Thursday, April 19, 2007

I Was Set Up! ...By Myself

Let there be no mistake. I am an idiot. No, no, don't argue with me. It's true. Let it be known, when my house is robbed and I'm stripped of all material belongings, it's because I'm an idiot.

Seriously, how much training do I need, how many warnings can I get, how often do I have to remind myself and others how easily we give away information that can only cause us pain?

Consider for a moment how many people know our phone numbers. How many times have you gone to your favorite grocery store and been asked, "Do you have a Fresh Discounts card?" Of course your wonder card is sitting...somewhere that's not with you. "That's alright. What's your phone number?" You're a bit focused on getting your goods out of your cart or your wallet out of your pocket or your checkbook out of your purse, and you tell them. Clearly you're too busy to notice the dude in the line behind you scratching something on what surely must be his shopping list.

Think about how often you call into your bank and they ask what your birthday is...and the last 4 of your Social? ...and your mother's maiden name...? As you answered, did you bother to look over your shoulder at your co-worker all-too-innocently jotting something on his sticky-pad?

When you got out of your car to run into the store, how many people walking past the passenger side window got a good look at your address posted all nice and prettily on your power bill you carelessly threw there?

Paranoid? No. Just aware. These are all no-brainers. And yet...all it takes is one stupid move to give away all your marbles without once squatting around that circle.

...and star wipe to a couple weeks ago....

My wife has this great idea to get our house appraised so we can finally get rid of our PMI. (OhI hated the PMI with its wee beady eyes...but I digress.) We pay someone $150 and we have a goodly amount of money per month no longer being legally stolen but going toward our house's principal. What an excellent idea. (She's a genius.)

We place the call. We pay the $150. We get a call, "Hi, this is Andrea. I'm going to be doing the appraisal on your house." Excellent! Man, that was quite fast! "Alright, I'll be there Friday." (Of course "Andrea" was very insistent that it be done in a very short amount of time. Strange? Yes, but hey, the sooner the better so we can start paying off the house a bit faster.)

Friday rolls around. It's 1300 hours. I take a late lunch and wait for the appraiser. She's a bit late, but no problem. She walks up to the door, a camera in hand and flip-flops on feet. Not exactly what I'm used to with house appraisers, but...I'm not really used to house appraisers.

She introduces handshake or anything--which I did find odd, but I'm not really a touchy-feely person, so I was alright with it--takes off her flip-flops and pads around the house barefoot, snapping pictures of each of the rooms. I'm tagging along, flipping on lights for her, excusing the mess, chatting about all the cool things we've done with the house, trying to drive up the price. I find it very strange that she's not paying much attention to what I was saying, so I grow a bit silent and begin wondering about what she was doing. She must have read my mind because she said, "I take pictures so when I'm writing my report I have them to remind me of things." Sounds...almost...not...quite reasonable. She takes pictures of every room, goes out front, snaps pictures of the front of the house, then goes around to snap some of the back. Then she's gone.

It was a strange experience and I thought very little of it. Alright, that's not true. It was all very strange, and my mind kept replaying it. Of course, when the mind does such things, it's time to pay attention to it. I did. And it all came crashing home. I'll get back to this in a moment. wipe to yesterday....

I've always been all sorts of into alternative healing methods. One of my friends sent to me an email and said via instant messenger, "You should check out this email. It's pretty scary." Of course I was interested so I looked at the email. It had a warning about the FDA doing still more stuff to finagle, coerce, and otherwise weasel their way into wresting away our rights to choose alternative methods of healing. Something seemed fishy about it, and I was busy at work, so I chose to look at it later, because it linked to a site that seemed to be of rather...unimpressive design and functionality.

The following day (that would be today), I get an email from another friend. It held a strange link that, when I foolishly followed it, took me to what appeared to be the very same site that my other friend's email linked to. Alright, two friends of rather intelligent and discriminative minds sending me the same link...? There's got to be something to this.

I hurriedly (I was still at work) fill out a form that presumably is used to generate an email that is sent presumably to people who are presumably legislators. "First Name, Last Name, Dear so-and-so, please pretend like you give a damn about my rights...blah blah blah...Send. Alright, back to work."

Then it hit me. SCAM! And if not a scam...well even if it wasn't a scam, I did something amazingly stupid and put my first and last name on a form with my address--the address to my home--and email address and submitted it. I deserve every last bit, nibble, byte and megabyte of spam email I'm sure I'm going to be getting. And that's the least of the damage I believe I have caused by filling out that stupid form. Someone out there now knows entirely too much about me. And I gave it to them! Idiot.

I got a letter in the mail today. The appraisers received our money and are still waiting for us to schedule an appraisal that was completed a week ago. My fears that hit me upside the head not nearly as hard as they should have as I was driving back to work are now partially confirmed. My fears: those pictures were an illegal inventory of everything we have in our house. They are pictures of the security measures we have deployed outside and in. (I can't even trust they'd be cowed by my dogs, considering I introduced her to them.)

I say again, when my house is robbed and I am stripped of all my material possessions, I need remember only one thing: I'm an idiot. Then as I try and rebuild everything, work on putting food on the table, explain to my family why everything is gone, I will's perfectly alright to confront people, or sites, or anything you feel unsure about. Sometimes lessons must be learned the hard way. Even lessons with which you're intimately familiar.

Now, consider how much information I've given you about myself. Now shake your head, call me an idiot and secure your information!