Everything's a scam ... or so it seems

An editor at Salon recently wrote an excruciatingly candid account of her having been snookered by an Internet scam.

I read every word -- and found most of them disturbing -- because I live in constant fear of someday having to write that kind of confession. And, as a result, I have come to gaze with great suspicion upon, well, upon everything ... and everyone.

I have sprinted right past cautious, beyond overly suspicious and headlong into full-blown paranoia.

I'm sure part of it is that I not only read the headlines - daily data breaches, phishing, identity theft, spear phishing - heck, I write them, too.

Any time my wife tells me that she has received such-and-such from so-and-so via email -- or snail mail, for that matter -- I can scarcely let her get the words out of her mouth before saying, "It's a scam."

Doesn't matter who it's from, either. Sometimes I don't even let her finish, the urge to blurt becomes overwhelming.

Of course, the truth is that whatever arrived is almost always a scam, scam-like, or at least carries that unmistakable whiff of scam.

The president of the United States could appear at my doorstep with Michelle, the girls and a Secret Service detail in tow, and my first thought would be that he was there to sell me an over-priced magazine subscription under the guise of charity. (No offense, sir, I'd think the same of anyone.)

Some of you receive the Buzzblog newsletter every week. When a copy of it arrives in my own inbox, I figure it must be spam.

Open an email purporting to be from my bank? I'd sooner open a vein.

Don't even think about sending me an e-card. Are you nuts?

And it's not just those who would separate me from my money or personal information who have me spooked; no, I have to worry about an entirely different breed of Internet con artist that you, dear reader, probably find more amusing than menacing: I speak of the media hoaxer, he who enjoys nothing more than leading a journalist down the primrose path with a phony-baloney press release.

Most journalists believe themselves too guarded to be taken (except for those who have been taken; I have not ... yet). But a piece in the Los Angeles Times aptly summarizes both the folly of that hubris and the sum of all my fears: "The tricksters and political pranksters have numbers. They have big plans. They embrace a lawless tradition and an outlaw code. They will be back. And they are fairly certain you can be had."

So am I. ... So ... am ... I.

"In many cases, they will be right. Fake news may not be inevitable. But it will always find a pathway, particularly in the frantic chase that is journalism in the Digital Age. All harried journalists can do is take a moment, breathe deeply and make that extra confirmation phone call, because the next $10,000 Donald Trump restaurant tip, campaign to blockade oil spills with human hair or School for Panhandlers (all fakes swallowed, whole, by some of the media) is just beyond the next deadline."

On my blog, I linked to that Times story without calling the newspaper to confirm its authenticity.

That's going to haunt me for days.

(Reassurances may be sent to buzz@nww.com.)

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