by Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.
July 1, 2008
THE ELECTRONIC HIGHWAY IS A TWO-WAY STREET
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- Shakespeare's character, Iago, begins a dialog in Othello saying: "Good name in man and woman, dear my lord, is the immediate jewel of their souls." Well, my good name was robbed! Iago goes on to say: "Who steals my purse steals trash; 'tis something, nothing; 'Twas mine, 'tis his, and has been slave to thousands."
I can't go that far with my purse. If Shakespeare was inspiring a future Karl Marx to believe money is at the root of all evil, fine. But having money taken from me does not make it his - not even with poetic license to make sound it almost noble.
To complete Iago's speech, I'll quote his prophetic lines illustrating how poor I have become: "But he that filches from me my good name robs me of that which not enriches him, and makes me poor indeed." I was left poor in spirit, what I would call bereft, having nothing to do with an empty purse.
I'm far from being "high tech," but I can get around in my computer for word processing and research; I carry my digital camera for those times I might just want to point and shoot a picture; I can use my cellphone, but only for taking calls and dialing out. (I still say "dialing," although it's years since anyone's used a rotary dial.)
I can order online, pay bills online, communicate with friends and businesses online and, in general, carry on bank business for our family online. My computer is a pleasurable addition to myself as a person, and, as a person I'm aware the companies I deal with have a profile of me, my likes and dislikes. I respect their integrity and the security seal on their sites.
And so it is that right now I feel as if I've been invaded by some high-tech person or persons somewhere on the other side of a street in cyberspace who stole not my identity but my credit card numbers. My computer is not just for me looking in: it's for "others" looking out at me and who I am.
A call came from the fraud division of Visa, asking questions. I wouldn't answer the questions beyond my name. She needed the kind of verification of my being me (she called me, remember, on my home phone) and I wouldn't tell her a thing. Finally, she said I could call the number on the back of the card, ask for the fraud division, and start over.
As it turned out, I preferred to stick with her and follow through. She spoke flawless English and for the first time, I was suspicious of that instead of grateful. (If she had an accent I would have assumed she was working for an outsourced company and speaking to me from somewhere near Bombay.)
"Mrs. Daley," she said: Have you purchased something costing $236.00 from the Muscle Beach Surf Store in Venice, California?" I laughed out loud at that. How accurate can my profile be if that is even a question?
"Another item we're questioning is software purchased online from Apple; did you spend $58.00 for software?" I said, "No, I use a PC with Windows operating system - nothing I would buy from an Apple store."
I was told we would not have to pay for those charges and if they appear on our bill, they will be adjusted accordingly. That was reassuring, but when she asked if the card were ever out of my possession, or John's card out of his possession, the answer to both was "No." We are very careful about that. She canceled that card instantly and said in seven days we'd receive a replacement.
But how could this be happening? The only time I used that card was during a recent trip to New York, and then it was only at one place. I took my daughter to lunch at the Hard Rock café, newly remodeled, very nice place for lunch. Of course it's a tourist trap, we know that. Nevertheless, the service was adequate and the food was wonderful.
In filling out the follow-up questionnaire there was a question about possibilities the card could have been out of my sight. I said, "Yes" and mentioned the waiter at the Hard Rock, not accusing him but suggesting him as a possibility since he had opportunity and ample time.
I figured he could copy the card numbers and expiration date and put it in his order book. I do know there is a market for those numbers, and if he sold it for $20 and someone used it for the $200 plus what was charged to my account, well, there's a win-win transaction for them, and I'm the loser. But just a carelessly tossed copy of a merchant receipt in the store's Dumpster could have produced the same result.
We're suspicious now of every transaction. Stores give lip service to asking for identification but they rarely ask; they aren't supposed to allow the card's use if it's not signed and checked against the driver's license. That rarely happens. I don't sign mine; instead, I printed "ask for identification" on the white strip on the back. They rarely do so. So, it's up to us if we want to avoid the hollow, empty feeling that accompanies the loss of innocence. I'll repeat Shakespeare's Iago. and let him have the last words here:
"But he that filches from me my good name robs me of that which not enriches him, and makes me poor indeed."