inessential by Brent Simmons

693,500 Scams

1995 was the year the internet went mainstream. That’s the year when it seemed like everybody got email accounts and web browsers.

It was funny watching TV back then, because the announcers always said "aitch tea tea pea colon forward-slash forward-slash double-you double-you double-you period…” (These days you just get a hashtag. One day we’ll look back on that and laugh.)

In 1995 I was 27 years old. Nobody had ever tried to scam me (at least, not that I noticed). Here’s the thing: though TV and movies made it seem otherwise, most people didn’t run into actual con men. Cons were rare.

And now, by my estimation, people have tried to scam me 693,500 times via email. (Assume an average of 100 scams a day for the last 19 years. These days it’s closer to 200 a day.)

Grifters used to have to work hard for a living. I miss that.

* * *

The immorality that inflames me is when people prey on vulnerable people.

“Vulnerable” could mean desperate, overly-trusting, poorly educated, forgetful, less-abled physically, less-privileged, less-well-connected, and so on.

And it’s my extreme good fortune to be less vulnerable than most everybody else on the planet in the history of the world.

But I know two things: that position could change on any very bad day, and that position will change in the future. (The problems of aging get to everybody lucky enough to make it that far.)

Knowing that one day I will be more vulnerable to predators than I am now doesn’t make me any more sympathetic to the people who are already more vulnerable than I am. I’m very sympathetic.

But it’s not a bad reminder, either. Sometimes I look at a piece of email and wonder how I’ll figure out if it’s really my bank when I’m 80 years old. And I’m not sure I’ll succeed 100% of the time, and it really needs to be 100% of the time.

Which reminds me that there are people all over having a hell of a time right now. Today.