So Sunday I had a transaction for dinner on my credit card in Seattle, and the following morning I had a $270 “card present” purchase in Taiwan. Naturally the trusty bank computer systems flagged this as being suspicious, since they did not have a record of me purchasing a ticket to Taiwan. They put a block on my card (it got rejected today when I tried to buy some sushi) and sent me a couple emails asking me to contact them.
Turns out I never actually went to Taiwan, and someone has made a counterfeit copy of my credit card. Fortunately I have a $500 limit on my card, which I always thought was kinda stupid since I make twelve times that much every month, but now I’m rather thankful.
Anyway, this somehow just doesn’t seem like a big deal. I see all these ads going on about how horrible identity theft is, but I can’t help thinking that I felt significantly more injured and violated when Circuit City refused to honor the extended warranty I paid good money for. That cost me many hours of driving to Circuit City, turning in my CD player, waiting a week then picking it up only to find it still broken. I went through that process eight or ten times before finally giving up. This whole identity theft thing will likely only cost me an hour or two. About fifteen minutes for the phone call to the bank, plus maybe another half hour to get some documents notarized, then maybe another hour if I have to go to the police station to report this whole mess.
That’s ultimately what bothers me most about this–not that it bothers me all that much, of course–is that my bank requires me to file a police report on this. That’s something I really don’t want to do for moral reasons, but my bank has always been good to me, so I think I will anyway. I wonder what they’d do if I refused to report it, though. Would they discontinue my identity-theft insurance or something?
Why don’t I want to file a police report? Well, there was this time when I was walking down the street after a Halloween party, minding my own business, when a cop came up to me and whipped out a gun and shoved it, point-blank into my face. I stared down the barrel to see his trigger finger trembling, and behind that, his eyes enraged and bloodthirsty. He screamed at me, made me lie down in the dirt, called me insulting names, and insisted that I had broken into someone’s house and stolen a DVD player. He took a look at my driver’s license, called in my name, confirmed that I wasn’t who they were looking for and told me to “get the fuck out of here.” When my trembling hands caused me to take too long in putting my wallet back in my bag, he raised his fist and threatened me, shouting again, “Get the fuck out of here!”
Ever since then I’ve thought about the people who reported their stolen DVD player. They felt so violated and so justified in calling the police simply because some poor drug addict had helped himself to something that was “theirs”. I doubt they ever found out what the police did to me in their name, and I’m certain they don’t know, and possibly don’t even care about the psychological effect this experience had on me. If I report this identity theft, how do I know some Taiwanese police officer isn’t going to do this same kind of thing to another innocent person? How could I live with myself knowing that I caused this kind of thing to happen to an innocent bystander?
Then what if they do catch the real guy who did this? What have we accomplished then? What are the chances that this guy is wealthier than I am? Why do I deserve to have this money but not him? His job is credit card scams. My job is something much more legal, but still contributes little to nothing to society. Am I really any better than him? How do I know that money isn’t going to feed his kids? I mean, sure, I don’t want him to steal from me, but how can I justify destroying his life or even giving him a night in jail over a few ultimately meaningless numbers? But here I am, required by my bank to commit an act of vengeance that goes against my core values.
So I’d like to say to the guy who stole my credit card, I’m sorry our world has to work like this, and I honestly wish you good fortune. No hard feelings.