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The internet is not your friend. Oh, I bet you’ve tried some lovely recipes from it, had ideas on how to build a doggie bed, learned what mesothelioma is, found out whether Barbara Billingsley is still alive, taken directions through Lubbock, but I’m almost positive you’ve had emails from the widow of a Nigerian prince who wants you to take custody of “seven million of dollars American” and earn a small commission if you’ll just share your account number… Perhaps you’ve considered buying the temptingly low-priced Audi that an Army Ranger in Spokane has to sell in a hurry because he’s being deployed somewhere sweaty and dangerous, and he will even ship it directly to you out of the kindness of his heart. There was a time when our grandpas took us to carnivals and explained the clever tricks that the barkers and charlatans used, the optical illusions, the ploys and diversions to cajole us into one more coin’s worth of shots in vain at knocking the coconut off the stick, popping a balloon with a dart, or whatever. We observed, we learned, we even enjoyed watching others try and fail, but most of all we were wiser for it, plus we had a belly full of cotton candy and fingers covered in sticky toffee. Point is, there was someone to warn us of the schemes that carneys use to part us from our few coins, and life’s lessons were learned on those days. They prepared us well for what lay ahead, when gypsies offered to pave our driveways, salesmen in vans had a few steaks left over from a nearby delivery, and shoe-siders told us their nieces needed emergency surgery. Generally, we were just aware of what shenanigans the seedy underworld might try on the unsuspecting. Alas, the same cannot be said for those of us who have repeatedly fallen victim to the new scams of the 21st century, and it could be the onslaught is so severe, so overwhelming, the tricks so sly, that we are all eventually conned by at least one. I should add here that I haven’t yet. But we all know someone who has, which means the likelihood is high that we’re next. Every day, the email inbox, the social media message folder, even the very cellphone itself, are under attack. The tricks come fast and furious, day and night, and take all forms, from the obviously crooked and frankly quite absurd to the sneaky, the offensive and the threatening. The most vulnerable are going to be the prime targets. Scammers have no scruples. They are not individuals, sitting in a darkened bedroom somewhere in Michigan; they are hordes of singleminded crooks operating out of office buildings on the other side of the Pacific. They don’t care who you are, they don’t care who your grandma is; they don’t give a damn about your circumstances, how long it took to earn your savings, or what you hope to do with your nest egg one day. They are out for one thing alone: Your money. They will launch a barrage of falsehoods, pretend to be lonely singles working overseas, claim to be government agents, tell you there are warrants for your arrest, say they’ve kidnapped your granddaughter and will cut off her fingers, bully you and put you in fear for your own life. They simply don’t care about you as a person. Those lonely singles? Yep, that’s an office suite full of men messaging hundreds upon hundreds of American widows all at once. The pictures are fake, the stories are fake… everything is fake. One day, a kindly lady in the Heartland will send a few hundred dollars to help that troubled and handsome man, and the next her remaining savings will be gone. Barbara Billingsley is dead and, I fear, so is common human decency.