry. The only thing she wasn’t thinking about was the money. It didn’t matter.
She started feeling a bit lightheaded – her lunch was still sitting on her table that was covered by the pinkish faded tablecloth. The watch showed that almost two hours had passed since the moment she sent the money and received a confirmation of delivery. Why wasn’t he calling? She couldn’t take it anymore and called David herself. He picked up after the third ring.
“Davey, is you ok?” Mother almost screamed at him.
After David was able to calm her down, he explained, as much as he could, that he was never in jail. Mom had a hard time grasping the scamming concept but eventually understood that they lied to her. He heard how she started to cry and clenched his fist in anger. His mother wasn’t well. This kind of stress was the last thing she needed!
“Mom, I have to take care of a few things at work and will come over. Maybe we could have dinner together? I will bring some Chinese, how does that sound?”
Her spirit soared instantly. Mom was always in the good mood for days after her kids visited. Coupled with her favorite New York grease Chinese food, the day will surely turn around for the best. Thank goodness she wasn’t taken for a ride for more money! Five thousand he could manage to replace.
David stood up looking around his office. How ironic – no one would believe this even if he’d talk about it which of course he wasn’t planning on doing. Behind the glass wall, he saw about a dozen desks with mostly young computer geeks that were busy pulling data from the sites and dumping it into the general database. Most of them had no idea what they were doing, sacredly believing that they were analyzing various consumer reports and surveys.
There were others… spread across multiple countries working out of coffee shops and malls. They were the ones who were strictly instructed not to work for more than two days out of the same location. They also had no idea of the end result of their efforts, thinking they were doing creative work compiling “training” sample messages that could be used in emergency situations.
It was his simple and brilliant idea, many years ago when text messages first started surfacing around the world. A talented software developer himself, a graduate of the prestigious university he was everything his mother hoped and dreamed he would become but David was not satisfied. He couldn’t stand to stay within four walls working day in and day out on stupid projects that were assigned to him by people that were not even close to his level of intelligence and skills. It took him nearly ten years but he managed to build his business. His model worked great. He hired mostly interns so no one stayed with him for more than a few months. He paid well and no one ever questioned the work’s final outcome. Slowly but steadily his platform evolved and grew. Lately, he was raking in thousands every day. He never stopped and thought about the people that he was stealing from feeling that his hard work and talent deserved more than “honest” labor could ever give him.
Despite all of David’s wrongdoings, he was a man of high morals. It was strange how such differences in personality could have existed in one person. He was capable with equal ease to rob an old man of his last pennies and risk his life trying to save a homeless dog from the oncoming traffic - all in one day. David went to the synagogue on big holidays, generously donated to those in need, and loved his mother. His sister and his mother were the only people in his life that he cared about. And now… Now he was getting angry. His Karma caught up with him. He glanced at the piece of paper where he wrote down the fake case number his mother dictated to him. David knew this combination. This was another dazzling idea of his – based on the last couple of characters he knew where the message came from. This one was sent to his mother from his hub in Czech … How ironic!
David stepped outside and bought a pack of cigarettes. He hasn’t done that in almost fifteen years, ever since his father died of lung cancer. He knew how lucky he was today. Stress like that could have killed his mother – the only person that always thought that he could do no wrong. He kicked the cigarette butt to the side taking another deep breath. The simple decision came to him in one swift motion.
David came back to the office. He told everyone to take the rest of the day off before he locked up and went back outside. He stopped by the favorite Chinese restaurant ordering tons of food knowing well that his mother will pack it away into her tiny containers and savor this treat for the next week bragging to all her friends about how attentive her son was. Loaded with multiple bags, David ran a few flights of stairs into the subway deciding that in New York’s rush hour he would make it to his mother’s faster by train than by car. An hour later, he was sitting in her tiny kitchen that got immediately filled with the aromas of their dishes. His mother kept getting up to hug him, happy nothing happened to her boy. David didn’t mind. He was equally relieved that the only damage that was done today was to her bank account which he already replenished. To his mother’s endless joy, he decided to spend the night, watched a few old movies with her, patiently nodding to her chitchat, looking forward to how he’d surprise her in the morning with some of the fresh bagels from her favorite Brooklyn bakery. He hinted to his mother that he had an idea for a new business endeavor and she might hear about it very soon.
A year passed by. David’s mother was sitting in front of her TV when a new commercial came up. She heard the music and smiled widely – she already knew it well. David’s voice behind the scene started talking over different images of people devastated by the loss of their savings to the scammers. His face popped up at the end, offering people to reach out to his company if they wanted help with recovering their money… for a mere ten percent of the lost amount.
David was sitting in the same office that now looked much more presentable. The minute the idea popped into his head a year ago, he knew he could still make a shit load of money by helping people and punishing scammers all around the world. Who, if not David, knew how to deal with their algorithm and where to find them. It worked like a charm. The phone lines in his office were constantly busy. People were happy to give him a small percentage for the opportunity of getting their cash back. He was profiled as a genius coder-philanthropist in many publications and his mother couldn’t have been prouder. And if he occasionally slipped into his old ways, it was his business… What his mother didn’t know, wouldn’t hurt her.