There is nothing like a phone message from the fraud department of
your credit -card company to heighten paranoia.
As I returned the message, it dawned on me the caller from the
fraud department might be a fraud, too.
The phone rang and an automated prompt asked for my credit card
number. Then the alleged fraud agent answered and asked for my card number.
"But I just gave my credit card number," I said. Something was smelling
fishy from the start.
"I need to make sure you are who you say you are," the woman said.
"And I need to make sure you are who you say you are. Who are you?"
She hesitated and said, "Mary."
Right. Oh, puh-leeze, use some imagination "Mary."
"Ma'am, do you have the card in your possession?"
"Yes, I do, " I snipped. "I'm traveling."
"Yes, I'm traveling." I bet 'Mary' wished she was traveling.
Repeating questions, stalling for time, classic signs of fraud. This was so
"Password?" she asked.
"I don't remember my password." I wasn't going down easy. No sir.
She gave me a hint, I blurted out the answer and she said, fine.
So maybe Mary was legit. Then again, I could have said "watusi" and
she could have said "fine." It was all part of the scam to make it seem
like I was talking to my credit-card company.
"Address?" she asked.
Ha! She knows I'm out of town so now she wants my address. Can
these con artists get any dumber?"
"My address?" I asked, stringing her along. Two can play this game.
"Yes, to confirm you are who you say you are."
"And, again, how do I know you are who you say you are?"
"You called me," she said.
"Yes, but you called me first." Seemed to me that somebody could dish it
out, but she couldn't take it.
I gave her the street address and went for the hit. "OK, I gave you the
number and street, why don't you give me the zip code?" (Let's see you get
out of this one "Mary.") She shot back the zip code.
Maybe she was legit. Or maybe she looked it up at USPS.com and was
dispatching thugs via text message to strip the house bare.
"Have you used your card traveling?" she probed.
"I bought gas yesterday." I was contemplating how to call her
bluff, when she said, "Did you make a number of online purchases yesterday?"
"No," I answered. Mary then read a list of purchases.
Apparently, while I was addressing a group of nurses at a
conference center in the heart of Amish country, my credit card was buying
entry into porn sites, government auction sites, purchasing memberships in
CD clubs, buying videos and the miracle-weight loss compound Hoodia.
"What we'd like to do is close the account, send you a statement,
have you circle the fraudulent charges, sign an affidavit, have it
notarized and returned it to us."
"So you are who you say you are," I said.
"Yes, I am," she said.
"And I am who I say I am."
And, now, somebody else is me, too.