An $11,000.00 Compromise

From May 2013:

Last week I found out I was attacked by an identity theft.

I was doggie sitting for the weekend and was in Safeway to get some milk when I received an automated, not human, call from TD (Toronto Dominion) VISA informing me that they had flagged some unusual transactions on my account and asked if I had made a certain large purchase. When I said, ‘no,’ I was asked to stay on the line, presumably for a real person, or I could call back. A grocery store was not the place to deal with this. When I called back, I discovered that someone had racked up around $11,000.00 in Toronto during three days. I was told that I was not responsible for these charges and that my card had been cancelled. I just got it not long ago, so I was not reliant on it. The charges will remain while they launch an investigation. The girl was very nice and made me feel comfortable that this would not be a huge inconvenience to me. I suppose, in the back of my mind, I knew this was just the start of trouble.

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One other time, I had another card just canceled out of the blue. Their explanation was that the number of my card fell within a range of numbers that they suspected might have been compromised. Just to be safe, my card was cancelled and I had to wait for a couple of weeks for a new one. This is a good reason to have more than one card, otherwise one would have to resort to cash or some other form of transaction.

Just exactly what compromise really means is a bit unclear to me. Do these thieves get just my card number, or can they get other information? These days, there is so much information out in the abyss of the technojungle. One piece of information can easily be linked to other information. Just with a name and city, one can get addresses and phone numbers. That represents your physical footprint. You also have a digital footprint that can start with your E-mail or your social media links. We should have great concern for privacy and security.

The attack on my identity was not isolated to my VISA card. They tried to open an account with Rogers. Since I already have an account with Rogers they decided to not issue another account and promptly sent out a letter to me. When I called them, I was told to call their fraud department. That department was closed for the day, so I called the next day. I was advised to check with Equifax and TransUnion.

My first call was to Equinox, since I had heard the name before and understood that they had something to do with credit ratings. I entered an endless phone tree. It was completely automated. I could order a copy of my credit rating, get various reports and access a variety of other services. I got frustrated and hung up.

My next call was to TransUnion. I began the same endless journey through the phone tree. At one point, the voice stated, “If this is about fraud, say fraud.” The words had hardly left my lips when a real human voice came on. The heavy accent and poor pronunciation alerted me to the possibility that this person was not in Canada and probably did not have much authority, and that this might actually turn out to be more frustrating than the call I had made to Equifax.

He looked into my account/profile and said that Rogers had made some sort of request and then he asked if I wanted to report the Rogers request as fraud. I said no. Why would I do that? They told me to call TransUnion because of a fraudulent request made to them. We entered a conversation circle during which he must have asked me at least three times if I wanted to report the Rogers request as fraud.

Not far into our conversation and after mis-pronouncing my last name as Grawhome, he decided that he needed to verify some information. “Do you live at XXXX Rygeawood?” I told him that we have moved. He repeated and I insisted that we no longer live at that address and had moved some years ago. He told me I had to have the information updated. OK, I agreed, let’s do it. Not so fast. He informed me that I would need to send a registered letter and $5 to have the information changed.

Wait a minute. I explained that I never engaged them in any service agreement, that the company was keeping information about me without my permission and selling it to corporations and back to the individuals they track and now they want to charge me to have them correct information that they have wrong. I’m sorry, I don’t think that is right. If I had engaged their services and neglected to send in an address change when I moved, as I did with all the other services I was using, I could understand charging me to make a change. I was frustrated and hung up.

It seems like every couple of days we are hearing of breaches in security due to cyber crimes and yet, we are encouraged to do more online and adopt more technology. Wouldn’t this normally fall under the definition of insanity?

If we look carefully at our society, we find that our behaviour might well be explained by an addiction fed by large-scale multinational corporations that literally have no regard for us as humans, but only to forwarding their own agenda that has ‘make money’ at the top of the list. It would also follow that ensuring most of the ‘problems’ associated with a technology should not be publicized so users’ confidence would not be diminished. In other words, don’t tell people what goes wrong, just recoup the costs through higher fees and make sure more people use more credit cards more often so that we (the corporation that is) can make more money and the corporation will grow. Never mind that a large number of customers are never able to pay their balance off and feed the corporation even more through paying interest.

