Monday, January 11 2021

football on nickelodeon, cheesy chicken, and fraud

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Dear Journal,

Good morning, brave readers. Happy Monday. There's not much to get excited about in what I consider the dog days of winter. Every day feels like it's overcast and thirty degrees. It feels like we're forever trapped in the limbo between quarantine and freedom, winter and spring, the last President and the next President. It's a weird time for us on all kinds of fronts.

For all I know the existential dread I'm feeling this morning is just a byproduct of staying up too late last night. After buttoning up the house and heading upstairs for the night, Marissa and I spontaneously felt like staying up to share one more drink together. I blame all the great work she did with my bedroom office this weekend. She touched up the paint, patched up the holes left over from the old shelving system, and hung my favorite paintings. Now that corner of our bedroom looks so inviting, I guess it would have felt like a crime not to enjoy it for a little longer.

It's too early to be sure, but I think I'm going to make it. The coffee is hitting just right and I have very few meetings to worry about. I've cheated sleep before - I knew what I was getting into.

Sip. So how about them Bears? We played the Saints in the wildcard round. We went out of our way to watch the broadcast on Nickelodeon, and by the look of it they went all out on the special effects. They had digital slime running all over the field. For each flag, young Sheldon popped up in the corner to explain the violation and make a quip about how he'd rather be doing physics. Rodney particularly liked seeing friends such as Santiago and Chase from the Paw Patrol sitting in the stands in the form of cardboard cutouts.

We enjoyed in game commentary like "Drew Beers and Taysom Hill are kind of like Spongebob and Patrick." There was a line about how David Montgomery and Allen Robinson are the "CatDog" of the Bears offense.

In hindsight, it was probably a questionable decision picking a Bears and Saints playoff game to debut for the first time on Nickelodeon. After all, the last time our teams met in the regular season Javon Wims was ejected for sucker punching Chauncy Gardener-Johnson. With even more on the line, this game went as you'd expect. Not only did Anthony Miller get ejected (and probably fired on the spot) for punching Chauncy Gardener-Johnson, but the Nickelodeon broadcast also caught a very crisp F bomb from Cordarrelle Patterson while drawing an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. It was awkward - it was right after they had just finished talking about his favorite flavor of icecream too. At any rate, the Bears season is over - out with a whimper - but at least we have some hockey to watch starting Wednesday.

Yesterday's football was a letdown, but dinner wasn't. I took another stab at Chicken Gaston Gerard last night. Quick recap, the last time I made this dish I spaced out and forgot to add the cream. It turns out that if you make this dish and remember all the ingredients, it comes out delicious. Rodney cleaned his plate and asked for seconds before the dinner timer even warmed up.

"What's this called, dad?" he asked, pointing with his fork.

"Let's just call it... cheesy chicken," I replied, going with the most kid friendly name that popped into my head.

Sitting at the dinner table, we had barely cut into our food when Marissa's phone chirped with a text message. She immediately looked concerned.

"What's up?" I asked.

"It's a fraud alert," she sighed. "They should call me any minute now."

As if on cue, her phone rang. On the other end of the line was a warm, friendly voice. I tuned out the conversation while they chatted.

"We're going to need to verify your account," he said. "You should get a code via text any second."

Marissa's phone buzzed in her hand. She set it on the table while she read off the code. He put her on hold, and some dulcet music played through her speaker.

"Why would he need that?" I interjected. "He shouldn't need your two factor, that doesn't seem right at all."

"I... think I've had to do that before?" said Marissa. "It's hard to tell."

"Yeah, I know what you mean," I said. "After the boondoggle with my credit card, I wouldn't put it past them. Maybe they are just that terrible."

We sat in silence for another minute.

"Can you read off the number that called you?" I said, taking a seat at the computer. As the on-hold music continued to play, Marissa read off the number. I compared it one digit at a time with the number on the website. The voice on the other end of the line returned.

"OK, Mrs. Recker, we've verified your account," he continued, proceeding to read off some charges.

"The TDS one isn't us," said Marissa. "My husband says that the Amazon charge is OK."

The guy on the line explained that the scammer also attempted to reset our password. "He didn't succeed," he said, "but I can see here that he tried."

Still seated at the computer, I opened up Marissa's email. An email from BMO appeared in her inbox, saying that her password was reset.

"Hey I don't like this," I said. "It says your password was reset."

"Sorry," said Marissa. "I'm just a little on edge now. Is there anyway you can prove that you're really from BMO right now?"

"I totally understand, mam," he said. "If you look at the number I called from, it should match the number on the back of your card."

He went on to explain that her account would be locked, and that she should wait until she gets a new card in the mail before she attempts to log in again. He offered the parting words, "try to have a good rest of the night."

We immediately dialed back, navigating the menu and listening to the on-hold music. We asked the bank to confirm that someone had just called us. Sure enough, the person we had spent almost a half hour talking to on the phone was a scammer. He had spoofed the phone number for BMO. With Marissa's help he had logged into her account and reset her password while we were talking to him. In ten minutes it took us to get a hold of the actual customer service line, he had already scheduled a bill payment that would have nearly emptied our bank account.

Look - I get that everyone is just trying to make a living. I don't take it personal when scammers use our account to make a quick buck. It even warms my heart on some level to hear that somebody used my debit card to buy movie tickets or load up on snacks at Walmart - ultimately it's just our bank that gets screwed over, and God knows they kind of deserve it. But this scammer went above and beyond to - I'll just say it - be a chump.

Scammer, you didn't need to call us during dinner. You didn't need to put us on hold. You didn't need to engage us with small talk, or swoon us by waving an imaginary expedited shipping fee to get us our new card. You didn't need to add such a personal touch to everything and leave my wife and I feeling so violated. And you didn't have to twist the knife with try to have a good night.

We can only take comfort in the fact that you didn't actually get paid yesterday. You went through the trouble of spoofing your phone call, rehearsing your script, and doing meticulous research for how customer service at BMO actually works. You even had your own on-hold music. That's a lot of work to make zero dollars.

For that, you BMO scammer are my chump of the week. Thanks for stopping by, everyone. Be careful out there.