I used to roll my eyes when friends and family confided deep concerns that the Internet may not be all that safe. What are you talking about? I’d reply, feeling smug and a tiny bit superior.
After all, I’ve been online for years. Paying bills. Buying books, household items, gifts, clothes, and you name it. Bidding on eBay. Blogging. All so easy with the click of a link and off into the web-o-sphere we go.
There’s nothing like the immediate gratification of an electric or phone company confirmation thanking you for your payment two seconds after you authorize it, especially if it’s late. Instant CYA.
I had a little twinge of concern when a flurry of banks, stores, and other major motherlodes of my personal info started issuing guarded national press releases recently about security breaches. That made me worry that maybe my social security and bank account numbers, or even my dress size, could have gotten into the wrong hands.
I still felt safe until a few months ago when my debit card was denied as I tried to buy gas late at night in a town far from home. That’s embarrassing. Especially when you are arguing with the clerk about how much money you know you have in your account. And he couldn’t care less unless you can pay right then and there. Which I couldn’t.
So I floated home in minus-20 degrees on fumes and my fury. Until the voice mail I retrieved from my bank’s fraud unit that someone in Northern California had purchased about $500 worth of items from a Target store with my card number. I knew it wasn’t me, since I live all the way across the country, near Cape Cod.
The good news is, I got my money back. But then a few weeks later came an email from a favorite store that their files were hacked. One this weekend from Disney Destinations, where I do a lot of dreaming, and this morning from Best Buy, the scene of major Christmas shopping.
And, don’t forget Facebook, where my profile often shares space with an unlikely post from a friend featuring the image of a bodacious blonde saying: “Click here and laugh your ass off like I did.”
No. I don’t think I will. Hacked! How about the Viagara-by-mail emails from friends and strangers alike, who then apologize profusely en mass, especially to their boss.
I can’t say this has scared me off the Internet. Nothing could do that. But I’m a lot more serious, and at least thinking my purchases through more carefully before depositing my financial DNA on “secure” sites.
I’m going to keep on living my own life, but my timbers have been shivered and I’m a little less smug.