When Dignity Left After Identity Theft


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Charles V famously said “I speak Spanish to God, Italian to women, French to men, and German to my horse.” That has no bearing whatsoever on what I’m about to say, but you have to admit it’s an awesome line. A little closer to time and place, Winston Churchill observed that “nothing in life is so exhilarating as to be shot at without result.” Having just experienced identity theft, I wonder what Sir Winston would say had he endured this modern assault on personhood.

Incidentally, I’ve solved the problem of identity theft. We simply must utilize technology to weld the positive things in our life, like our good credit, to the negative things, like our emotional baggage. That way a guy who absconds with my credit also inherits a certain emotional distance and irrational fear of Norwegians. Hope the Kid Rock tickets were worth it, buddy! Though this idea has blockchain proof-of-concept written all over it, my calls to Silicon Valley go unanswered.

But back to our story. Let’s go to that fateful day. It started like any other. I had read Marmaduke and confirmed the absence of coded love messages from Charlize Theron. Work-wise, I had only one investment opportunity to consider. A slam dunk, it fit most of my target metrics – high-yield, short-term, liquid, uncorrelated risk. Yet something didn’t add up in this unsolicited email from a Nigerian Prince in dire need of a funds transfer. My senses alive, I was worried when I received a call from credit card customer service. Not shoot, I just ate two of the four tongs in my plastic salad fork worried, but worried. The discussion went something like this:

Fraud Monitor: We noticed some abnormal swipes in Sandusky, Ohio. They appear to have been done on the premises, not remotely. Specifically, a Bea Arthur Commemorative Plate Set was purchased. You are not in Sandusky right now, correct?

Me: Correct. I’ve never been to Sandusky. I’m certainly not there now.

Fraud Monitor: So just to be clear, while we’ve been talking you didn’t buy a Rue McClanahan Decanter Set, right there in Sandusky?

Me: No, I did not.

Fraud Monitor: Of course not, you just said you’d never been to…hey…this just came across the transom. I think I know the answer, but I’ll ask it anyway: you are not in Sandusky right now, buying a Lazy Susan in the silhouette of Estelle Getty, right?

Me: Are you ****ing kidding me?

I know I shouldn’t have gotten short with him. He was just doing his job. But the exchange chaps me. I don’t know what’s worse: that some guy passing himself off as me is darting about the Midwest and spending my hard-earned cheddar, or that he is blowing it on such weird stuff. The way I see it, if someone’s gonna take a free ride on my credit, I’d at least like to see him double down on things I’d buy if money were no object. This would have been an entirely different conversation:

Fraud Monitor: Looks like our man in Sandusky just bought a case of Midleton Very Rare Irish Whiskey and Gordon Lightfoot’s Gord’s Gold autographed guitar. And numerous Slim Jims.

Me: Now that’s what I’m talking about.

Instead, as I write I’m getting bombarded with pop-ups from Golden Girls Cosplay communities and Maude Fanboy Cruises. One person is even hawking WWBWD? — What Would Betty White Do? — bumper stickers, to which my reply is Ask her, she’s not dead. But that’s when I got cocky:

Me: Thanks for doing your job so well. I appreciate it.

Fraud Monitor: No need to thank me. It’s really the complex algorithm we have in place to detect pattern abnormalities. I’m just brought in for the close calls, familiar as I am with your personal spending habits.

Me (nervously): How, uh, familiar are you with my personal spending habits?

Fraud Monitor: Intimately… if you know what I mean.

Me: I swear, I was buying that for a friend. Total joke gift. Please don’t judge me.

Fraud Monitor: Sir, we’re professionals here. We go through extensive training, and if there’s one thing I can tell you, it’s that we don’t judge our clients. Not even total freaks like you.

So on balance I am grateful not to be out three large just so someone in the Midwest can trick out his dining room in proper Golden Girls splendor. My two takeaways? First, it is unsettling to be so well known by someone you don’t know at all. The price of interconnectedness, I suppose. And second – and this is related to the first – the next time I feel the urge to buy an issue of Garden & Buns, I’ll just pay cash.