Thursday, July 26, 2012

I Dropped My Guard and Almost Lost My Identity


I spent most of my morning yesterday in a work meeting at the Port of Los Angeles. 

Due to the high level of terrorist threats in the Port, Homeland Security has amped up its security measures and the building was like Fort Knox and the screening process very hard-core.  However, I know the drill, and it didn’t phase me too much until I was leaving.

I was the first to exit in my party. The security guard asked if I wanted the contents of my name badge back – a photo along with my name and company information were on that piece of paper –and I said no thanks.

I was with my company’s senior counsel and, upon walking out of the building, she said, “With so much identity fraud, I didn’t leave my information.”

As we walked back to our car, I almost asked if I could run back and get my name badge to shred back at the office, but thought I would seem a bit obsessed. (Who me?) But I couldn’t shake that nagging feeling that I had just done something stupid.

Once I was back at the office, I realized that someone had been blowing up my office and cell phones all morning long.  I checked my voicemail to find a message from an online clothing company asking me to call and verify my order which was to be sent via overnight delivery.

I phoned back and spoke with a customer service representative who confirmed the order with me.  It was a clothing store that I had never heard of and the sale was for almost $600.  Logically, I knew it was not my purchase but, my first reaction was, “Oh crap, did I use my company credit card to make a personal purchase.”

Then the rep told me that they had suspected fraud because there had been a $400 purchase yesterday and the billing and shipping information didn’t add up.

I started to freak out.

The rep said there was nothing to do about the first purchase because the clothes had already been sent overnight, but she would cancel the second order for $600.

I immediately got off the phone and called my corporate credit card company and, within a half an hour, they had cancelled the card and assured me that they would take care of the fraudulent charges without penalty to my company or myself.

I hung up relieved for about a millisecond and then I remember the discarded name badge with my personal information on it.

My mind started spiraling out of control; High anxiety. I could not figure out how anyone could obtain my work credit card number.  While online, I started scrutinizing my work purchases over the past several months which are usually pretty far and few between…and boring: office supplies, parking validation, a fastrak pass, pizza or sandwiches for an office meeting.  I just couldn’t reconcile how anyone could have gotten my card number as well as my work information (billing address, direct dial and cell phone numbers).

Then I became paranoid that someone actually took the information from my wallet.  This is completely unrealistic but I just couldn’t help but get myself all worked up.  I had to phone each of my credit card companies and then check all of my bank accounts.

Luckily, it seems to have been an isolated case with just my work credit card information being compromised.

But this wasn’t my first rodeo and it surely wasn’t the first time someone had tried to steal my credit card information or even my identity.

Yet, it is hard to shake that feeling of being violated when a stranger purposefully steals your information and takes advantage -- for their own personal gain -- at my “financial” expense.

As someone who strives – and I emphasize the word strive – to live my life being the best person that I can be, it disgusts me that there are so many immoral and corrupt people breathing the same air that I breathe.

I am not naïve.  Bad people are out there in the world.  I mean we see it every day in the news.  People losing their whole life savings from bad apples like Bernie Madoff and Robert Stanford, just to name a few. Not to mention the total crazies out there who take it one step further who actually abuse, hurt or kill senselessly.

I will graciously get off my soap box now.

The bottom line is that I was lucky the online vendor saw the red flags and alerted me to the fraud that was taking place.  I was lucky that my credit card company was so helpful and willing to resolve the situation.  I truly believe this situation could have been so much worse.

Even though I doubt there is anything I could have done differently, I’m going to chalk it up to a learning lesson but I will certainly be more careful about guarding my identity.

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