I am a special person. My specialness has been made clear to me because over the last six months, I have had the unusual luck of having 6 cases of credit card fraud and identity theft. Do I have a special radioactively-induced magnetism for fraud? It definitely seems that way, but I can’t recall having been dunked into any radioactive slime recently.
As one can imagine, dealing with repeated attempts at credit card fraud has been a sexy, fun-filled romp that will soon be a distant dream that I recall only as a string of delightful phone calls, bedroom-dancing to my new favorite song (the Capital One hold time music), and great friends I have made along the way who are all paid to be nice to me.
Exhibit A: Leotards For One, Please
It began with a fun purchase made in Kentucky at a WWE store, for hundreds of dollars of merchandise. I had a long time on hold, as evinced by my eventual scatting and sighing:
“Oh, of course I would love to have spent hundreds of dollars on wrestling leotards,” I told the representative when I called to report the transaction, “But no, it’s not possible because firstly, I’m in Africa, and secondly, I’m not an idiot and would never make that purchase.”
It turned out to be fairly tricky to deal with fraud overseas, but Capital One actually made it Capital Fun. A few phone calls and three-way conversations later, order was restored and my troubles were behind me. OR WERE THEY? (Well, you already know they are not because I spoiled the frequency and number of issues I’ve had earlier)
Exhibit B: The Rise of Evil Jeremy
I was in Asheville visiting a friend and we went to buy some groceries at a organic grocer. Can you imagine the shame when I just wanted to buy some kombucha like a normal privileged white guy and my card was REJECTED? I will never forget the cashier announcing over the PA that “Michael Long’s card has been declined and he must be some dirty pauper trying to impose himself on ‘our’ world”, and the shrieking laughter coming from the aisles, including the frozen food aisle, which, it’s like, c’mon, if you’re buying mostly frozen food, you have no right to laugh at anyone and you need to grow up.
After taking cover from the penetrating shower of cackles and laughter and rotten vegetables, I called Capital One again.
I was on hold for some time with that same tune, distressed:
Finally, I was able to reach a representative.
“Okay”, he said, “So who is the other authorized user on the account?”
I explained there was no other authorized user.
“It’s just me,” I said. “I live alone. I am an island. No one really understands me. There is no other user in my life.”
He seemed to understand that I was a lone wolf.
This second attempt at fraud was much more sinister. Some guy named Jeremy in Indiana had got a hold of my info, changed my pin, added himself as a user, and had even doctored several of my childhood soccer trophies to have his name on them. He was probably even copying my trademark style: Not really ever showering. Soon his transformation would be complete, and he would have snatched my identity away, leaving me a limp, lifeless vessel.
This whole episode took a lot of unraveling and constituted my first audio recording of Capital One. It was a love song. You can listen to it here.
After Jeremy was finally removed from my life by the Capital One team, like a cyst that lives in Indiana, I thought him often. Was he doing well? Maybe he needed the money after all. How did he learn these cool fraud tricks? Did he have kids? Would they follow in daddy’s footsteps? Jeremy, if you’re one of the six people reading this, no hard feelings. All is forgiven.
Exhibit C: Balance-Transfer of The Underworld
Everything was quiet for several months. I was using my credit card like it was no one’s business, and true enough, it WAS no one’s business. And yet, the meddling had not yet reached it’s apex. There were higher summits I would climb.
I woke up one frosty morning in November and was going through my normal routine of absently opening and closing websites and social media platforms in an attempt to numb my spirit from real life when I noticed something awry. Despite being a relatively poor person, I had apparently in the last 6 hours, attempted to transfer $4,000.00 to a bank account from my credit card.
“Boy, my life has really gone off the rails. I don’t even remember sending someone $4,000.00, and I really can’t afford that, anyway. Oh well.” I thought to myself. But as I reflected back on the last six hours, I surmised that I had been asleep, and it was very unlikely that I had tried to make a transfer to a strange bank account while I was asleep. Unlikely, though not impossible. I decided to go ahead and phone it in to my bff’s at Cappy One.
I was in a cafe when I made the discovery, so I could not record the call, and though Capital One records all of their phone calls, they were unwilling to send me a tape, or even some MP3s.
I explained to the helpful woman on the phone that the transfer seemed like it was probably going to someone in abject poverty, and could she please let me know who so I could call them and offer them food or less money, but for now, I’d need to hold on to that $4,000.
Thankfully, it was pretty painless to stop the charge, and she sent me a new card. The whole thing took minutes. Two days later my new card arrived. It was beautiful. It was blue, it had a sticker on it that explained how to activate it and everything. Cappy McOne really thought of everything.
I activated my card and used it successfully to purchase an adult beverage, which I consumed legally. I then slid into a dreamless sleep.
Exhibit C AND A HALF: Transfermania
When I awoke, I noticed another balance transfer for $4,906 on the account. This raises a lot of questions, like, why are you trying to transfer such a specific amount, dear criminal? If you are going to go for it, you just need to really go for it. Get all the cash you can.
Once again, I called Crapital One.
