This boomer says, a little paranoia goes a long way

Something every baby boomer knows, especially since we didn’t grow up with phone scammers in our lives, is that we wish they would go away. But as former San Francisco Chronicle humor columnist Nick Hoppe learned when he dug deep, it’s a living.

Always on the lookout for a little extra income, I slid my laptop over to my wife at the kitchen table the other day.

“Check it out,” I said as she reluctantly checked my screen. “The average salary listed on Glassdoor.com for a Phone Scammer is $31,284.”

Call center.

I wasn’t kidding. Glassdoor is a nationally recognized platform that allows users to anonymously submit and view salaries for various industries. And Phone Scammers was apparently a job classification.

“I think they meant call centers,” my wife replied as she scanned the listing. “I’m not sure why they classified it as ‘Phone Scammers’.”

“Because it’s all the rage,” I explained. “Maybe you start out in a legitimate call center doing surveys or something, but I’m sure you can graduate to a full-fledged scammer in no time at all.”

“Besides,” I added, “I get at least two or three scam calls every day. It would be nice to hear from you.”

“Sounds like too much work to me,” she said, sliding the laptop back over to me. “I don’t like people hanging up on me. How about email scams instead?”

“That could be lucrative,” I replied, quickly doing some research. “It says here that American consumers lost $56 billion to identity fraud in 2020, much of it over the internet. And 49 million Americans were victims.”

Before she could answer, an email came in. It was from a very good friend of mine, and it only said “We want to share some good news with you” and then had a link to a TikTok video.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. I wasn’t falling for this one. I didn’t dare click on the link. My friend would have been more expressive. He had surely been hacked and some criminal was just waiting to get me somehow, someway.

That explains why we didn’t learn about his son’s engagement until about three days later.

Paranoia reigns supreme these days, and rightly so. There is a feeding frenzy among scammers just waiting to steal your money, your assets and your identity. And I’m betting they’re making more than $31,284 a year, or else it wouldn’t be so prevalent.

There are so many different types, and many are getting old. You don’t hear much anymore about your long lost relative in Nigeria that left millions to you, or your acquaintance who was mugged in Mongolia and needs money wired to get home.

Others are sticking around. The top 10 still includes social security card fraud, Amazon deliveries, free prizes, computer tech support (I almost fell for that one), grandchild imposter, and phony debt collection. They’re all easily identifiable if you’re aware of the danger. Sadly, many people are not.

Nick Hoppe

Then there are the highly sophisticated scams. There are some very smart criminals out there, tech-savvy and ready to pounce. They’re getting better and better at what they do, and that’s not a good thing.

My company was recently hit with an elaborate scam, and we barely escaped. The scammers posed as Bank of America employees, and they were very, very believable.

First it was text messages, then phone calls, then emails. All seemed legitimate. Our office checked to make sure they were actually Bank of America employees, and they were. Except the scammers had imperceptibly altered the email addresses of the actual bank employees.

At the last minute, a lucky break alerted us to the impostors, and we managed to avert a major loss. The scammers just moved on to their next victim, and sooner or later they’ll be successful. They are very good at their illegal and disgusting craft.

We alerted the bank and the authorities, but there is nothing they could do. It’s happening every minute of every day, and they’re overwhelmed. It’s really up to the potential victims to be vigilant. The only way to put these bastards out of business is to not let them be successful.

So don’t reply to strange texts, don’t click on any unknown links, and hang up the phone if it’s a robocall or someone you don’t know. These scammers are fishing for a nibble, and once they get you on the line, it’s all over.

You might miss out on an engagement announcement, like we did, but that’s a small price to pay.

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Nick Hoppe’s latest book is, “Some Books Aren’t Meant To Be Sold: A Collection of Humor Columns.”

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