Hardly a day goes by when there’s isn’t a story in the media about a new and exciting way for folks to steal your identity.
We are told about gizmos that can be stuck in ATM machines to capture your PIN, and electronics that can somehow grab the information off your credit cards just by being in your general vicinity, and hackers that invaded the servers of some department store and stole all the account data, and criminals who use 3D printers to create a mask of your face and then do embarrassing things disguised as you.
Okay, I made up the last one, but you get the idea. And that doesn’t even count all the scams out there, like emails that trick you into going to a fake website and entering your Social Security or bank account numbers.
I get those emails all the time, and I always wonder about the idiots who fall for them.
Subject: Congratulations on Your Stupendous Excellent Lottery Win
From: Mr. Stealington
Mr. Mark Hallen–Your entry in the Pakistani lottery has been picked in recent drawing to be held yesterday and you have one $3,500US which will be wired directly to your bank account so you can not pay taxes on your winnings which are truly much money. Please click here immediately right away and give us the number of the account for which you wish the money to be received. Failure to do so will result in the losing your substantial monies which you have one.
Really? Somebody actually buys that? You have to think they get a sucker occasionally, right, or why would they bother?
Certainly nobody I know would fall for that. They must have gotten my wife’s credit card number some other way.
What happened was we started getting these strange deliveries. A blender. A bracelet. A really ugly watch. All from the same store. So Barbara calls, and it seems that somebody has been ordering stuff with her credit card.
Well, okay, fine. Happens every day. But why the hell would they have the stuff shipped to our house? Were they intending to break in to retrieve the items? Were they going to lie in wait for the UPS guy? Were they thoughtfully sending Barbara some lovely gifts to thank her for the use of her account?
Or maybe it wasn’t an identity thief at all. Maybe the store figured out a new way to do a clearance. (“Just ship the stuff out, George, and we’ll see what sticks.”)
Anyway, Barb took all the stuff back to the store, and stopped all her cards, and it was a pain in the ass, but it could have been worse.
It could have happened to me.
It wasn’t until almost a year later when my bank called about a possibly fraudulent charge on my account. This was very unusual, since they usually just put a stop on my card if they think something’s wrong, and then I have to actually call an online store and talk to a human being just to find out why my purchase of dog food isn’t going through, and then I have to call the bank and speak to another person who informs me that they were concerned about unusual activity on my card even though it was early December so one might expect a spike in usage what with family members insisting on gifts and all, and, yes, maybe one of the purchases was a tad out of the ordinary, but could I help it if my wife wanted a friggin’ fire pit for Christmas?
But they didn’t do that this time. They called. They were wondering about the use of my account to make a donation to the Red Cross. A $25 donation.
In other words, my bank thinks so little of me that any hint of altruism is instantly flagged as out of character. I mean, how dare they? I was flabbergasted by their insolence, insulted by their thoughtlessness, perturbed by their presumption.
Okay, so it turned out that the charge was fraudulent, but that’s besides the point.
The point is: be very vigilant about protecting your identity information, because the person who steals it may be nicer than you are.
See you soon.