We’re all caught in the password paradox: We need passwords that we can remember but that are odd and complex enough not to be memorable. As we get older, this is challenging. This week, for example, I stepped into the credit card quicksand and began sinking fast.
It actually started last month, with an email from a major credit card company (name withheld, because I’m not that stupid) with which I’ve been doing business for many years. The note said that I would be getting a brand new card, just because. I was perfectly happy with my old card; there were no issues; my bills got paid; but they wanted to share the “great news” that a new card was on its way. I proceeded to file that great news in the area of my brain reserved for stuff like remembering to book a colonoscopy.
Then, a few days ago, the card arrived. Immediately, Inspector Clouseau (a.k.a. my husband) said, “How do you know who sent the card? Why should you get a new card you didn’t ask for? Maybe it’s just a scam.”
Man, life is hard enough these days. A deadly pandemic is sweeping the globe. We haven’t been out of the house in days. Do I really think people are out there trying to trick me into accepting a new credit card?
Still I proceeded. I looked over the card and did what it said, which was to go to the company’s website and verify the card, thereby authenticating my existence. Suddenly, the shoe was on the other foot. The company was fine, but I had to prove who I am. Shouldn’t be a problem.
I called the number indicated and got a young man with a foreign accent who might have been wearing a mask, because I could barely hear him. Also, I may be hard of hearing. He was definitely working from home, unless he brings his screaming toddlers to his office somewhere on the subcontinent.
He asked me my name. “I want to ask you some questions, Randi,” he said, quickly getting very familiar. It was past my bedtime, and I just wanted to be done with this nonsense.
“Please verify your address,” he said. Check. “Please verify your earlier address.” Check.
“What is your mother’s maiden name?” I told him. I was starting to sweat. “What was your first car?” Thank heavens I remembered that my parents gave me a 1965 Mustang, which they later took away from me and gave to my sister, who sold it at quite a profit 15 years later. But where was I?
“What is the name of your favorite pet?” I looked at Lillybee and wondered, did I give them dog No. 1 or dog No. 2 or Lillybee? I took a shot, and guessed right. We were good.
Now the inquisitor asked, “What is your verbal password?”
“I don’t have one,” I said.
“Apparently you do,” he responded.
“I don’t remember it,” I said, now desperate to be done with the interrogation.
“You need to tell me your verbal password,” he said, “or I can’t authenticate your card.”
“Pomegranate,” I snapped, figuring I’d take a shot.
“No, madam,” he said. “But I can give you a hint.”
“What is this, ‘Jeopardy’?” I asked him. “I need to be done with this call. You have my name and my address and the last digits of my Social Security. You know more about me than my husband. Can’t you OK the card?”
“No, madam,” he said. “But the verbal password starts with ‘e.’”
Look, I said, we could be here all night before I come up with the right word. Then I whispered, “OK,” totally defeated. “Elephant?”
“No,” he said, but then countered, “We can accept the last four digits of your checking account.”
I yelled for Inspector Clouseau, who was in the next room, wearing headphones, bingeing “Homeland” and also fast asleep. “I need our checking account number!” I screamed.
The inspector was not pleased. “Who would need our checking account number and why?” he asked. “Clearly it’s a scam. Someone is phishing.”
But we had no choice. We’ve become those gullible old folks who sign over their home to any friendly felon on the phone.
Reluctantly, Clouseau got the number, and the credit card guy was finally mollified. He said he would authorize my account. He said I had to create a new verbal password. I did, and I recorded it someplace very safe . . . but I already forgot where that is.
Copyright 2020 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.