“Hello, this account is infected.” This is what my latest email scammer is telling me. He’s hacked my computer and knows that I’ve been watching porn, and he’s going to let all my contacts know about it – unless, of course, I send him $1,000. In Bitcoin, no less. As if I knew how to use Bitcoin.

I know it’s a scam because I haven’t been watching porn, but I’m sure this guy sends his blackmail to millions of people, and some of them are bound to have been indulging in a little afternoon delight with their computer. I can just picture their panic when they see this email. “Oh crap, if my mom finds out, I’m a goner. Where am I going to get $1,000? Don’t they know I’m fifty-five and still live at home? I don’t have that kind of money.”

One of several of these kinds of emails extorting money

This particular scam is scary because it shows your own email address as the person who sent it. Wow, how do they do that? I asked Google, who sent me to the FTC, which said: “This is a criminal extortion attempt to separate people from their money. If you — or someone you know — gets a letter like this, report it immediately to your local police, and the FBI.” Another site explained in techno mumbo-jumbo how scammers mimic your own email address, but they really haven’t hacked your account. Their advice? Change your password and don’t worry. Just ignore it. 

Okay, I won’t worry, but it really makes me want to do something vicious to these hackers, like locking them in an air-tight room with old-west cowboys who’ve eaten nothing but beans for the past six months. Or strapping them into the passenger seat of a car with a driver who uses the gas pedal and brake at the same time – jerk the jerk, as it were. These people deserve to be tormented in very psychologically annoying ways.

I don’t know what’s worse, these emails or the cell phone calls I’m getting with the same area code and numbers that look very similar to all the numbers associated with the account. Sometimes I’ll answer the calls, and it’s a salesperson. If I’m not too busy, I like to lead them on for a little while. “Oh, your vacuum cleaner sounds amazing! I really would love to have one! Can you tell me more?” Finally, after they’ve given their whole spiel and think I’m ready to buy, I say, “Oh heck, I wish my mom was here. She’s the one you really need to talk to.”

Sometimes when people call me to tell me that my Microsoft computer has a programming problem that they have to fix, I’ll ask them lots of questions, and play along. I’ve told them to hold on a minute while I go to my computer, and then put the phone down and fold laundry, then come back with a cheerful, “So sorry that took so long. Now tell me again what you want me to do.” Eventually I start asking questions that show I know what they’re up to. “So if this is a Microsoft problem, are you working for Microsoft – you are actually an employee of Bill Gates? You’re not, then why…?” They hang up on me. So rude. I figure if these people are playing games with me, I’ll play with them. So satisfying.

Eventually these scammers will be completely replaced by computers that will come up with their own scams, and our computers will come up with ways to ward them off, until the computers will start saying mean things to each other, like, “Well, my processor is bigger than your processor!” “Is not!” “Is too!” Then they’ll send little electric charges to zap each other. We humans will be sitting in the back yard, watching the birds and squirrels, sipping iced tea and looking at each other as we talk like we used to do for entertainment before technology became the boss of us. Behind us, smoke will come pouring out of the various feuding devices in our homes, and we won’t even notice.