“The good news is that the person who stole your credit card is spending less than you were.”—Probably the next message from my credit card company.
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Nothing spoils a Sunday afternoon nap quicker than waking up to a text. Especially one like this:
“Hi, it’s your credit card company. Did you just make this purchase with your card ending in 1234?
COMPANY: (I never heard of them.)
Text back ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to protect your account.”
Reeling from that kind of reality while waking up from a nap was more mental dexterity than I am accustomed to demonstrating on Sunday afternoons.
Three hundred and fifty bucks? Was that the bread and milk I picked up at the grocery store last night? Wait, maybe that’s where I topped off the gas tank in my car the day before. Finally satisfied the charge was not mine, a quick ‘no’ reply to the credit card company text sent me to their website. Once I remembered my mother’s maiden name, the color of my first car, my first grade teacher’s name, entered a security code sent to my phone and selected the squares with a traffic light in them, the charge to my account was cancelled. As was my card with the assurance, “A replacement card will be issued.”
At least this occurrence was quick and easy to fix. It was all over in less than 10 minutes, unlike the time a few years ago when my wallet was lost … or stolen. The verdict is still out. Something called the internet was still a dream then, but an old fashioned phone call to the credit card protection company brought results. Some unexpected.
“Was your wallet lost or stolen,” the service rep asked? “I don’t know,” I replied. “Temporarily unfindable is the best explanation I can offer.” She decided that declaring it stolen was the best choice in case one of my cards were used for illegal activities.
And everything was fine. Until that night a week later in a Shreveport department store. Actually, it started a few days before when I discovered a credit card in my desk drawer. Certain it was a new arrival not listed with the protection service, it went into to my new wallet.
Presenting my purchases for payment that night a few days later, I pushed the card across the counter and happily told the young man, “Charge it, please.” Again, being pre-internet days, he crunched the card on the receipt gizmo and dialed up the usual verification phone call.
I was still gazing at the array of point-of-purchase items wondering which ones I could not live without when I overheard, “Oh really.” He repeated the number, paused and said, “OK — sure.” When he nervously glanced at me somewhere about the second “OK,” I knew this situation was going south. What I didn’t know until later was what the credit card service rep was telling him.
Things like, “This is a stolen card. Do not show any emotion toward the customer. Do not act surprised. Do not upset him. He may be dangerous. Put him on the phone, but do not under any circumstances let him have the card back.”
“Look … ah, you see …” I started to explain. Before I could finish, the clerk shoved the phone in my direction and said, “They want to talk to you.” It was a toss-up as to which one of us was sweating more profusely.
“Mr. Aldridge,” the voice on the phone said, “I need to ask you one quick question.”
“S-S-S-Sure,” I replied confidently.
“I’m looking at your account history; can you name the restaurant in west Dallas where you ate a couple of months ago and used this charge card?”
Silence. I can’t remember where I ate breakfast, and the man wants to know where I ate in Dallas two months ago. “N-N-No, sir,” I replied, trying to sound like I was in charge of the situation.
Silence again. I’m looking for the SWAT team to converge on the store at any moment.
“How about a hotel in Irving about the same time,” he asked. “The charges were around two hundred dollars.”
A hotel … in Irving … two hundred dollars … a restaurant … in west Dallas. My mind raced as I thought, “I’m going to jail.”
“Oh yes,” I almost shouted when it came to me. Shouting the name of the hotel and the restaurant made me feel like the jackpot winner of a TV game show. The charge was approved. And I surrendered my “stolen” card while apologizing to the store clerk for unknowingly creating a problem.
Sunday afternoon’s rude awakening behind me, I will have a new card in a few days, and life will be good—Sunday afternoon naps and all.
Maybe I’ll nap better, though, if I just go back to cash. They do still make cash … don’t they?