Identity Crisis

The headache grew worse as I scrolled through blogs on the internet, scanning rather than fully reading or digesting the information in front of me. I was sweating, my mouth was dry, and I could feel an elevated pulse. Sensing the gravity of the situation, my lovely wife,
Grace, put her hand on my shoulder.
“It’ll be okay,” she soothed. “Let me get you some iced tea.”
“I could use a Manhattan!” I grumbled, and then realized Grace’s concern and thanked her for the support, adding softly, “Tea would be great.”
“Did I hear Manhattans?” my Aunt Toogie barked as she entered the kitchen. “Before noon?”
Grace pulled her aside and in a hushed tone relayed the news. Our bank had called about an hour before to report a person masquerading as me had shown up at a branch in another state, presented forged identification, and cashed a rather large check. Our local Daniel
Island branch was alerted, but unfortunately after the incident, and they had called me and were taking steps to freeze access to my account for a while. 
“Who and how would someone do such a thing?” Grace mused.
With a Cheshire grin, Toogie replied, “Well, I can think of a bunch of people you might like to take Dalton’s identity.”
Not sensing where this conversation was headed, Grace answered, “Really? Who?”
With the bait now securely set, Toogie offered, “How about Hugh Jackman? Or maybe Jon Hamm?”
Grace got the gag instantly and she and Toogie were off and running. “That’s funny,” she smiled.
“Funny,” Toogie gushed. “It would be fabulous, babe! Or Ryan Reynolds.”
“Ooh la la!” Grace shot back.
They giggled like teenagers, leaned in toward each other, and offered up some more fuel to the fire. I recognized Robert Redford and a few others but heard some names I didn’t know, but then I hadn’t picked up a People Magazine in years.
When the frivolity faded, Grace sensed my pique. She walked around the kitchen counter to where I was seated with my laptop. Giving me a hug and a kiss on the top of my head, she cooed, “We were just having a little fun, Dear. And, no, I wouldn’t trade you for anyone.”
“Can’t say I didn’t try,” Toogie chortled, as she made her way to my side. Then in an abrupt change of mood, she stated, “Okay, show me what this creep did and what you’ve been able to do so far to prevent it from happening again.”
As I described some of the blogs I was reading, she interrupted, “Wait right here,” and left the room. In a minute she was back, barked, “Let me be frank with you,” and set a book by the computer. The book was “Scam Me If You Can” by Frank Abagnale.
“He lives on Daniel Island,” I observed. “This is his book?”
“Yep. Really good stuff,” Toogie replied, “everyone should have one.” She pursued the index and, turning to a page, took command.
“We’re going to start by resetting all your financial, email, social media, and Wi-Fi passwords,” she ordered. “And make sure each one is different from the others.”
Methodically, we worked through each one. I was starting to feel better already. When we finished, Toogie announced, “Put a note in your calendar for 90 days from now.” When I gave her a puzzled look, she explained, “We’re going to do this all over again.”
Next she asked if I had two-factor authorization and transaction reports activated at my bank. When I gave her another bewildered look, she sighed, “Geez” and sighed again, “Go get your phone and we’ll set that up, too.”
That task completed, Toogie peered at my phone. “You have the bank app on your phone. Do you pay bills or make deposits through your phone?” 
I replied I did not, and my drill instructor shot back, “Then erase the app,” adding, “Do all your banking on one device. It can be your phone or your laptop, but use only one.”
We then checked the malware program on my laptop and Toogie reviewed the settings for automatic updates. That done, she opened up the web page for one of the national credit-rating agencies. I leaned in, now beginning to understand the magic she was making. 
Still in tutor mode, Toogie explained, “We’re going to freeze your credit reports and set up a fraud alert.” After that she pulled up a homepage for the Federal Trade Commission. “And, we’re going to report this identity theft,” she announced.
 “The government has to know?” I queried. 
“This will be important if you later have a loss claim,” she advised.  “Plus, they have a good checklist. We’ll look at it compared to what we have done so far but I think we’ve made a good start.”
Clicking off the FTC site, Toogie proclaimed, “There you go. Now, you need to check your bank and credit card account daily for unusual transactions.” 
“Got it,” I replied. “Anything else?”
“Not right now,” she answered. “But read this book. There are other good ideas in here. Like using a separate email for just online purchases.” After a moment, she nodded and said, “There is one more thing.”
When I looked back without answering, she declared, “It’s time for that Manhattan!”
“Coming right up,” I replied, then paused, gave her a big hug, and thanked her for all her help.
“Don’t get mushy on my, Dalton,” she whispered, “but I do appreciate your words – and that Manhattan.” 
Around a month later, things had returned to normal thanks to my guide book, daily maintenance, and Toogie’s supervision. No further unknown activity had appeared on my bank or credit accounts and our bank reinstated the money the thief had stolen. 
In appreciation of what Toogie had done for us, Grace and I had invited her and her gentleman caller, Brevard, to dinner, starting with cocktails at our house. Brevard had heard all about my banking mishaps and Toogie’s rescue yet insisted on a full replay, if only to shoot me
occasional glances of tsk, tsk.
Grace finally changed the subject, replaying some of the interesting Spoleto events we attended. This was my opening. “Have you guys dined at Sorelle?” I asked Brevard.
“Gosh no,” he replied, “It’s almost impossible to get into.” After a pause he added, with some aplomb, “I have some connections. I must call them.”
“Let’s see if we can get in tonight,” I interrupted adding, as I left the room, “I’ll call them now. We can cancel our existing reservation if we get in.”
“Fat chance,” Brevard scoffed, inspecting the legs on the cabernet in his glass.
A couple minutes later I reappeared and announced, “We’re in. Dinner in 60 minutes.”
“YOU got in?” Brevard exclaimed, dumbstruck. “How?”
I let the moment linger for effect, shrugged, and offered rather nonchalantly, “I may have used a fake name. You know, somebody really important.”
This didn’t seem to bother Brevard one bit who downed his wine and made his way to the powder room to comb his hair. Grace went to retrieve her purse. Left alone with me, Toogie smiled at me, “Please tell me you didn’t use a fake name.”
I smiled back, “Yes,”
“And, you didn’t just call either, correct?”
“Yes, Ma’am. Made the reservation a month ago. The day, in fact, that you helped us.”
Toogie grinned, gave me a wink and said, “You are a bad boy, Dalton. But if you want to have some fun with Brevard, go ahead. Sometimes he has it coming. I won’t turn you in to the Federal Trade Commission.”

Daniel Island Publishing

225 Seven Farms Drive
Unit 108
Daniel Island, SC 29492 

Office Number: 843-856-1999
Fax Number: 843-856-8555


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