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Jack Knox: Phone scammer a 'dream job' that takes patience

It’s hard enough to keep your cool when providing tech support to someone you love, so imagine trying to hold it together while robbing a stranger. Really, you’d have to be a saint.
Phone scams(2)
Being a phone scammer takes patience, suggests Jack Knox.

I wish I had the patience to be a telephone scammer.

Don’t think I could handle it, though. All that interminable trolling, trolling, trolling before you finally hook a vulnerable victim on the line, followed by the tedium of walking your often elderly, techno-illiterate target through the intricacies of online banking.

“Your password? Try your dog’s name, followed by the numeral one and an exclamation point,” you’d have to say. “No, no problem at all. I’ve got all the time in the world.”

A friend pointed this out the other day. It’s hard enough to keep your cool when providing tech support to someone you love — “FOR GAWD’S SAKE, RIGHT CLICK, GRANDPA!” — so imagine trying to hold it together while robbing a stranger. Really, you’d have to be a saint.

This is what came to mind this week when reading a list of the most coveted careers in the world.

The list was compiled by Britain’s Remitly, a company described as a financial services provider for immigrants. Wanting to know which jobs people would be willing to relocate for, it analyzed Google searches such as “how to become a pilot” for 200 different job types, and ranked them according to the number of queries.

Using that yardstick, Remitly determined that pilot is, in fact, the top dream job on the planet. It was No. 1 in 25 countries from Canada and the U.K. to Montenegro and Papua New Guinea.

Globally, pilot was followed in order by writer, dancer, ­YouTuber, entrepreneur, actor, influencer, programmer, singer and teacher.

Now, I don’t know how much credibility to give this study. First, some people might type in “how to become a pilot” because “how to become a terrorist” attracts too much attention.

Also, the study doesn’t record what happens when the Googler takes the next step and asks how much these dream jobs pay. Writer? Note that in 2018, a Writers’ Union of Canada survey found its author members made an average of $9,380 a year. Dancer? I once met a woman who used to be a dancer on a cruise ship. “How long did you do that?” I asked. “Until I went broke,” she replied.

In some ways, the Remitly list is the polar opposite of the Jobs Rated Report, in which the U.S. site periodically ranks vocations according to such factors as income, employment outlook and working environment. If the Remitly index is about the heart, Jobs Rated tilts toward hard-headed pragmatism.

Here’s the latter’s latest list: data scientist, genetic counsellor, statistician, medical services manager, mathematician, university professor, operations research analyst, information security analyst, actuary and software engineer. Please excuse me while I jam a meat thermometer in my eye.

If you’re of my generation, I bet none of those careers popped to mind when the school counsellor pulled your file and asked what you wanted to do with your life. “Rock star!” you replied, so the counsellor wrote down “pulling lumber on the green chain” or “stocking shelves at Kmart” as more realistic goals. It’s probably the same today, except with YouTuber or influencer substituting for rock star, and both the green chain and Kmart having faded away.

Reality has a cruel way of entering the dreamscape. Even if there were an unlimited demand for rock stars, or pilots, or phone scammers, you would still have to be suitable for the job. You still need moves like Jagger, or the cool head of Sully Sullenberger, or the infinite patience needed to rip off an aging innocent.

Honestly, how do the con artists do it? Not only is there the frustratingly slow process of emptying your mark’s account, but you have to endure the scorn of those who catch on to your ruse. (I once overheard a woman toying with a phone scammer: “Now, if I have to go to tax jail, will it be a women-only prison, or…” — and here her voice turned enthusiastic — “will there be men there, too?”

It must be hard to stay calm through that, all the while trying to shut out the back-of-mind voice warning you that you’re going to burn in hell. I mean, other criminals are driven by addiction, demons and desperation, but phone scammers are motivated by nothing but greed. They make Vladimir Putin look like Mary Poppins.

“You must be under tremendous pressure,” I’ll tell the next one who calls. “Remember to take care of yourself.”

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