“So, let’s check. You did not go to a chiropractor in Mississippi this afternoon?” the bankcard security rep asked me.
“Nope. I’m in Kansas right now, and I’m certain I’ve been here the entire day,” I answered.
I heard a keyboard tapping on his end of the line. “Hm. That thief has bone issues,” he muttered.
“He or she has more than bone issues, alright,” I chimed in. I could almost see the guy grinning, in a world-weary kind of way.
We both sighed through the conversation. He double-checked my recent purchases, which sounded like a world tour of America’s most mundane strip mall chain stores. I was embarrassed by my dull consumer activity. The theft, which was frankly more interesting than my mattress pad purchase at Bed Bath & Beyond, really did look like a red flag, contextually.
A computer decided: Alert, alert, alert! This human is not adventurous enough to down a mint julep and get a back massage beneath the cool shade of Spanish moss.
Minutes before I called, an email informed me something fishy might be going on with my credit card. The message suggested I immediately contact Plastic Central’s security department. So I did.
This latest annoyance occurred during a week I didn’t need the extra aggravation. Another crook. Another number mysteriously duplicated out of my wallet. Disturbing. Yet it wasn’t the first time I’ve had to shred my card, wait for a new one to arrive in the mail, and then deal with the annoying fallout.
Within seconds of learning a stranger was using my numbers, the same old questions crossed my mind. What “auto-pay” stuff did I have on that particular account? Which entities must I call or cyber-contact with my new information? Why am I not living in a cabin off the grid, where I can barter for food and mascara with, say, wood-whittling skills?
And I was just starting to grow fond of my most recent “last four digits.” Never get attached to your embossed plastic numbers, people. They are so fleeting. With all the scammers out there, the somewhat familiar 16 numerals you so lovingly type as a guest on the L.L. Bean website today just might not be yours tomorrow. And that 3-digit code on the back? No need to memorize it. Don’t even try to rhyme the numerals in a limerick. This extra layer of “security” will soon be ether, like all the other CCVs of days gone by.
An extra smack to the forehead: I even had a newfangled chip on that last card. Pass the dip, please. Another chiparoo is on the way! The Target “swipe” machine will once again honk at me like a sick goose.
On the plus side, I get to travel to unexpected places. I can’t help but picture the scenes of the crimes.
These thieves take me far beyond medical offices in the Deep South. I have learned I don’t have to leave my own street to hail a cab in San Francisco, or to buy a necklace in Greece. I can be mopping my kitchen floor in the Midwest and at the same exact time, I’m buying cigars in Key West. Was that me grabbing a chili dog at a Kentucky gas station? Nope, but I unwittingly treated a crook to dejeuner! It’s like a geography and sociology lesson rolled into one. Outlaws are everywhere. And, minus the QuikTrip epicurean episode, it seems they do more interesting things than me.
I can’t imagine the corporate money that’s spent to thwart this kind of pilfering, which I’m sure is passed on to us, the little guys. It seems to be an endless tango between good and evil. Who is leading? Who is stepping backward?
It’s all just a pain in the neck, really. Maybe I do need a chiropractor.
Denise Snodell writes alternate weeks. Reach her at stripmalltree@gmail .com. On Twitter: @DeniseSnodell