Romance scams…and how to compose an unbreakable password

As part of a multi-page application I had to fill out to close a retirement account and move its teeny bit of money into another retirement account with a teeny bit of money, Fidelity, the investment firm which generously enables me to derive some income from my teeny bits of money, gave me a sheet entitled “Let’s Talk about Protecting Your Money.”

I wish to inquire why “about” wasn’t capitalized, I really do. But that’s not the point of my interest in this page of information. Which I initially had no intention of reading. But when I did, I found it illuminating in a funny sort of way.

Not to diminish Fidelity’s serious purpose in trying to warn its clients about scams, I find the scams sort of intriguing — in the sense that (a) I can’t imagine anyone falling for them or (b) if I should fall for any of them…well, pack me up and ship me to a brain reconstitution factory. I know they exist because my niece, Becca, once gave me Coal, a beloved stuffed polar bear she made at the Bear Factory, and if there’s a Bear Factory, there’s got to be a Brain Factory. (Maybe in a mall next door to the Bear Factory? Are there still malls?)

Anyway, while I still have a mind sufficiently graced by a sense of humor, let us review the many ways in which scammers are attempting to grab your money. (Is there still money in a form a fraudster could get you to hand him?)

Romance. Someone (a “fraudster,” in Fidelity’s lively terminology) says he’s fallen in love with you, snuggles in and tries to get you (the “target” in Fidelity’s depressing terminology) to divulge your IDs and passwords. Or just tries to get you to give him money.

Fidelity follows up on this warning with advice about what to do if you “suspect you’re a victim:” Talk to someone you trust about this relationship. Do a “reverse image search” of the potential fraudster’s picture to see if he isn’t who he says he is, or isn’t even himself.

I did not know we could do reverse image searches of people’s faces. I know official investigators can. If I didn’t know that, what am I doing watching hours of international cop TV shows every night? Everybody runs image searches but is Fidelity assuming we potential targets have the chops to do it?

Besides, I can’t envision anybody who’d fall for a scammer doubting his/her romance enough to confer with someone he/she trusts. I mean, if you’re shaky enough to semi-believe in a scoundrel falling in love with you, you’re too shaky to ask someone’s advice.

But still, it’s a good warning. So, do not allow a scoundrel to fall in love with you but if you do, do not give the scoundrel your passwords.

BTW: do you know how to create an unassailable password? Take a line from a favorite book or poem, one you have long since memorized and/or could find in the book itself almost instantly. For example, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” and take the first letters of each word, thusly, “Iwtbotitwtwot,” stick a number like the date of a production of a play based on the book into the middle and you’ve got “iwtbot91899iwtwot,” and there you go! An unbreakable password — except don’t use this one because too many people would, one of whom is not me.

Nor is this one mine, but, without a date, can you figure out where it’s from? “MVgoitmlhsnicohbil.”

You see what I mean, right? Even though I’ve given you the trick of composing an unbreakable password, knowing the trick won’t break the password.

Better than the name of your first puppy. Unless the name of your first puppy is, “It was the best of times,” or maybe Sydney Carton. But no, you wouldn’t do that to your pup, would you?

I haven’t even finished Fidelity’s scam warnings but I need to go shopping because I’m seriously low in tamarind paste so…to be continued.

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