Op-Ed

Larry Dale Keeling: Better watch out, hackers can spoil your fun

Larry Dale Keeling
Larry Dale Keeling

FRANKFORT — From Thanksgiving week through New Year's Day, writing about politics (even Kentucky's "damnedest" politics) can be a bit of a chore.

Yeah, they keep blowing hot air up in the nation's capital (and even a little of it here in the state capital) during December. But barring some bombshell event/scandal/combination of the two, not much worth noting happens in the political dead zone of the holiday season. Even politicians take a break to stuff themselves to the napping point on Turkey Day, spend time decorating for and preparing to celebrate Kwanzaa/Hanukkah/Christmas/(insert your other holiday of choice) with their families and maybe even raise a glass or few of good cheer during this festive period.

Still, I was preparing to do my duty as a curmudgeonly, smart-alecky political commentator in this space today. Perhaps with an early year-in-review piece. But just as I started thinking about weaving the tale of state Rep. Jim Gooch's gifted panties, the exploits of "Congressman Frankingstein" and assorted other recollections of 2014 together, along came Monday.

Monday, the day I learned my main credit card got hacked.

Purchasing the necessities for raising a glass or few of good cheer on and around Turkey Day, I handed the lady at the checkout line my card. She informed me it didn't work. I asked her to try again. She again informed me it didn't work. So, I paid with another credit card and went on my way.

I was perturbed (and a little embarrassed) by this incident, but not too perturbed (nor too embarrassed) because this happened to me once previously due to what I ultimately figured out was some kind of glitch in my credit card company's system that was quickly corrected, allowing my card to work again and causing no consequences on my bill.

I expected a similar explanation when I got home and called the company. I was wrong.

After getting through all the automated stuff and finally talking to a customer service representative, I was informed a "hold" had been put on my card and I needed to talk to someone in a different department described by lots of words, the only two of which registered with me were "risk management."

During the minutes (hours in my mind) it took for my call to be transferred to "risk management," I thought, while sweating semi-profusely, "Holy (expletive deleted), I'm the risk they want to manage by taking away my credit card just before the holidays."

"Bah, humbug" didn't begin to describe my thoughts toward the credit card company during those minutes (hours). But I was wrong again.

When a lady from risk management (soon to become in my mind "the wonderful lady from risk management") came on the line, she informed me it was my risk the company was worried about because the "hold" was implemented after a couple of questionable uses of my card number in recent days. She also asked me if I had been traveling, since one of the uses (which the company rejected) was at a convenience store in Hammond, Ind.

The last time I passed through or was remotely near Hammond was in 2001 when my sister and brother-in-law still lived in Chicago's western suburbs, so I truthfully responded in the negative. I also truthfully responded in the negative when she asked if I had used my credit card for a $500 purchase at a big-box store in eastern Jefferson County.

The wonderful lady from risk management then asked me all the questions necessary to fill out a fraud claim and take the $500 off my bill. She also gathered the necessary information to get me a new credit card quickly. I responded by thanking her profusely for her company's alertness in catching the hacking before it got any worse.

I have no clue how my credit card got hacked. And I have no clue how some brilliant geeks (in the most praiseworthy sense of the term) came up with a program that caused just a couple of odd uses of my card number to pop up on the company's "risk management" radar so quickly.

But I'm infinitely thankful they did. Because of them, I spent my Turkey Day week toasting their contribution to my good fortune instead of drowning my sorrows.

Happy holidays. And be careful, very careful, using your credit card. Trust a victim, albeit a fortunate victim: It's no fun getting hacked.

Reach Larry Dale Keeling at lkeeling@herald-leader.com.

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