I’m so proud of my Mom. She told me last night that she had gotten a call earlier in the evening (middle of dinner, of course) from a woman asking her to confirm her banking and credit card information. Despite the woman insisting that it was perfectly fine to tell a complete stranger on a cold call your every vital identifying fact, my mother demurred. At 87, she’s still too polite to just hang up on the pirate, but she knows a scam when she hears one. Good for you, I told her. But listen to this. Here’s a new one.
I’ve had my “identity” stolen at least four times over the past five years. The first time, I was upset. I got a call from my credit card company asking me if I was buying a lot of stuff in Tennessee. Never been there. The nice guy from the bank actually was able to tell me the name of the guy who was buying stuff on my account and the address that he was having all the stuff sent to. “So, you’re going to have the police in Tennessee pick him up?” I asked naively. “Naw, of course not,” the bank guy said. “We’ll just cancel out the card and send you a new one.” At the time, I was rather indignant that no one was going after the guy who had stolen my “identity.” Having gone through this process a few more times now, I’ve come to be more blasé about the whole deal. Happens every day, I know.
But this is different.
A close relative called up the other day, quite upset. It seems that she had just received an email from her bank notifying her that the credit card that she had requested was in the mail to her home. She hadn’t ordered any credit card. She immediately called the bank and spoke to a representative. “Oh,” he admonished her, “you probably filled out the application the last time you were in the branch and just forgot.” “No way,” she said. “I haven’t been inside a bank in years.” She does all her banking online. He agreed that something was amiss and cancelled the card. He went on to recommend that she sign up for the bank’s credit monitoring service, in view of this near-miss identity theft. Only $14/month. She was so upset by the incident that she agreed to the service, grateful that the whole mess had been caught before any real damage had been done.
“Hold it,” I said, interrupting her story at this point. “The email said the card was in the mail to you?” “Yeah.” “But that makes no sense,” I said. Being old, I am an expert in all things. Including having one’s “identity” stolen. “Why would someone have the stolen card sent to you? They steal a bunch of identities and have the cards sent to a post office box. Then they use the cards for a day or two before they’re cancelled. Makes no sense.”
She was quiet for a minute. “I’ll call you right back,” she said. She called the bank again, getting a different service representative. She explained her previous exchange and asked, rather pointedly, what was going on. There was a pregnant pause before the bank guy responded. “It seems,” bank guy explained, “that one of our employees initiated the request for the new card.” He went on to explain that it was not the bank’s policy to do such a thing, of course, but there were incentives to move more credit cards, you understand, and of course he would be certain that the card was indeed cancelled. Oh, and he’d be reporting the entire sordid affair to his supervisor.
“Of course,” my close relative said. “And what about the credit reporting service that you guys just sold me by scaring the shit out of me?”
“Oh, you sure you don’t want to go ahead with that? Just in case?”