For most of us, the internet has been around long enough for us not to fall for emails claiming to be royalty with a frozen trust fund account, or a secret business venture that is sure to bring you millions (just as soon as you wire a few thousand dollars to an unknown account first that is.)
These spam emails have a history of being generated in another country; their broken and strange English being the give away of a scam, just in case their highly detailed and equally strange story doesn't give it away first.
While most of us know to press the delete button as soon as one of these emails hits our inbox, Ben Taylor in Utah decided to approach the matter a bit differently.
One day, Ben's inbox lit up with an email in very broken English asking for money:
"Helo Sir, wel my name is Joel from Liberia, West Africa. Pls I beg u in name of GOD, I need some assistance from u, business or financial assistance dat will help empower me pls."
Surprisingly, Ben didn't reach for the delete button instantly after reading this email - which was clearly a scam! Instead, against his common sense, he decided to take a chance and reply back seeing how he could help.
Joel from Liberia did write back saying he was a journalist and an English teacher and that he needed some financial help. Ben chose to believe what Joel was saying and decided to offer him some photojournalism work in exchange for some money.
It wasn't a big surprise for Ben when he saw that the pictures Joel was sending back weren't exactly professional. But again, instead of cutting the cord after seeing the fuzzy mess, Ben decided to instead send him a $30 camera and offer even more money if Joel was able to send him 20 pictures.
Joel continued to send blurry pictures, along with his frustration on why Ben was taking so long in sending the money. Ben, staying calm, reminded Joel that he hadn't exactly kept up his end of the bargain and offered up some photography tips that might help Joel create better pictures.
This is when most of us have to agree that Ben is just wasting his time! Well, that is what Ben thought too, until, not too long after the photography tutorial, Ben started receiving pictures from Joel that were actually good and reflective of what a photojournalist would do!
"I initially thought he was trying to scam me, but now I have just come to see him as a guy who's really looking for an opportunity to make some money."
Ben, who had been documenting this back and forth communication via YouTube videos, proved to himself and his audience that Joel wasn't some scammer, but an individual who was willing to work hard:
"I started making YouTube videos about scammers because people thought it was funny to see me messing with them ... but now that they see that Joel's a real person with a heart and a desire to be honest and do good in the world, they've totally turned a corner and now they want to see Joel succeed and are rooting for him."
Ben compiled all of Joel's pictures into a book titled, By D Grace of God, hoping to raise money to send to Joel. Believe it or not, the book campaign raised over $1,300, which Ben was more than happy to send to Joel in increments of $500.
The money which amounted to an annual salary for some in Liberia, gave Joel an opportunity to buy a computer, and equipment to start his own business. Ben was definitely surprised at the eventual turn of events too. He told KSL:
"When you give someone a chance, sometimes they're not who you thought they were. Sometimes they surprise you, and sometimes you end up being the answer to their prayers."
Here is one of Ben's videos of the scam that ended in a life changing opportunity!