We've all done things in our lives of which we're not proud. When I lived in Nigeria I used to bilk hundreds of Westerners out of their life savings by telling them that their great step half-uncle (twice removed), of whose existence they were unaware, had died and left them five million dollars in an unclaimed bank account.
I would gather names from bulk e-mailings, then send those unknown people the phony request. I'd e-mail the information about the inheritance, simply asking them to send me their bank account information, social insurance number, secret passwords and a one litre bottle of maple syrup. It was too easy. It sure beat that kidney harvesting operation I tried to set up in Las Vegas.
Identity theft and/or fraud is easy, though the 'experts' are trying to make it more of a challenge. I love how my new Mastercard has a secret three digit security code on the back of the card. Sometimes I can't buy anything on-line without divulging my secret three number code. Somebody please define 'secret' for me. It seems to me that as soon as I give some call centre monkey my secret code, then the value of my secret code falls faster than Amy Winehouse's knickers. Those special three numbers aren't going to stop well organized thieves, though it may make the lives of petty criminals more complicated.
For example, let's say I put my garbage out at the end of my driveway next Tuesday morning, something I've forgotten to do for the past three weeks.
That would explain the smell from the garage.
Yes, that would explain why my garage smells like a four day old, gym bag baked Cheez-Whiz sandwich. So, I've put my garbage out and in that garbage are some old Mastercard receipts. Someone, other than a rustling crow, rifles through my garbage and finds my Mastercard receipts. They now have my name and Mastercard number, so they proceed to order some Christmas presents for their family using my card and identity. If they're not asked for the three digit security code, then they're going to have a very merry Christmas indeed, unless they grow a conscience. Figure the odds...about the same as actually having a rich Nigerian great half step-uncle twice removed who decided he wanted to give his fortune away to some knuckle dragging leisurologist living in backwoods New Bums'lick.
I, myself, did honestly, or dishonestly, dabble in identity theft. No one was hurt by my actions. In fact, we had one helluva good time with it. When I was a teenager it seemed that the vast majority of my friends were two years younger than me. The year 1965 seemed to be a banner year for creating the members of my posse. It was a great year for many things; the sexy new Canadian flag was unveiled, the Sound of Music musical was premiered, and Goldie, a London Zoo golden eagle, was recaptured after 13 days of freedom.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times (for Goldie). When I was sixteen I was able to drive my fourteen year old friends around, thus making me incredibly popular. I had a great social life until I turned nineteen. Then, all of a sudden, I was able to go to the bars but my posse, being underage, were left standing by the door.
Houston, we have a problem.
When I was seventeen or eighteen, I sent away to get a fake ID so that I could buy beer and cheap wine. I mailed my picture to some unknown company who never questioned my age, or integrity. Two weeks later, voila(!), I had a piece of identification stating solemnly that I was nineteen years old. My, how time flies when you're dishonest. I never actually saw myself as dishonest, just creative and spirited.
I was a role model to my younger friends, and they all wanted to get their hands on a fake ID too. I had one friend who hit the jackpot when it came to getting a fake ID. He found a wallet one night while out on the town. My friend, who I'll call Gib to protect his identity, was a very honest person. There was money in the wallet and he never gave a single thought to keeping it. The wallet was returned to the owner, intact....well, almost.
The wallet contained an NBLCC card (translation: the government sanctioned passport to beer, women and song). NBLCC: New Brunswick Liquor Control Commission. The NBLCC card was the official piece of ID that the old, blind buggers that worked at the liquor store were supposed to see before selling lemon gin to pimply faced non-shavers. My fake ID fooled them every time, though it looked nothing like an NBLCC card. God they were stupid. Or naive. Or indifferent. Or generous. Or instructed by Premier Hatfield to get teens drunk. I'll never know.
The NBLCC card was removed from the wallet before the wallet was returned. Now Gib was in possession of a liquor card, his ticket to good times and a debaucherous lifestyle like the one I had told him that I was enjoying. There was, of course, one small problem. Gib looked nothing like the guy whose picture graced the laminated card. What was Gib going to do?
This called for an identity theft expert/leisurologist. Gib and I took the card back to my basement laboratory where we managed to slice open the end of the card with the patient skill of seasoned neurosurgeons. We were able to delaminate the outer plastic coating from the inner paper card. To celebrate, we went to the mall.
Great job MacGyver!
Thanks. Do you remember those photo booths that used to be in all of the malls? Perhaps they're still there, I haven't noticed lately. For a few dollars you could get four images on a thin strip of photo paper. Most often these images involved you and as many friends as you could cram into the booth. Everyone would ham it up for the camera. Some people even kept their clothes on!
These were the days before digital cameras and Photoshop were invented, known as the Dark Ages. We had to be creative back in the late 1970s, and the photo booth was as hi-tech as it got, so off we went. I remember that Gib posed for the most soberly somber, liquor worthy portrait ever taken. We even brought our own backdrop with us, one that most closely resembled the curtain used for the official NBLCC pictures.
Einstein had nothing on you two rocket scientists. Neither did Hermann Oberth, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, or Robert Goddard (all legitimate rocket scientists).
It's true, Gib and I were geniuses, or genii. We returned to my underground lair and continued with our craft project. The NBLCC card had an official stamp on it which was the government's seal of approval for nineteen year olds to go out and get absolutely shit-faced and, in the process, generate a lot of tax revenue for the government coffers. It was a win-win situation. The stamp, or seal, overlapped the image of the card holder, so with a magic marker we emulated that piece of the seal that overlapped Gib's image. We then placed Gib's mall family portrait in the card and sealed the card back up using an iron. We did a better job of sealing the card than the Liquor Commission did.
This was the beginning of my life as an identity theft expert. I never did anything to profit personally from my actions, at least not in the early days. I just used my talent innocently to help under-aged friends get into bars. Interestingly enough, Gib went on to a long and lucrative career as a bar manager. He's never properly thanked me for everything that I did for him. Hopefully he'll steal a credit card and buy me a gift, or find me a kidney if I ever need one.
What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. Right? The same goes for Fredericton and Lagos.