TUMBY BAY – Every day I receive up to a dozen spam telephone calls, text messages and emails.
My son and daughter, who spend more time online as part of their work, score double that number.
It seems that the criminals have moved out of the dark alleys, backstreets and the corporate towers and onto the internet.
The amazing thing is that there are so many of them. The web is literally teeming with thieves and confidence tricksters.
It makes you wonder about humanity and why stealing is such a part of its makeup.
Maybe it harks back to our basic survival-of-the-fittest instinct.
And what about that post-expulsion injunction delivered to Moses about not coveting thy neighbour’s goods? That hasn’t worked out well.
A minority of the desperate poor still maintain traditional criminal activities like stealing from each other, fighting among themselves, setting fire to each other’s houses and stealing cars.
And the wealthy, of course, keep their nefarious wheeling and dealing close to their chests with the help of expensive lawyers.
But it’s not these people who have taken over the internet; rather people who have chosen crime as a career. What might be called the professional criminal class.
Computer literacy and a talent for digital forgery has now become an essential part of their skill set.
The stuff I receive from them on my phone and computer ranges from outright scams through to the marginally criminal and then what I consider the legally criminal.
The outright scams involve elaborate attempts to elicit my bank details or to get me to download software that will do the same thing.
A favourite is to advise me that my internet connection will be terminated if I don’t update my details by clicking on the link provided.
Another is to advise me that my credit card couldn’t be debited for a periodical payment and I need to provide the account details again.
The marginal stuff takes a different form and often involves convincing me to buy something so I can enter a lottery that may or may not be fictitious but is also probably rigged.
The legally criminal involves things like junk insurance for me, my funeral costs and even my dog, plus fabulous investment opportunities and dodgy Ponzi schemes.
These marginal and legal scams are also flogged on commercial television, along with expensive tubs of differently coloured petrochemical by-products that promise to make me look 20 years younger.
While a lot of the scams on the internet predate the digital revolution, these days they have one distinct advantage - the ability to finely target their victims.
This is enabled by data collecting and scraping. There’s a brisk trade in personal data harvested by big companies like Google and Facebook but also data assembled by hackers.
Some hackers even manage to crack government data collections and sell the information to buyers blithely unconcerned about their motives or means.
Data collection is a grey legal area and seems to be beyond the ability of regulatory authorities to police. This makes the internet not dissimilar to the Wild West.
If you are a regular internet user you can be sure that somewhere out there in cyber space you have one or more personal profiles that get traded around.
The more you use the internet the more detail gets recorded about you. Search the internet for a product and wait for the almost instantaneous inundation of advertisements and emails.
I buy quite a few books from Amazon and other online booksellers who I reckon have got a fair handle on my reading tastes by now.
They seem to think this gives them my permission to bombard me with what they refer to as ‘specially selected recommendations’.
I gather some solace in the wild inaccuracy of most of these recommendations.
I used to get regular emails from gorgeous women who were dying to meet me for all sorts of bizarre mind boggling reasons, including marriage.
I don’t get these very often anymore because I never responded but also probably because my profile eventually came to reflect both my advanced age and my happy marital status.
Some day they’ll work out I’m not rich and won’t buy into their scams or purchase the stuff they want to sell me.
Maybe they’ll even feel sorry for me and offer me a free stake in a Nigerian gold mine.