A credit card is a perfect example of technology that has inherent problems that, not only inconvenience people, but end up creating greater costs. To think that I am not responsible for the transaction is somewhat false. If the costs are not recouped from the perpetrator(s) of the crime, then someone has to pay. VISA is not going to cover the costs. They are out to make money. Do they have some sort of insurance? No matter how you look at it, the costs of fraudulent transactions most likely get passed on.

If you pay a fee for your card, then that fee probably goes toward covering losses. The same could probably be said for merchant transactions. Every time you use your credit card, the store pays a fee. Oh, and let’s not forget interest on unpaid balances. If the losses to the credit card company increase due to fraudulent charges, they will most certainly pass the cost on to us. If transaction fees to merchants need to increase, that increase will be reflected in higher prices to consumers.

VISA is not telling me that I don’t have to cover the fraudulent charges directly, I have to cover a portion of all the fraudulent charges on all the credit cards issued by VISA.

Think about it. The fraudulent charges on my VISA card amounted to more than I spend on the card all year. Now how does that work out? This may be the reason cash could be with us for a long time.

We all need to look at protecting ourselves. I don’t know how my credit card was compromised. Nobody has been able to tell me, so I don’t know how to plug the hole. Did somebody hack into a database somewhere? Was there a card reader device of some sort used to read my card when I used it somewhere? What happened?

The card did not have an RFID chip. I keep my chip cards in a protective wallet. Chip cards can be scanned without having to insert them into a machine or tap them on a reader. They can be scanned right from your pocket.

The truth is that this type of crime is becoming so common place that many people in our society just take it for granted. As I talk to people, they all have some sort of story about what happened to them or someone they know. Should we just let this become part of everyday life in the technojungle?

While personal identity theft is a big problem, corporate cyber attacks are a huge problem. If we only knew what really happens out there, we might lose confidence in more that just the banking and financial systems.

Update:

It took many weeks for the charges to be removed from my account. In the meantime, I was charged interest. Finally, I was sent an affidavit to sign stating that the charges had been removed. The problem, they missed six of them. I even noticed that charges were made even after the card had been cancelled.

As the weeks passed, I discovered I did not have enough accounting skills to figure out what they had done and where my account stood. I was on the phone many times. I had been told to list the missed fraudulent charges on the back of the affidavit and sign anyway. I was very reluctant to do that and protested, however, they convinced me to sign anyway.

In the end, I called again and complained that I was not an accountant and had no idea of what they had done, but I would accept the $183 positive balance on my account anyway.

I think I could be quite comfortable going back to using only cash and making transactions in person with, what, a real human being. Nowadays, that would be quite a novel thing.

Remember, always expect the unexpected and always keep in mind that the future never arrives, at least not as expected and it brings baggage.

Let’s think about it!

© 2014 by Bob Grahame
Please do not reproduce this article, or any part, in any manner, without my permission. Thank you!

Underwearables — Help! My underwear is smarter than I am

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With new technobuzz words entering our vocabulary everyday along with new technologies, I began to wonder what might be next. Take ‘wearables’, for example. This word seems to have popped up almost overnight. Suddenly, everybody is talking about wearable technology that will change our lives by monitoring what we do so it can assist us in living better.

One of the problems with devices, such as smartphones, is they need to be with us to be useful. I began to wonder what might come next before we actually embed our devices into our bodies—something that might take some convincing before it could become common place. In the meantime, devices have to get ever closer and more personal than we ever imagined. So what could be more personal than underwear with a built-in device. We all wear underwear everyday and being close our bodies, it could really be effective at helping to monitor our lives.

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Why would you have something as ridiculous sounding as connected a smart underwearable? I can see embedded flexible monitoring technologies being used to track the health of our lower bodily functions. It could detect unhealthiness in our digestive system, for one possibility. The data monitored could be used to tell you which foods are best for your body. It could detect diseases and other problems early on.

