By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate
At the risk of being sued by Popeye, I am what I am. Unfortunately, what I am can’t be printed in a family newspaper. I don’t even know who I am anymore. That’s because my identity was recently stolen.
I never thought this would happen because you’d have to be crazy to want to be me. Even if you were caught and went to trial, you could easily get off, either by pleading insanity or by claiming the cops had the wrong man. Then I’d get arrested.
In contrast to the old Sammy Davis Jr. song "I’ve Gotta Be Me," I don’t want to be myself. It’s a terrible predicament, but there’s nothing I can do about it.
Despite the prospect of being married to someone richer and a lot more interesting, my wife, Sue, decided to do something about it when she noticed charges on my debit card for $1.13.
"Is that all I’m worth?" I asked. "What an insult!"
"There are three charges," Sue pointed out, "so you’re worth $3.39."
That made me feel a little better, but I still couldn’t understand why anyone would want to steal my identity, especially since I had to take a vow of poverty when I went into journalism.
In fact, my life is lived in increments of $20 because I use my debit card almost exclusively at the ATM, which in my case stands for Abominable Transaction Machine. I usually withdraw $20 so I can put enough gas in my car to go to work so I can earn enough money to put gas in my car to go to work. At least I have a job. Then again, if I didn’t, I wouldn’t have to put gas in my car.
At any rate, Sue called the bank to find out what was going on and spoke with a very nice customer representative named Renee, who wanted to speak with me because those little charges were being put on my card.
"Someone is probably downloading songs on an iPod," Renee said.
"I don’t have an iPod or iTunes, although I do have iTeeth," I told her. "I’m not technologically advanced."
"Neither am I," said Renee, adding that she would put a block on my card but that I would have to go to a bank branch to get a new one.
A little while later, Sue and I were sitting in the office of Friday McGraw, a small-business specialist who is as terrific as his name.
"Identity theft is a big problem," said Friday, which also happened to be the day we were there. "I’ve already done three this morning." Then he handed me a pair of scissors and asked if I wanted to cut up my card.
"I’ve always been a cutup, so why not?" I said. Friday looked on as I snipped away. "Wow!" I chirped. "I’m literally performing plastic surgery!"
"I guess you don’t do that for a living," Friday commented. "You’re too excited." He also said that identity thieves typically put small charges on a card at first. If the card holder doesn’t do anything about it, the thieves will then put on charges that could total thousands of dollars.
In trying to figure out where the theft might have occurred, Friday asked, "Where was the last place you ate?"
"My parents’ house," I replied, explaining that we had stayed overnight.
"If your identity got stolen there, you’re in trouble," said Friday, who has helped my parents with their banking and knows they’re honest people.
"Still," I wondered, "why would anyone want it?"
"I guess there’s at least one idiot out there," Friday answered with a smile. He issued me a temporary card, changed the number on our checking account, arranged for me to get a new debit card and new checks, and otherwise handled the whole transaction with great professionalism and good humor.
"Now you can be you again," he said.
"It’s small consolation," I replied. "But at least I can put gas in my car."
Copyright 2009 by Jerry Zezima