Wednesday, July 17, 2002

I'M IN THE SHOWER, and so, of course, the phone rings.

Ordinarily I might let it ring, but I have a lunch appointment and this could be a cancellation or a question about the venue, so I have to get out and answer. (Who am I kidding? I always get out and answer. For better or worse, I just don't have that let-the-world-wait gene.)

"Could I speak to William Walsh?"

"That's me."

"How are you today, sir?"

"What do you want?"

He chuckles. He's from Capital One, the credit-card company, and he's calling about three balance transfers I supposedly requested when I applied for Capital One's "no-hassle" MasterCard. You know, the one that promises nobody will call you and get you out of the shower?

The thing is, I don't remember requesting a balance transfer. Mr. Friendly tells me I in fact requested three, but I left the payee and the amount blank.

"Uh, you sent me three blank lines for balance-transfer requests, so I left them blank. I don't know how else I could have indicated I don't want a balance transfer."

"But you did fill in an address for us to send the money to."

Ah. Stupid modern time-saving software! I use Gator, the form filler-outer made by the eponymous company now in trouble for its pop-up ads, and when it sees "Address" and a blank it fills in my home address. I applied for this card on the Web, and I guess I didn't notice that it filled in fields it shouldn't have.

I explain this to the nice man, and he understands.

Then: "To cancel that, I'll need to verify the last four digits of your Social Security number."

"What? Just cancel it."

"No, sir, I need to verify . . ."

"Cancel it." Click.

Now, I know this wasn't an elaborate scene to get my Social Security number. Heck, he only asked for the last four digits. But I was dumbfounded by the logic of such a demand: What was he threatening to do if I didn't cough up the digits? Send me a blank check for zero dollars and zero cents?

I guess I'll see.

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