Flim Flam, Thank You Ma’am

Another phone call. Another earnest woman’s voice speaking slowly, practically whispering, warning me that, although this is not a sales call, I must immediately phone 1-800-BIG-SCAM for information on how to avoid the IRS coming to arrest me.

Before it’s too late.

Before the boogeyman comes.

Before your sins find you out and karmic (or at least financial) retribution is required.

Yikes! Sweaty palms, internal review…did I cheat on my taxes in 1997? Did someone see me jaywalk? Did I accidentally walk away from the grocery store with a case of water in the basket that didn’t get scanned? Is Big Brother coming to get me? OMG!

Having a landline and, despite being thoroughly registered on a no-call list, I sometimes receive up to three phishing expeditions a day. Oddly, other than wishing the phone didn’t ring when I’m watching my favorite heroine save the day, I don’t have much reaction.

Life in the 21st century. Technology in all its forms has promoted the low-level flim flam artists. Pickpockets, criminals, and scammers have migrated to digitally trying to target their victims.

If you use it, you know Facebook is completely rife with scams. I get daily, sometimes twice-daily, friend requests from “serving” military officers whose wives have died. They don’t seem to have any other life – no photos, no posts, just the single, serious military shot with the relationship status, “widowed.” One of my friends who gets similar requests insists we need to launch an investigation into why so many military wives are dying. Maybe it’s fiendish ISIS plot… But we loyal women at home can do so much for these brave, suffering guys in uniform! A few goodies…some cash for a worthy cause…a lot of cash for a worthy cause…all the cash you’ve got for a worthy cause…

Then there is the Blue-Screen-of-Death Scam. You know the one…your screen dissolves, only to be replaced by a dire warning that your computer has caught a bad cold, and who you gonna call? The number on the screen, of course. The helpful guy on the other end will (for about $300) get rid of the virus. He doesn’t mention that his outfit zinged the virus at you in the first place. Any decent computer store can get rid of it (Apple cleaned it up for free and installed a better virus protector). But hey, can you blame those techie crooks for trying? At least they’re polite and only vaguely ominous when you talk to them (yes…I did get as far as a phone call…he had a lovely Australian accent).

So the moral of this story is obviously that the Big Bad Wolves are out there. No difference than always, I guess. Only now they show up, not in person, but via the many high-tech ways the world can reach into our homes. Maybe less threatening, as there are no actual Big Sharp Teeth being bared in our faces, but awfully upsetting on a visceral level.

My phone, my social media accounts, and my computer are mine. My conduit to the world. For me, the scams feel safer because they aren’t up close and personal. Yet, it’s scarier because the barbarians never have to reach the gates to threaten my well-being.

My dogs very effectively scare off any physical intruders, while the so-called computer firewalls only keep out some (as walls will only do). Do you think I could train my pups to answer the phone and monitor Facebook too? After all, time and again, they are my best line of defense…



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