Balancing act

ID theft: This is all we need

By PAT SNYDER
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My mom had a saying when life's stressors came in bunches. She would sigh deeply, shake her head and announce: "This is all we need."

So when my cellphone rang on the eve of cataract surgery with a call from the Bank of America fraud unit, I knew exactly what to say. And say again. And keep saying as the story unfolded.

Turns out a Visa Signature card was winging its way to me, courtesy of someone who, armed with my Social Security number, address, cellphone number and birth date, had applied for it in my name and then tried to add herself as a user at an out-of-state address.

Apparently, adding yourself at the last minute is not a smooth move for anyone wanting to commit identity theft, and in a flash, B of A was on it.

"Did you apply for this card?" asked the fraud specialist, who also wondered if I knew a woman -- Gloria, we'll call her -- who lives in New England. I assured him that I had not and did not.

On the positive side, I would not be responsible for any charges.

On the not-so-positive, this was much bigger than garden-variety credit card fraud, where one card is cancelled and a shiny new one with different numbers comes in the mail the very next day.

Instead, I would be groping around all week -- eye patch on one eye and then the other -- trying to notify whoever I was supposed to notify that Gloria and possible accomplices were not actually me.

"This is not good," said my Significant Other, a master of understatement. It did not help that we had seen the movie Identity Theft.

"Dawn Budgie was kind of sweet," I said, imagining that my own ID thief possessed the same jocular chutzpah.

"She wreaked havoc!" he said. It did not help that a Google search of the so-called user on my so-called card turned up a hoarder who had been up on child endangering charges.

Since I couldn't have anything to eat or drink after midnight, I feasted instead on Google -- checking my credit reports, setting up security alerts with credit reporting agencies and subscribing to a monitoring service that would supposedly alert me to suspicious activity.

By the time I got to Surgery No. 1, I was so exhausted they could have cancelled the anesthesia.

The drama continued during the six-hour wait for Eye Patch No. 1 to be removed. My heart skipped every time the "ID Patrol" e-mailed me an alert from the monitoring service.

"Where is She-As-Me now?" I wondered, and conjured up images of her/me draped in furs and driving a BMW.

By the time I noticed my left eye could now see long distances clearly (but not so much close up), I was receiving ID alerts as often as I was putting in eye drops -- four times a day. Oddly, they mostly alerted me to payments, not charges. Apparently the latest credit card scam is complete strangers paying off other people's debts.

By the eve of Surgery No. 2, my still-nearsighted eye and I had filed a police report and affidavits with several government agencies, and made copies of my personal information for credit reporting agencies that required me to mail them in to authorize a security freeze.

"How secure is that?" I wondered as I went under for the second time, and dreamed about a giant black market conspiracy involving postal insiders.

By the time Eye Patch No. 2 came off, I could see every twig on the maple tree behind the house and -- by standing several yards away -- an alert that my e-mail address had been spotted on a black market website, along with a couple characters, out of order, from the modem password.

Maybe not a problem, but just in case, Mr. This-Is-Not-Good changed it to something hopefully impenetrable, which unfortunately required the complete reinstallation of the wireless printer. He did not seem pleased that he was a prophet.

In the end, though, maybe it was my mom who was the real prophet, with her "This is all we need."

I didn't worry a bit about the cataract surgery.

Balancing act author Pat Snyder is a Northwest Columbus resident and life-balance speaker and coach. Find her online at PatSnyderOnline.com.

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