When I was a nipper, it was relatively common for there to be a knock at the front door, and standing there would be a woman trying to flog lucky white heather. Even at such a young age (pre-school) I could see the flaw in the logic. I didn’t then have the linguistic skills that I have now, but had I had then my response would have been something along these lines.

‘Right. Let’s look at this logically, shall we? What hair you have is mad and needs washing. There’s dirt ingrained into the creases on your face. You have about 10th the number of teeth you should have, and they look like a creosoted picket fence. Your blouse is filthy, your cardigan has been darned, your skirt has been patched, your gym shoes are ripped and ratty, you’ve got holes in your shawl. You live in a caravan. And you want to grub a few pennies by trying to selling something that’s meant to give me good luck? Physician, heal thyself.’

That may seem unduly harsh, but let’s face it, it was a scam. My mum would politely decline, and the haggard old crone would gob on the front step to ‘curse this house.’ Occasionally we’d find chalked sigils on the front garden wall. The mad old bats really needed to up their marketing skills.

Their menfolk would occasionally appear mysteriously and offer to tarmac your drive. If you unwisely accepted, they’d use a mixture of roofing felt sealant and crushed Polo mints, then demand money with menaces.

These were clearly scams, but at least you knew they were scams, and that it was a good idea to keep your shed locked for a few days if you valued your lawnmower. Scams with not much panache, but a good deal of nerve involved. As to the title, I haven’t seen anybody trying to sell lucky white heather for years. A bit of my childhood has disappeared. You still get dodgy tradesmen though.

I was driven to these musings by news from a friend of mine about a phishing scam she got the other day. It wasn’t the usual misspelt missive from a Nigerian diplomat, nor from her bank allegedly wanting her to confirm her security details. No, this was an offer of how much she could make working from home. She’d been selected.

There was no detail whatsoever of what it would entail, but she’d be paid $400 per  assignment, and there was a guarantee of at least two assignments a month. All she needed to do was supply her address, phone number, blah blah. But here’s the kicker. She was asked for her name. Oh, and her gender. You imagine that any potential employer who was specially selecting people for a role might know a few basics about them.

That scam lacks the poise of the white heather one, somehow.

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