There is a joke doing the rounds that you might have heard that goes like this: “If 2020 was a drink, what would it be? Colonoscopy prep”. Now imagine using that gallon (believe me, I know) to wash down a family size box of extra strength Exlax. Now you have an idea of the kind of year I’ve had.
It started a couple of months ago, when during my break I checked my phone to see who had called me. To my terror, it was a call from Human Resources. Now, let’s face it, it is never a good thing when Human Resources calls you. Like most people, my mind went into overdrive trying to find anything I’d said or done recently that might warrant a call. Thankfully, there wasn’t anything, although that didn’t make me feel any easier. I returned the call and was asked “Have you filed for unemployment recently?”
Wha!?!?!?!?!?!?!!? No, I hadn’t. I’d lost three hours a week, but that was it. I was informed that someone had filed an unemployment claim in my name, which meant that among other things, they had my Social Security number. Oh shiiiiiiiiiiit! Of course, as soon as I got home I went online and blocked everything to do with my SSN, visiting the state Unemployment Department site as well as the IRS and credit rating websites. To cut a long story short, no damage was done, but as you can imagine, it was pretty frightening, and to be honest, it really took the edge off what had promised to be a relaxing and enjoyable evening, it being my sweetheart’s birthday.
Crisis over, or so we thought. Not very long after this I took the opportunity to check my email while on break. You’d think I’d have learned my lesson, but not so. Sitting in my inbox was an email from my bank informing me that they had spotted a number of suspicious charges on my debit card and they had blocked them. Of course, I called them immediately and let them know that no, I hadn’t used my card with Uber in San Francisco that morning. They cancelled the card and said they would issue me a new one which I’d have in about a week. This meant that I had no way to get cash, so I resorted to borrowing some from my sweetheart just so I’d have something on hand.
Less than two weeks later ( can you guess where this is going?) I got a text regarding suspicious activity on my credit card. Seriously? I mean, seriously? What the fuck? Again, I called the bank who rattled off a series of blocked charges totaling over $8,000 to something called “Connections”. Again, they cancelled my card and issued another one. All this in the space of about six weeks, hence my opening statement.
The lockdown and the resultant increase in benefits claims has made it a lot easier for scammers to take advantage of company computer systems that are no doubt overloaded as claims are processed and passed back and forth to the appropriate agencies, banks, etc. I’m just glad the bank caught the fraudulent charges on my cards, although I’d have been happier if they had a more secure system that prevented such attacks in the first place.
As for my employer, they, at least, were on the ball, and I wasn’t the only person at work to be so affected. Of course, I had to update my information on the various sites I use and inform the recipients of my standing charges, which took a little time as one of them is in lockdown mode, but it was sorted out, so no permanent harm was done. Still, it takes a lot of time to change data on various sites, and I certainly won’t use my debit card online ever again.
I realise that the scammers don’t care, that they don’t see their victims as people, but merely as anonymous units to be exploited and discarded, but it really does nothing to improve my opinion of humanity, but as the current administration has shown, never let a good crisis go to waste.
My only hope now is that with new cards I won’t have to deal with this again for a while, although my sweetheart had five attacks in a couple of years, so I’m not holding my breath. Balance this with the fact that due to our impending nuptials, I’m going to be doing a lot of online shopping, so who the hell knows?