We spoke at length about my day, and I told her wow, Portland seems to have changed a lot, but I really like it here. Eventually, we tackled the issue of the fraudster’s transfer. I asked her if she thought it could possibly be a coincidence that there was another attempt at a balance transfer less than 48 hours later.
She said yes, it was probably just a coincidence. Of course, I am now in the future, and not in the past, which is where I used to be when this conversation happened. I now know that she was wrong and really, why would she ever think it was a separate, unrelated fraud attempt? OF COURSE THEY WERE RELATED.
But once more, they sent me a new card, and my life continued, full steam ahead.
Exhibit C.9999999∞ (Punch O’Clock)
My full-steam amounted to a few whispey puffs when two days later, before even receiving my new card, I had another balance transfer of $2906 on my account. This time, I had to roll up my sleeves. Justice must be served.
After speaking with a number of Capital One Squadron of Truth and Might we concluded that the three attempts were definitely related. Someone had my information and they were logging into my account.
“Let’s get these guys.” I said to Ashley, the very helpful woman in Idaho on whom I had a minor crush.
“Okay, but be careful, this is a syndicate of highly-trained fraudsters. Their base is at (address removed for security purposes). There’s really know telling how deep this rabbit hole goes. Be careful.”
“Careful is my Christian name.” I said, cooly. “If I don’t come back from this, tell my parents that I was planning on taking the garbage out, I just didn’t get around to it, and I don’t know who made that burn-mark on the carpet, but it wasn’t me.”
My GPS led me to a street in west Seattle.
I pulled up in front of a massive warehouse. It was beige and unadorned. I checked the address. It was the place. I drank some water because it’s important to stay hydrated, especially if you are going to engage in mortal combat with dozens of lackeys that work for a shadowy villain. I find that most people rarely think of hydration as an important aspect of heroism, but I’m not here to rant about good health and cinematic/literary realism: I’m here to crack skulls of lackeys. They probably got kids, though. 😦
I had taken 3 months of Tai-Kwan Do when I was about eight years old. I stepped in front of the warehouse, practicing a few of the stances just to jog my memory. Tiger stance? Still got it. Horse stance? Still got it. I couldn’t really remember any others, but two stances seems like more than enough for this kind of thing. I did a few quick stretches and sun-salutations on the sidewalk, but it was really cold and kind of hurt my hands. I had a sweater on and I started to get concerned. Once I started in on all the skull-cracking, I’d probably get fairly warm fairly quickly, but I doubt I’d have time to take it off, plus it was a gift. But it was cold. I weighed the options and took it to my truck.
I hustled over to the door of the warehouse, a little cold. The cold metal handle did not budge. It was locked.
I knocked and waited. Nobody answered. I knocked, louder, but the door was heavy and hurt my knuckles. Still, no one answered. Shit. Was there maybe I another door?
I walked around the building, scanning the bland exterior for a door or a window or something. I came to the back and there was a loading dock with a couple of guys smoking out back, and a big truck parked neatly in front of the freight door. They didn’t really look the Credit Card fraud type, but I asked:
“Hey, do you guys work here?”
“No, we’re just making a delivery.”
“Ahh, okay. Um, this is weird, do you guys know what goes on in this building?”
“Nope, we just make the deliveries.”
“I see. Well…can I use this back-entrance?”
“Sorry, do you have business here? This is just the delivery entrance, the public entrance is on the street.”
“Yeah, I tried that, but it was locked, and I didn’t see another door.”
“Shouldn’t be locked.”
“Well, it’s definitely locked.”
“Okay, well we got a lot of work to do, sorry, maybe try calling them or something.”
I could plainly see they weren’t working, they were just smoking, but they were losing their patience. I didn’t want to press it. Plus, now I was really getting cold.
“Okay, thanks anyway.” I said.
I hustled back over to my truck, breathed into my cupped hands and turned the engine on, getting the heat going. I put my sweater back on. It was already 2:15. I started thinking about rush-hour traffic going back down I-5 to Longview. It was gonna be pretty bad because it was a Friday. Seattle had grown a lot, and it sure seemed like traffic was worse than I remember. If I started skull-cracking now, I was definitely going to get stuck in it. Shit. It dawned on me that I could have planned this whole operation a lot better. To be honest, I was probably in over my head, somewhat. I’d never even been in a fight before, much less with numerous lackeys AND a boss-type guy who would probably be there. I really had no idea what kind of special-moves he might have or what. Plus, I had no snacks, because if it went really well, I knew I’d be really hungry at the end, and Seattle prices are really high these days. But that’s gentrification for you, right?
But the more I thought about it, it didn’t affect me that much, anyway, to have these fraud-attempts on my account. They didn’t get any money from me, it was just a little inconvenient. They were probably just trying to make ends meet, too. We are the same, these hucksters and I. I stared out at the wet pavement for a moment, noticing the hot hair from the vent making my hair bob in the periphery of my vision. Looked like rain was coming.
I decided to call it a day, once again proving that true heroism is finding ways to justify the actions of people that commit criminal deeds. I mused that were it not for the rain, there would have been a lot of face-punching, sounding roughly thus:
“Next time, though,” I mumbled to myself, promising a swift retribution if there was any further monkey business.