Debit Card Nightmares in Modern Times

I woke up on a recent Monday to a phone call picked up by my land line’s answering machine with the Caller ID reading “Fraud Detection” and a recording stating my name and the correct last four numbers of my debit card.

The recording gave a “reference number” and said to call their 1-800 number immediately because my debit card had been put on hold due to a suspicious charge.

Though I hesitate to reveal so much about myself, I am getting old, I do not trust computers even though I’ve used them since 1985, and I’m almost pathologically paranoid about phone calls like this one. I’ve also started to shrink, which is apparently yet another of the endless joys of aging.

How do I know I’ve shrunk, you ask?

Well, even though it’s none of your business, I know it because I recently ordered a pair of blue jeans from Amazon, and the 29″ length that used to be perfect for my stubby little legs is now two inches too long, which brings to mind a couple of lines from T.S. Elliot’s wonderful poem The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock:

I grow old… I grow old…
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Sorry, I’m wandering. Let’s return to the suspicious debit card charge reported to my answering machine.

But first a little back story to this latest problem so typical of the frustrating Modern Times in which we’re all imprisoned.

You see, being an old school guy, I’ve always refused to use a debit card and only acquired one a month or so ago because my late wife Ellen had repeatedly told me over the years: “Chet, the day is coming when you’ll need a debit card for an emergency and, besides, it’s way past time for you to join the 21st century. Nobody writes check anymore.”

Well, long story short, a month ago I decided she might be right about the possible emergency, so I went to my bank and left with a debit card, put the card in my wallet, and promptly forgot about it since I pay bills with my checking account and buy groceries with cash.

I figured the debit card would get even less use than the cell phone Ellen also talked me into attaining a couple of years ago “in case of an emergency.” Being a frugal old man even then, I purchased a cheapo Tracfone unit and a 30-minute a month plan for $10 a month.

Since I tend to write more than I talk, I figured thirty minutes a month would be more than enough time and, besides, the minutes rolled over. Well, I called my wife once on this phone from the grocery store parking lot when she was still alive just to see if it worked. It did. And that’s the only time I’ve used it.

Out of curiosity, I logged onto the Tracfone website a few minutes ago to check my stats. My minutes have indeed rolled over. Believe it or not, I’ve accumulated a few minutes shy of 90 hours of available talk time. Ninety hours! Are you shitting me? What on earth am I going to do with 90 hours of available talk time on a flip phone that has spent 99.99% of its life on the desk in my home office?

Oops, sorry, I’ve wandered away from the debit card problem, haven’t I?

Let me refocus…

So, back to my recent early morning freak-out when, kaboom, I wake up to a scary recording from an alleged “fraud detection” service. Because of my paranoia, I didn’t trust the recording, even though when I researched the phone number online it appeared to be a legitimate third-party company that detects debit card fraud for numerous legitimate banks and credit unions.

Well, nobody’s ever accused me of believing anything the first several times around, so I scratched my old skull and thought for ten or fifteen minutes about what I should do next.

I quickly ruled out suicide or going back to bed and pulling the covers over my head, though I’ll admit to kinda liking the latter option.

A quick hour or so later I came up with a plan. My old brain was humming that day!

Here’s the plan I came up with: Using my head for something other than a hat rack, out of an abundance of caution, I did NOT call the number the recording said to call but instead looked on the back of my debit card and found an 800 number to call that went directly to the debit card department of my bank.

How smart is that???? LOL!!!

I mean, seriously, I may have lost a step or two in terms of 100-yard dashes (unless I’m running to eat and then I’m faster than ever), but the old braino can still light up neurons like the Fourth of July when it has to solve a problem.

For Pete’s sake, the phone number on the back of my debit card HAD to be legit, right?

And, yes, I dialed it and quickly realized it was a safe number.

You see, after waiting on hold to lousy elevator music (why can’t any of these companies play John Prine or Metallica or something interesting), I finally hooked up with a nice customer service lady.

Well, I guess I should rephrase that since I didn’t actually “hook up” with this nice lady. I mean, seriously, you can’t hook up via phone. And besides I’m an old widower now who needs a haircut, a shave, and a hot bath. I’m not exactly the catch of the day.

