Sunday, July 3, 2011

Sure. Can I See a Picture ID?

Every so often I'll hear someone, usually an older person, say something along the lines of "I would never use my credit card to buy something on the internet!" The World Wide Web is well-known as a den of thieves, and there are plenty of ways to get your credit card information and your identity stolen online. Granted, you usually have to do something stupid or naive, but admittedly, the only 100% surefire way to not get your bank-card number stolen online is to never buy anything online at all.

My personal typing technique, which I call "The Claw"
Now, I shop online all the time. I make my living buying things from people and selling them to other people and making online transactions. I use Paypal, I use my credit cards, I've never had a problem, and millions of other people have no problems buying billions of things for trillions of dollars every day. Bad things can happen, they're a headache, but you can also lose the millions you've sewn into your mattress if there's a fire. To be alive is to be treading in a river of risk.

What amuses me about folks who won't use their bank cards online is that they often don't hesitate to hand them to complete strangers. If you're that worried about someone stealing your credit card number, why are you so quick to release it to a high-school kid at a Chuck-E-Cheese, and then punctuate the exchange by voluntarily issuing to him a copy of your signature? Is there something about that $7.25 an hour he's making that makes him more trustworthy than

Consider this. You've been standing at the perfume counter for 10 minutes and you're sick of waiting for the counter girl to deal with another customer. You've had a long day and your feet hurt and when the girl gets to you, you're huffy and short and nasty and blame her for your bad experience, even though she's probably earning minimum wage and isn't the person who made the schedule that's left the counter short-handed. You're cruel to the little wench and you don't even know why, but you can see in her eyes that you've hurt her and made her more than a little angry, though she maintains the facade of the professional smile. You smile back the "sucks to be you" acknowledgement that part of the price you're paying for the cologne you've picked out is your opportunity to be bigger than someone else for five minutes.

Rather than apologize, you look at this girl you've just wounded, who you aren't aware is a single-mom working on her nursing degree and surviving on three hours sleep a night and who has dealt with bitches like you all day long and has just about reached her limit, and hand her your credit card. Now she has your credit card number, your secret three-digit security number from the back of the card, and a moment later, your signature. You have just willingly handed your personal information to someone you've been completely shitty to, and who has every reason to want revenge on you. What stops her from writing down the numbers from your card and tracing your signature off of the receipt in the register drawer, then passing them off to her boyfriend Marcus so he can buy a flat-screen TV?

Later, you hand your card to the mysteriously handsome ethnic guy at the convenience store, who has 13 cousins who traffic in goods around the world who speak 7 languages between them and who "know people". You give it to a pimply, frog-throated boy who sells you popcorn at the movies, a guy who has been hacking computers for as long as he's been alive, who could max your card out buying electronics and never be traced but prefers to bundle credit card numbers and auction them on the black market. That night, you willingly hand your card to the friendly grandmother/cashier at the grocery store who you think is named Betty but who is actually Esmerelda Johannsen, a satanic priestess who has a meth lab in her basement and who uses stolen credit card numbers to finance the development of a fluid-transfusion machine which she believes will give her eternal youth.

I'm just saying.

"So that was one burger meal on Visa #59004-3664-2356-41216 with security code 478, Mrs. Shirley Cartwright signed with a big pretty sweeping 'S' and one long line crossing both 't's?  Can I get your zip code with that?"

An online credit-card transaction is just a credit-card transaction. You never really know in whose hands your precious identity rests, whether they're right in front of you or a world away.

***Mister Mirror*** Please link to us on your blog or website. @JPSterling


  1. oh, Grandma Betty, what have you done?

    (btw, i've been seeing your comments but when i tried to go to your blog i kept getting an error message. i finally saw the address on your comment on another blog. so, hi.)

  2. Wow,

    Great post, I totally agree, I run into all these people that also states the same thing about not giving their information online, but indeed elsewhere offline. Amazing isnt it. Thanks for sharing a great post. Love your site.

    susie moore
    skype smsforce