Well OK, I am being a bit facetious here. It is ridiculous in so many ways. Think about it, though, we carry a small device around with us that is, with every new version, getting more capabilities to monitor our health. If we truly ‘are what we eat,’ can’t you see somebody considering this as a good option? I don’t want to give anyone any ideas, yet we do need to think ahead if we want to stay ahead of what technology does to our lives.

Think back a few years. What would you have thought if somebody told you that to pay for your gas in the future, all you would have to do is tap your credit card on the pump and the payment is automatically done? That not only seems like it lacks security, it sounds about as strange as a public toilet that knows when you arrive to do your business and when your business with the device is complete so it can relieve you of having to remember to flush.

Yes, our devices are getting up close and personal. It may not be our underwear. Tests have already been done with inserting RFID (radio frequency identification) in clothing. Imagine a door that knows you are coming and opens automatically. Convenient, right? How about a door that knows you are coming and does not, for one reason or another, open. Perhaps a malfunction, or a glitch, but it may happen if someone wants to keep you out.

Maybe your underwear will have your media playlists. You get in your car and your favourite music starts playing, right where you left off in your playlist. You are waiting at the dentist’s office and your underwear tells a device what movie you were watching earlier and puts it on for you, right at the part where you left off.

Let us keep in mind, always expect the unexpected and always keep in mind that the future never arrives, at least not as expected and it brings baggage.

Let’s think about it!

© 2014 by Bob Grahame
Please do not reproduce this article, or any part, in any manner, without my permission. Thank you!

The Jazz Lifestyle

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What we can learn from the music

Are we following technology more than our humanity? In this age of unceasing change, we can easily fall into a trap of technological routines and over-programming of our lives. We become stressed and anxious about living in this dehumanizing jungle of technology. Can jazz music teach us anything about living; about survival in a technology dominated world where machines may one day out think humans?

A jazz approach to life could be a powerful weapon and solution in the technojungle because of its deep humanizing potential. The technobeasts can’t do jazz because jazz is analog, not readable by digital technology. It is a continuum of infinities that no digital technology can comprehend. The human spirit can.

Jazz is democratic, inclusive, creative, innovative, spontaneous, intuitive, inspirational, emotional, empathetic, diverse, spiritual. Among these, technology can’t flourish, however, humanity can.

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Jazz meanings include, vigour, energy, effervescence of spirit, joy, pep, magnetism, verve, virility, encouragement and happiness. To jazz things up can mean to enliven, liven up, brighten up, make more interesting and exciting, add some colour to, ginger up, spice up, perk up and pep up. It can be enthusiastic or lively talk.

Originally, jazz music came from African and West Indies music containing tribal beats that became slave songs. These blended with some European styles and the musical styles of ragtime, black sacred music, marching-band music, rural blues, spirituals and gospel music mostly from the African-American baptist churches during the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Jazz music is polyrhythmic and polymetric. It has some structure, yet allows for improvised cross rhythms combined with a syncopation that anticipates the beat. To many enthusiasts, jazz must be able to swing.

To play jazz one needs four components shared by many other styles of music. These components are: rhythm, melody, harmony and chords. The order doesn’t really matter. One might choose the melody first which usually comes with chords. Harmony is derived from the chords, however, many styles of jazz use versions of chords that provide a more jazz-like feel. The flavour of the music can be changed by the rhythm. To live a jazz lifestyle one must seek the important components in life and find the right rhythm to follow.

One of the key elements of Jazz is improvisation allowing for free expression and interpretation of the music. When playing jazz, musicians must listen carefully to each other and respect the feel and interpretation each player brings to the performance. The music can change at any time and what one player does can be of great influence to others. It is a very democratic process of life that includes equally all those involved.

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Because jazz music is free expression and full of inspiration and emotion, notes may be changed slightly. Certain notes can be added to give a blue texture. Such notes are called blue notes. Some notes may have their tone bent thus creating a different kind of blue note.

There are a variety of ways to make special jazz sounds and some are unique to particular instruments. A piano, for example, can’t really do a vibrato or shake. A saxophone or trumpet can do the vibrato and shake, but can’t play more than one note at a time, so a chord can only be played one note at a time. This is how a melody can be re-composed on the spot following the chord structure of the music. We can each find our own instrument of life to play along with other people and re-compose our world.

