I was eavesdropping.

It may be a professional habit.

Journalists are geared to listen. We learn to read official documents upside down on the desks of officials who would like to keep those documents secret. We learn to listen.

Years ago, when Jay School Board president Phil Ford was teaching and was president of the Jay Classroom Teachers Association, he was stunned when I included in a news article a softly spoken comment that he made at the back of the room.

We learn to listen.

And it gets us in trouble now and then.

But this time, I was at the bank.

The woman to my right was obviously distraught.

And it became obvious that she had been the victim of some sort of scam.

She’d received a phone call out of nowhere that had scared her silly.

It was threatening. It was authoritative. And she wasn’t someone comfortable dealing with authority.

In other words, she was precisely the kind of person that the scammers and scum target all the time.

Think about it. If you’re a scammer, you’re not going to target folks sophisticated enough to recognize your game.

You’re going to go after the most vulnerable: The elderly, the low-income, the folks who have had credit problems before and are still trying to get back on their feet.

Think of jackals chasing a herd of antelope in Africa. They’re not going to go after the fastest. They’re going to feast on those least able.

I tried to focus on my own banking.

Then I heard the teller say, “You didn’t give them your account information, did you?”

She had.

At that point, I wanted to stop what I was doing and give the woman a hug.

She needed it, but mostly she needed the teller’s help.

At the moment the customer acknowledged that she had given out her account information, the bank employee shifted gears. Out of the corner of my eye, it seemed almost like a visible shifting.

The teller was going into crisis mode. Everything else was gone. She was entirely focused on protecting the victim of this scam.

How did it turn out?

I wish I knew.

But I did see the same woman getting more detailed help from another bank employee the next day.

An important lesson had been learned.

And it’s a lesson that can’t be repeated too often: Don’t let yourself be bullied by phone solicitors. Be not just skeptical but cynical when those calls come. And go to the friendly teller at the bank before — not after — you’ve been scammed.

There’s help out there, but the best defense is in your hands.

Don’t be bullied or browbeaten by crooks. Tell them to shove off.

Then go to the bank and let them know what you have run into.

Maybe by doing so you’ll help someone else.