18 April 2011

Don't let it happen to you...

Here in rural Tooele County, we consider ourselves to be very lucky, for a lot of reasons. It's safe to walk down the street. If your car breaks down, people will stop and help you. Nights are quiet, and the Grantsville "Old folks sociable" is still a very popular event. The local paper publishes twice a week, because there isn't enough material for a daily. Great place to live.

However, in the age of the internet, the world has become smaller. The trip to Stansbury Park for a meeting with a client can now be done via an email or a text message. I sat at a family party yesterday, and watched how many actual conversations were taking place. The adults had no trouble conversing. The kids  had their faces buried in their phones, talking to multiple friends that weren't there. My son is able to instantly know what assignments he's missing at school and can email her the work. My daughter can complete a job application in her jammies. It's amazing how much time has been saved because of electronic communication. 

However, not everything is rosy in cyber-land. I received a call from my wife Saturday afternoon wondering why I needed $2000 worth of construction tools. I thought she was joking, but she was not. Some "enterprising" soul had gotten hold of her bank card number and had purchased tools online.Setting aside for a moment the fact that any tool purchase from someone as mechanically inept as me should be a red flag, it was very disheartening to find that what basically amounted to the proceeds of one transaction for Berna, a transaction that could have taken months to complete, could be taken from us with the click of a button. 

We've had similar issues before, actually a couple of times. On both occasions, very small transactions, in the 3-4 dollar range somehow were flagged by the good folks at Zions Bank as "unusual activity". They stopped the transactions, and canceled the cards, once while I was in the drive-through at McDonald's before my wife could notify me. However, in this case, they went for the throat, and it didn't get flagged.

After an hour on the phone with Zion's on Saturday, Berna again managed to get the card canceled. Obviously, we'll dispute the charges. I don't expect much difficulty proving we weren't in the UK at the time of the charges. However, it may be as much as 10 days before we get our money back. It also begs the question, how does this happen? She's had the card less than 60 days, as it was replaced about that time. They didn't know, or need to know her pin number. She never lost the card. We're very careful about watching how we use them. I try to do my best to track it visually at restaurants, so no one makes a note of the numbers. But, what else can we do?

In this age of cyber-everything, electronic purchases and online shopping are becoming the rule, rather than the exception. That can be good or bad. I worry about my grandchildren ever being able to carry on a conversation in person. I worry about the loss of the basic social "manners" that were instilled in us as children. I also worry that some nameless, faceless jerk, that will never be caught will always be able to victimize people by taking advantage of his ability to create electronics means for doing bad things rather than good. And, like so many other people growing up these days, won't think he's doing anything wrong until he's caught. I'll still be here in little old Tooele. My car will be parked outside. I'll say hi to the Police Chief often, because headquarters is in the old auto parts store next to the 7-11, and I'll need a slurpee, and I'll never be able to feel secure about using a tool that should be the most important thing ever invented. Take care of yourselves out there people!

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