While no two performances of any music are exactly the same, jazz performances can differ greatly. Solos are usually never played the same way more than once and all jazz musicians have their own style and sound. There have been many attempts to write down jazz music. Jazz that is written can capture some of the feeling and provide larger groups a structure so they can play together. A jazz band may use an arrangement. However, the arrangement usually allows for individual free self-expression through improvisation, inspiration—even touching the emotions and intuition of the players and the listeners. Many people think jazz music should never, or can’t be written. For them it is all about taking the barest of structure, perhaps only melody and chords, thus allowing the music to come from their spirit.

Jazz is an analog form of communication. Being analog, which unlike digital, is infinite, moving from one note to another can include every pitch in between those notes. Being analog makes music and jazz best suited to the human body and human spirit.

Jazz music has managed to find it’s way into nearly every corner of the human experience. Along the way, it gathered for itself a myriad of stories and perceptions. Many, like tarnished silverware, are dark and depressing. Yet as the definition above shows, jazz is quite the opposite. It is time to de-tarnish jazz and learn what it really is and to make it our life. It can deepen our humanity and free us from the technojungle that surrounds us.

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Flappers doing the Charleston dance.

While jazz music emerged in the late 1800s, the jazz lifestyle was born during the 1920s Jazz Age. It was a post war era that ushered in great technological innovation and cultural change to a world of industry and wealth. Until this era, most children would have a lifestyle similar to that of their parents. New innovations, such as the telephone, phonograph and records, movies, radio, popular magazines and the automobile allowed for a new culture to spread across the country. Young women adopted a rather crude lifestyle and called themselves Flappers. Toward the end of the 1920s though, women were becoming more poised, with correct speech and smarter attire, in other words more respectable.

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Respectable flappers.

Jazz music followed the Mississippi on riverboats from New Orleans up north to Chicago and then East to New York. It was adopted by young people from the African-American slaves of the South. The jazz movement captured the youth who were eager to break away from the stiff Victorian lives that seemed to have trapped their parents. It was a time full of excitement and spontaneity.

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Early New Orleans jazz bands used guitar and string bass instead of louder banjo and tuba used for marching and recording.

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The Original Dixieland Jazz Band, a white band from New Orleans that made the first jazz recording. They were issued on the Victor label.

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“Fine and Mellow” with Billie “Lady Day” Holiday, considered one of the greatest female jazz singers with Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins and Gerry Mulligan and others from a 1957 CBS TV show “The Sound of Jazz.”

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Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong, considered the greatest jazz musician of all time.

Jazz living got into trouble sometimes, leading its followers into drinking and riotous living during a time when the evils of drinking were being curtailed by prohibition. Jazzers were left to follow the music into private and secret night clubs, called speakeasies, run by gangsters.

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Like a person of youth, the jazz lifestyle, inspired by the music, needed to do some growing up—to mature. Since jazz music has eventually gained world-wide respect as a unique art form, it is time to take a look at what the style of music can teach us about living in a world of anxiety and unrest where humanity can be buried by the demands of technology.

Jazz is a journey of intimate shared experiences, describing the world and telling stories from the perspective of, developing the authenticity and identity of, each participant. It strives to leave behind the world of stress and anxiety by transforming the moment with peace and harmony. Jazz is an adventure of impulsive spontaneity and self-expression with surprises at every turn. Jazzers compose, recompose and instantly invent and reinvent their life by changing their actions. As an inclusive approach to life, the jazz lifestyle can be lived anywhere by anyone.

Jazz music is about freedom and liberty from oppression allowing self-expression, usually lively, that can swing and lift the human spirit. Yet it adheres to certain structures and is true to its history and legacy. The music has gained respect and is considered the classical music of America. As a lifestyle, jazz living should be compatible with most belief systems and world views since it is a way of living and acting that has the goal of allowing people to be more human.

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Jazz music insists that all participants listen and pay attention to each other and to the music, and the music brings life. It draws together in harmony the human body, mind and spirit to function as they were created. One will find that the influences on their life that dehumanize and bring stress and anxiety will become less important. A jazz life should help people to break away from the bondages of modern life and focus on the human experience and the things that God has given them.

