A discursive look at Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, plus a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Hooptedoodle #19 - Safety in Numbers

Foy's Ninth Law is:

Top-end technology is valueless if you man it with bottom-end personnel.

I'm aware that there has been a regrettable element of flippancy in some of the recent Hooptedoodle posts, and I am determined to get back to nice, opinion-free pictures of painted soldiers as soon as possible, but today's post is brought to you because I feel obliged - duty-bound, even - to share something which may make you feel a whole lot more comfortable.

It might even improve your day.

I know a lot of people worry about security - we know that we are being watched, that our emails are being sniffed, that International Crime is listening to our mobiles. Only recently, the British Daily Mail (bless them) were explaining how illegal immigrants spend their nights trawling through dustbins, looking for documents which we have thoughtlessly left there, which will enable them to steal our identities. That's right - steal them. And how are you going to cope with having no identity? If you were the sort of person who was unguarded enough to speak to a stranger, how would you introduce yourself?

This is a very serious matter. Characteristically, I have been giving it much thought. There is also the worrying possibility that anyone who steals my identity might actually get some use out of it (something which I have never managed) or, even worse, might bring it back to complain about it.

Well, it's a small step, but I have some good news. The credit card companies, at least, are doing their best for us. Last night I set about paying my credit card balance online, as is my habit, but found that the secure part of the website was shut down for maintenance. Naturally I was a little disgruntled about this - I mean, the whole point of the internet is convenience, right? - and, apart from that, I'd even made a fresh cup of coffee specially. However, these things happen, so I left it until this morning, and tried again.

Still no joy. Now an inaccessible secure website is pretty secure, I have to admit, but not being able to pay my bills is tough going. I searched around the website until I found the helpline number for the online service. After some delay, I spoke to a very pleasant, very correct young lady, to see if she could tell me when the online service was going to be back up again, so that I could plan my day around this convenient facility.

You will be reassured - possibly delighted - to know that the young lady would not give me this information until we had gone through my credit card number, my full name, the first line of my address and my mother's maiden name. Now that's more like it, I'm sure you'll agree. If, like me, you were worried about illegal immigrants gaining information about when the credit card company's website will be working, then this will be good news.

It did occur to me that the helpdesk will probably be very busy this morning, with people worrying about what has happened to the website, and that the requirement to go through The Security Procedures with each one may well explain why I had to listen to a few minutes of Mozart before I could speak to the young lady. However, I realised that this was not a helpful thought - just a quibble, really - and that I should focus more on the positive aspects of being protected.


  1. You have me worried now...what if the young lady you spoke to was in fact an illegal immigrant who stole the identity of the correct young lady from her dustbin?
    In fact, how do I know you are the real thing now?

  2. Crikey - I hadn't thought of that. I was already worrying about maybe having left a note of my mother's maiden name in the dustbin some time last year.

    This is awful.

    Tony (I think)

  3. Tony - I'm now very worried as well. I don't think that picture at the top of the post is you at all! In fact I'm sure I met her in Latvia...

    Ian (or perhaps not?)

  4. The uncertainty is the worst bit. The great thing about getting through the credit card company's security questions is that it proves you are who you thought you were in the first place, which is reassuring, but of course you might have just provided some faceless alien with everything they need.

    I was wondering - if someone steals your identity, do they get to keep your dustbin as well? It would make sense.

  5. If they get to have your dustbin you can steal the identity back again. It is not right to blame helpdesk people , they do what they are told to do.


  6. Eddie - you are absolutely right - thank you for introducing a measure of calm reason into all this hysteria. It is the people who set up the procedures who have lost the plot - the helpdesk just get to read a script all day.

  7. They do it purposely to catch the unprepared with late fees.

  8. I'm sure they would never do such a thing.

    I must say the credit card companies got away with very little abuse for their part in the recent destruction of the UK economy. Admittedly the banks had to be very publicly rescued with large dollops of taxpayers' money (a fact that they don't like to be reminded of come bonus time), so their profile was kind of raised, but in those heady Lemming Race days when everyone was being encouraged to borrow far more than they could ever afford to repay, the credit card lot were key players. I don't believe they have ever been publicly spanked, have they?

    Move on quickly - nothing to see here. I'm sure they are all lovely people, with our best interests at heart. They don't make much out of me, I can tell you.

  9. This security thing is a sham. The scandal is that they don't care if you are defrauded or not. What they care about is whether they get BLAMED for a fraud. No one must be responsible for anything.

  10. Louis - I can hardly believe I'm coming to their defence, but, on the two occasions when I've had problems with dodgy transactions on a credit card, the fraud people have been really very good - they took the initiative to notify me, and followed up after things were sorted out, to make sure I was happy. Only fair to state this.