I’m kidding about the hot bath. I continue to grab a shower every Saturday night, just as I’ve done for the past seventy years or so.

Hahaha, I’m kidding there, too. I may be old, but I’m clean.

Drat, I’m drifting again. Where were we? Oh yeah, the catch of the day.

Speaking of the catch of the day, I’m wondering if my local market’s going to have fresh gefilte fish on sale this morning? They had shark fins available a month or so ago, but the mall’s sushi joint beat me to that one as well as all the prime sashimi. In case you’re wondering, according to Wikipedia, “Gefilte fish has the texture of a dense matzo ball, but for those who aren’t familiar with all of these Jewish foods, think of gefilte fish like a fish meat loaf. In fact, it doesn’t even really taste like fish. If ‘fish’ wasn’t in the name, you may not even know what it was made of. As for taste, it’s pretty mild.”

Darn, now I’m getting hungry.

Anyway, the nice lady I’m not going to “hook up with” proceeded to ask me a slew of questions to confirm my identity. My paranoia didn’t like having to answer these questions, especially since some of them went back decades regarding details about cars and houses I’d owned in the past.

As an aside, it’s true. Today my fear that privacy no longer exists was confirmed because the nice lady had access to databases that obviously knew EVERYTHING about me.

You see, before the nice lady would reveal to me the details of the suspected fraud on my debit card, she asked me my height, to make sure it matched what their database said was my height on THEIR copy of MY driver’s license.

I told her my driver’s license said I was five feet and seven inches tall, but in actuality I’ve apparently shrunk a couple of inches because the 29″ inseam blue jeans I’d ordered recently from Amazon had to be sent back since the lengths were about two inches too long. Either that or else the blue jean company had mislabelled the length, which, of course, in our Modern Times of gross incompetence could certainly be the case. She said that was okay either way, that shrinkage was a physiological fact of life, and, indeed, quite common in old men, and that I shouldn’t worry about it too much.

Appreciative of her caring words, when I stopped tearing up I was a few minutes later able to answer her next question, which was to provide her with the last four numbers of my driver’s license, along with my Social Security number.

Luckily, I had my wallet at the phone with me so I was able to provide the right figures. This of course could have been an embarrassing pain in the ass if I’d not had the forethought to have close at hand my wallet containing my driver’s license and Social Security card. I mean, seriously, do you know how difficult it is to keep nine non-sequential Social Security numbers in a 73-year old brain?

I’ll tell you how difficult it is. It’s akin to performing heart valve surgery with an associate’s degree in carpentry, not that there’s anything wrong with an associate’s degree in carpentry. I mean, seriously, Jesus probably had one of those from the community college in Nazareth when he was still living with his family, right?

By this point, I was pretty exhausted mentally, but things got worse…

You see, I was further embarrassed when the nice lady gave me four numerical options as to how much I’d paid for my home. Given that it was 22 years ago when I bought this dump, I narrowed the four choices down to two and then guessed at the right price. Yes, yes, I know how absurd it sounds to not recall how much I paid for a house.

A house, for Pete’s sake!

We’re not talking about how much I paid for a pair of blue jeans that were two inches too long. Even an old fart should have enough memory left to recall how much he paid for an entire house. I mean, seriously, WTF!!!

Well, I could not dredge that figure up for the life of me, though I was able to discard two of the four options since one number was enough to buy, on a good day, a couple of cases of Tootsie Roll Pops; and the other option was totally out of the ballpark for my cheesy neighborhood. You should see this neighborhood. My God, it’s really gone downhill over the years. Why, just the other day…

Never mind about that.

Back to the nice lady and her many questions that I had to answer to prove that I was the real Chet Day and not some weirdo imposter trying to fool the debit card fraud department of a national bank.

But, honestly, how on earth do they expect a Golden Aging Senior like me to remember stuff that happened 22 years ago? I mean, seriously, I couldn’t remember where I’d put the box of bran flakes this morning when I feared I was in for potential constipation issues because I haven’t been consuming sufficient fiber lately.

Well, I can happily report I found the cereal after only five minutes going through various cupboards.

If you think that’s impressive, what ’til you hear this: I found the milk almost instantly. It was in the refrigerator!