Jazz music was born in the depths of human misery and despair. It was given to slave people with nothing and is here now to help us living in an enslaving world of technology. With a jazz lifestyle, we can protect ourselves from becoming absorbed by our machines; to keep technology from replacing humanity.

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This exploration and discussion about a jazz influenced style of living needs to continue. I am not finished, this article is not complete and I welcome the input from readers.

Let’s think about it!

© 2014 by Bob Grahame
Please do not reproduce this article, or any part, in any manner, without my permission. Thank you!

Quotes

“I sincerely believe that jazz is the folk music of the machine age.” — Paul Whiteman, popular 1920s orchestra leader dubbed ‘The King of Jazz’ due to his orchestra having so many famous jazz musicians playing orchestrated jazz.

“There was every reason why this music sprang into being about 1915. The acceleration of the pace of living in this country, the accumulation of social forces under pressure (and long before the war, too), mechanical inventions, methods of rapid communication, all had increased tremendously in the past 100 years— notably in the past quarter century. In this country especially the rhythm of machinery, the overrapid expansion of a great country endowed with tremendous natural energies and wealth have brought about a pace and scale of living unparalleled in history. Is it any wonder that the popular music of this land should reflect these modes of living? Every other art reflects them.” — Paul Whiteman

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Wynton Marsalis, considered to be one of the leading jazz performers and experts.

As long as there is democracy, there will be people wanting to play jazz because nothing else will ever so perfectly capture the democratic process in sound. Jazz means working things out musically with other people. You have to listen to other musicians and play with them even if you don’t agree with what they’re playing. It teaches you the very opposite of racism and anti-Semitism. It teaches you that the world is big enough to accommodate us all. — Wynton Marsalis

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The never to be left out of jazz…

I’m sorry, that is an invalid response

I am sitting in my office writing and just had our home telephone ring. I let it go to voicemail thinking that it would be a junk call (like junk mail). Sure enough, it was a call to have my interest rate lowered.

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Well, first of all, my family has no debts other than our credit cards and those get paid every month. Somebody was fishing for gullibles. I listened. The voice sounded so real, but eventually revealed that, if I wanted to speak to a real person, I should press 1. If I did not want to receive any more calls, press 2.

I actually wanted to pick up the phone and see if this was a robot. One can talk to a robot and get pre-programmed responses. It could be interesting. I also wanted to end any possible future bothersome calls and messages left on my home voicemail by pressing 2. But, I didn’t. I let the call end itself.

It had some trouble ending itself. It seemed to think that I was doing something and it replied “I’m sorry, that is not a valid response.” Hmmm, doing nothing was not a valid response. It came again with the same reply and then again. Was it going to continue in a loop because my doing nothing was not a valid response? Would it keep going and make an endless voicemail message? Since when is doing nothing no longer a valid response? Let’s see, that means that doing nothing is actually a response, even if I am not there to hear the call and react accordingly. Who do these people think they are anyway?

I continued to work in my home office and, wouldn’t you know it, the call came again. This time I answered. I said hello, but the recording did not respond back. It is not a robot. I pressed 2 so I would not get further calls. “I’m sorry, that is not a valid response.” So doing something is not a valid response either. There is only one other possibility. Next time, I shall press 1 and tell them that I no longer want to receive calls from them. That is, if pressing 1 is a valid response. If not, what is left to do but let them keep calling until they give up.

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I could call the telephone company, but I am lazy and like to see what happens. Surely, if 1 doesn’t work, then eventually somebody will figure out that something is broken and that their system is calling around, perhaps to thousands of people, for no reason other than to annoy them. These calls are likely coming from off-shore by a company who is contracted and is being paid to provide the service of finding customers who have debt.

With more technologies being employed to invade our lives, we can expect even more annoyances in the future. But then, we should always expect the unexpected and always keep in mind that the future never arrives, at least not as expected and it always brings baggage.

Let’s think about it!

© 2014 by Bob Grahame
Please do not reproduce this article, or any part, in any manner, without my permission. Thank you!