Today really beat me up!

What is in a name? My name, your name? How unique is it? How personal is it? How does it define us? More importantly…how protected is it? Not very…

My parents decided one May day years ago to name me Lisa.  A game day decision (my dad was a huge sports fan so he would like that analogy) they decided instead to call me Elizabeth. I have always loved my name because I knew it was given to me in honor of two strong and wonderful women in my family. My great grandmother, on my mom’s side, and my grandmother on my dad’s. The thing about the name Elizabeth is that everyone wants to attribute a nickname to it and most commonly I am called Liz. I guess the name Elizabeth is simply too long to say. My mom could sure say it quickly, while including my middle name, on those questionable behavior days in my childhood! I smile about that now and sure would like to hear her shout it one more time as I miss her daily.  My mom and I decided, after college and marriage that professionally I would sign my name as elizabeth ricketson as ee cummings did. I am not quite sure why we came to that conclusion but ee cummings was an amazing writer and painter so it seemed like a fine idea. I have always honored her wish and battled with all those insistent, including autocorrect, on capitalizing the E and R!

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Today I am thinking and remembering the purity and dignity behind my name. I thought it was mine alone even though when I Google my name there are other Elizabeth Ricketson’s but my maiden name makes it uniquely mine. I am trying to sort through why a stranger or strangers thought it was ok to take my name and my identity with it? Not only did they take it but they used and abused it!

I often start my work day at 4 am and almost always excited to get up, drink some coffee and imagine the possibilities of the creative day ahead. A morning this week was no different or at least that is was I initially thought. I needed to take care of some personal financial business matters and logged into our bank to review our checking account.  Wow! There they were before my eyes and jumping off my computer screen, numerous pending fraudulent charges from two different west coast companies. I have nothing against the west coast, just knew that I had not placed these extraordinary charges. I called my bank immediately as panic set in and the number of charges grew. We identified that all the charges traced back to my debit card. I had been violated. Immediately the card was cancelled. Unfortunately, one cannot stop that runaway train even though we see it coming and it cannot be stopped until it crashes and burns. The charges continued to accumulate even though the card had been canceled.  The charges accrued until the moment the card reported cancelled! Extraordinary! Fraud claims filed, police reports made but my checking account was in crisis! As the investigation continues I have learned I am very generous with both my spending and express shipping. I was very accommodating for the criminals involved.

One of the two companies that I have been actively working with to unravel this fraud has been amazing and educated me on some of their fraud experiences. They described organized call centers that have ill gotten numbers from innocent people like myself, using these numbers all day long to make fraudulent purchases. Some of the employees may or may not be aware of the illegal scheme they are active participants in. Really???? An actual job to spend someone else’s money illegally?

 How did it happen? Equifax debacle? I took all of the necessary precautions but maybe it was already too late. A gas station? Maybe a skimming device I was unaware of? An Amazon third party seller? Who knows? In fact, we probably never will know. We have an address from one of the express shipments that was delivered but what is the reality that it will be truly investigated? Probably won’t and a calculated risk well played by this ring of thieves. 

So what is the penalty for this fraud, incredible inconvenience and personal insecurity? I will suffer the loss as will the companies involved. Yes, I hopefully will be made financially whole again, but I am mourning the loss of my name.  I will not relax around automated transactions and will limit any online purchases or business transactions. I fear the next fraud attempt is only a matter of time even with my diligence and best efforts to protect my name and what we have worked for. Yes, what WE have worked for! I have always preferred to shop local and will increasingly do so…

I am a little homesick this week and it has little to do with a personal location as I love where I live. Instead, it has much to do with a kinder and gentler time. It is a sad commentary when banks are over burdened with fraud claims and I am occupying a police officer’s time with said fraud. I daily receive emails calling me “my dear” trying to scam me, emails requesting I “verify” my personal data through the convenient link provided. I am not your “dear” and I will not access your link. How is this ok? I have shared my story many times this week  and virtually everyone I have spoken with has shared an unfortunate story from their own fraud repertoire. This cannot be common place but it is! I have a shredder…how did this happen?

Troubling times for certain and sadness has filled many of the days this week yet again. Money is just that…money. We are compromising people and lives at an unacceptable and unspeakable rate as… we need to right this ship!

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