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Forget the scammers, be yourself

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Michael Apichella
Michael Apichella

Our curiosity naturally responds to tempting internet click-bait. But beware. As with so many things in life, not all web sites are what they seem.

Many are just scams wanting to exploit you. Like the ones that supposedly reveal anything from your fabulous IQ to whether or not you’re owed PPI. Even the well-known websites are suspect. Especially if they fish for personal details in return for some choice morsel of information about you or your family.

Of course, I don’t know if all sites promising something for nothing are scams. Perhaps it’s just my natural scepticism overreacting. For instance, what’s wrong with the many popular websites asking punters to type in their surnames?

These sites provide the name’s alleged ancient meaning. Mind you, I’ve never bothered to reply to these offers. Why should I? I’m already fairly certain of the honourable derivation of Apichella: Pronounced APPLEJELLY, it comes from the SW corner of Murgatroyd and Wiltshire Boulevards in East Los Angeles dating from the mid-1920s, meaning a shaggy guy who spends hours in coffee shops asking strangers daft questions over lattes. To my family’s everlasting chagrin, we’ve no family crest. (But I know where I can buy one online!)

Hundreds of people log on to surname-sites every day hoping the search will prove their names are splendid and celebrated. Typically, type in any common English surname, such as, say, Smedley-Jones-Rickettsbottom, and invariably this pops up: “Smedley-Jones-Rickettsbottom, originating in Phoenicia c. 1001 BCE, denoting serene wisdom, bravery, and being princely as Ulysses, hero of Homer’s epic poem the ‘Odyssey’. The family crest features a fork and knife on a tin plate with a golden beam shining down from heaven signifying Phoenician royalty.”

Selling someone this crapola’s hardly new. It reminds me of Tess of the d’Urbervilles, the Victorian novel by Thomas Hardy, in which John and Joan Durbeyfield, the parents of comely milkmaid Tess, are happy until they’re told their family’s related to the local aristocrats, the D’Urbervilles, and they’re entitled to a share of the clan’s dosh. Assuming being rich will improve their lives leads to unmitigated disaster.

Contrary to popular belief, you may have wealth, success and the outer trappings of achievement yet still suffer from low self-esteem. Just think of poor Princess Diana.

Philosopher Wayne Dwyer says self-worth originates from one thing – thinking you’re worthy. If so, perhaps social-inequality and its many ugly ramifications really come down to how you see yourself from childhood onwards. Novelist Michael Morpurgo agrees. He encourages his young readers to believe in themselves and embrace their own identity whether it’s through writing, or art, or something else, giving kids a lifetime of self-confidence.

My father-in-law Reg was the son of a Lincolnshire joiner and Methodist circuit preacher. After leaving school, he worked full-time shifts in a factory. Eventually the firm sent him to college nights, and Reg earned an engineering degree. Ultimately he made manager. But to everyone he knew, he was always just Reg.

All things being equal, diligence, education, self-confidence and, above all, accepting ourselves helps us to reach our goals. Put another way, to be truly successful in life, don’t try to be someone else, just be you. That’s the message behind the classic pop song ‘If I were a Carpenter’.

So by all means give away personal details to discover if you, too, are related to the d’Urbervilles. Meantime, if you aren’t comfortable in your skin, you’ll never accept who the online scammers say you are.