When the nice lady was finally satisfied I was the real Chet Day, she revealed that the debit card charge that had been flagged as suspicious was for, get this, 77 cents and payable to CBNOnline in Canada. Even though I’ve basically lived on the Internet since late 1999, I’d never heard of CBNOnline in Canada, and I told her so.

I then asked if she’d ever heard of CBNOnline, and she said she thought CBN referred to the Christian Broadcasting Network.

“Well, shave Santa with a butter knife,” I exclaimed, “that proves it wasn’t me.”

“How so?” the nice lady asked.

Long pause as I thought about asking her to check one of her database for the answer because surely if she had a copy of my driver’s license, she also had to know my religious preferences, though I’ve made it a habit for the past 55 years or so to check the “unaffiliated” boxes on all the damn forms we have to fill out in these absurd Modern Times.

Speaking of damn forms, I propose to you that the day rapidly approaches when we’ll have to fill out some stupid form at Chick-fil-A if we want a slice of pepper jack cheese on our spicy chicken sandwich. They’ll probably want a thumb print at the bottom of the form, too.

While we’re on the subject of thumbs, for reasons I don’t comprehend I always think my thumb is on the left side. On the other hand, it might be on the right.

Anyway, by this point in my dialogue with the nice lady at my bank’s debit card fraud department, this whole deal was getting really, really absurd and crazy because…

1) I’ve never used this debit card; and

2) I would never use a debit card or a credit card of a gift card for a charge of 77 cents. I mean, seriously, can you think of anything today that costs 77 cents? I can’t. In fact, I doubt that a guy could buy a Snicker’s bar for 77 cents in 2021 America.

Anyway, before I turn this into a major 22,413-word rant about Modern Times, the 77-cent charge — thanks to the third-party fraud detection service that contacted my answering machine — had not gone through. That made me happy.

I then had the nice lady cancel my debit card, which made me even happier. I made sure the cancellation actually occurred by having her confirm to me at least seven times that no new card would be mailed to me, indeed that I never wanted to see another debit card for the rest of my days.

Now, I know the person reading this rant is a good person and because of your goodness, you’re possibly feeling sorry for this nice lady, maybe even thinking she needs a raise if she has to put up with ranting old fools like me every day who refuse to adjust to Modern Times.

Well, you’re probably right about that, and I’d be okay with giving her a raise because she was patient with me, especially when I rather aggressively roared, “Why the hell do you keep asking me all these damn questions? I’m the real Chet Day. I’m not some scam artist stupid enough to call a major national bank’s fraud department to try to steal money from a debit card! I mean, seriously, how dumb would you have to be to try to defraud the fraud department of a major bank on an insecure phone connection? Does this actually happen? Are there really people stupid enough in Modern Times to attempt such a heist?”

I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I did indeed go on and on in this vein for probably twenty or thirty minutes, and, yes, you’re right, maybe the nice lady did think I was a “little off” because I was ranting rather excessively about the unending aggravations of Modern Times, but, hey, it’s her job to be sensitive and understanding, right?

And besides, before she picked up, an automated voice told me our conversation might be recorded, and I’m always hopeful during times like this that the recorded conversation will work it’s way up the corporate ladder until a CEO or CFO commits to change you can believe in. Hahahaha. LOL. ROTFLOL! Fat chance of that, right?

Well, anyway, I mean, seriously, far too many people are overly sensitive these days. For example, just last Tuesday, I almost got my head bitten off because I was arguing about identity pronoun usage with the bagger at my local grocery store when a young woman behind me interrupted our analysis and did everything but whip off her mask and beat me to death with it.

I guess she didn’t know I’d been an English teacher in a former life and that I was legitimately interested in identity pronouns and how the usage of many of them have changed the past few years. God knows, I wasn’t trying to trigger a fellow shopper who believed in her heart the sensitive subject of gender pronouns in the prison of Modern Times was off limits to old men buying milk and bran flakes.

Oh, by the way, did I mention that I keep milk in my refrigerator? And speaking of bran flakes, have you watched the movie Constipation on Netflix? Probably not. You see it hasn’t been released yet.

Anyway, everything worked out on my end with the debit card, but, seriously, I am getting too old for this kind of excitement starting at 8:15 of a morning in our exciting Modern Times.