I received a somewhat garbled voicemail threatening arrest if I did not return the call, so I called back and spoke with Frank Harris.
It seemed odd that someone with such a traditionally WASP name should have such a strong accent, but he said he was from Revenue Canada.
Remember the scene in Men In Black II when J (Will Smith) goes to the post office to retrieve Kevin Brown (Tommy Lee Jones) and the people working there looked alien? Most Government offices look just like that…… so I thought it possible his name was Frank.
He informed me that an arrest warrant was pending because I had defrauded the government of $3249. I could settle the matter today by paying the outstanding amount or hire a criminal lawyer to fight in court.
I am usually not so vulnerable, but for some reason I believed this young man. He strung me along for a quite a while.
The longer we spoke the more cracks appeared in his story. After speaking with his supervisor Mark, another WASPy name with a strong accent, I realized it was another scam.
Frank hung up.
A few minutes later I called back and asked to speak with Frank.
Jayess, his real name, and I then chatted about his life, career choices, and his friends. I asked if his mother and grandmother knew what he did for a living. How did he get the job in the first place? Did he think it was okay to steal from others for a living? And on.
I asked him why he was doing this. He said he was confused and wanted to make money to solve his problems. His confusion would only worsen if he continued down this path, stealing from others is no way to make yourself feel better.
I didn’t yell or scream, call the police or report him to the fraud squad. I tried to understand why a young man with such talent – he sucked me right in – would choose this life.
Frank, he’ll always be Frank to me, started to cry on the phone.
He told me he was sorry.
I did not want him to be sorry. Instead I wanted him to learn something from our phone call.
I asked him to do one thing, and one thing only: I wanted him to make an exit plan. It did not have to be for today, tomorrow or even this year, but I wanted him to get out of this business and do something different, then call me and let me know.
He said I reminded him of his mother.
I hope I made a difference in this young man’s life.
I know he made a difference in mine.
Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. His Holiness the Dalai Lama.