Utah man helps Liberian scammer turn his life around
OGDEN — (KSL/CNN) Ogden resident Ben Taylor wasn’t wholly unused to receiving scam messages online when a note popped up on his Facebook one evening.
“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,” the message read.
While Taylor’s common sense told him it would be best to ignore the poorly spelled plea for financial help from a man in Africa, he hadn’t let that stop him in the past. He would often try to waste scammers’ time by responding to their messages, even documenting some of the antics on his YouTube channel. So Taylor decided to bite and — like any good YouTuber — document it.
“How can I help?” he replied, curious to see what Joel had in mind.
Joel told him he was a journalist who taught an English class in Liberia, but he needed some financial help. Taylor asked him if he’d be interested in doing some photojournalism work and asked Joel to send him pictures of the sunset in his country using his phone, promising to wire him some money if he did so.
“I thought it was another one of those (scamming) cases, but he was asking me for money and I thought if I could give him work, provide a way for him to make money, I would do that,” Taylor told KSL. “It was really kind of a social experiment to see if he would be willing to do work in exchange for a little bit of money.”
And to Taylor’s surprise, he was.
“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.”
Customers have been tweeting pictures of their book with the hashtag #bookofjoel, and the photos are rolling in from all over the world.
“He just comes off to me as a really genuine guy. He’s a person of faith who puts his faith in God that things will work out. He looks for the best in people," Taylor said. "I thought I would waste his time by giving him these menial tasks of taking pictures around his village, but it turns out that he was willing to put in the work. … He was really just a guy that was down on his luck and looking for work."
“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.”
Taylor has documented the entire saga in a 16-episode YouTube series here. Those wishing to purchase a copy of "By D Grace of God" can buy it here.