As college students, we are likely the last generation of children who didn’t get an iPhone when they practically first learned to talk. Instead, we happily got toys from Disney Channel commercials that would soon clutter our basements, and played with action figures before we learned what a selfie was… and how insecurities developed from social media. We can be lucky most of our awkward faces were not digitized.
We’ve successfully lived through the life and death of KIK, including its cyberbullying and suspicious child-grooming chat. You can probably still remember the independence rush you got as fresh 13-year-olds, making your Snapchat password all on your own; fully disregarding the fact that your dog’s name and your soccer jersey number might be public knowledge. Yes, we were minors, but we were also making prior arrangements to avoid losing streaks when we went on vacation or knew that our phones were going to be taken away. We were sending our full usernames and passwords to a girl in our math class because we got in trouble for making an account!
In today’s standards, I don’t know what I’d do if one day my fingerprint stopped working and all my passwords would have to be scooped from my brain. Privacy is incredibly important at every age. As we prepare to join the workforce, we realize that our time is equally as important. So, it pains me to say that I have had the displeasure of communicating with the firstname.lastname@example.org.
I, among others, was not-so formally invited to take part in an “interdisciplinary research project” collecting data where I may earn $250 weekly. It was described as an “adaptable job” with “positive learning” and impeccable flexibility. F&M’s ITS and the Chief Information Security Officer have called this gmail scammer a “bad actor.” Others might have used more explicit vocabulary. I’ve heard “scum of the earth” thrown around a couple times.
Nonetheless, though, this was a learning opportunity. How far would this scammer go to gain the information they wanted?
This twisted individual instructed me to collect online data from mainstream channels, retailer/convenience, and medical supply stores of the drug items and their generic equivalent. What does that mean? It means busy work that a 2006 Macbook could do. It meant looking at retailers’ online stores and searching “ibuprofen” or “ubiquinol” and listing every product that came up. This embarrassingly took approximately 4 hours. I can now tell you that Kroger makes more sales than RiteAid and that I’ve gotten much better at spelling tryptophan without looking.
So, I responded with my Excel sheet filled with thousands of words and meaningless numbers and was told my work was “impressive.” How kind. This was followed by two checks from Chase Bank, front and back, totaling to over $1,200. If you think that seems too good to be true, you’re right! I told my parents and was quickly discouraged from even attempting to cash them. The gmail scammer simply asked for confirmation that I cashed them, in a screenshot . . . . I’ll admit I was curious, but no journalism was worth the risk.
I’ve shared my findings with my peers and no one has the answer for why this person would play such a role. A friend suggested that maybe it’s someone working in pharmaceuticals or sales, who didn’t want to do the work or pay someone else to do it. Another said it was all made up and that the data is never going to be looked at again. Someone else claimed that they would have at least tried to deposit the checks. This scammer may be lured by greed and financial gain, but what if this person just enjoyed wasting someone’s time and pathologically teasing them with reward. Is that worse?
In the month of January, I learned about the real Alan Glazer, who is a professor in the business department here at F&M with research interests in financial accounting and reporting. A great guy, I’m sure. The gmail scammer has since sent me a follow-up email, expressing urgency that he is, “Looking forward to my reply.” I wonder if he’ll miss me and wonder where I’ve gone. I wonder if he scams dozens of people but if he was lying that my work was impressive. At the end of the day, the only thing within his reach to take from me is my time, and I do not plan on wasting any more of it. Goodbye, fake Alan Glazer, I hope you are doing below average.
Stay safe, Diplomats!
Junior Isabella Borreo is a Contributing Writer. Her email is email@example.com.