Saturday, May 23, 2009

Fraud and identity

Yesterday I learned that part of my identity was stolen. Because of my own error, I was victimized by a "phishing" emailer who, using broken English and chaotic punctuation, wrote in my name that I was penniless in England and asking desperately for money.

If the thief had been smart, he would have found someone to correct his spelling and grammar rather than write so execrably about this supposed emergency. As it happens, most of the recipients of the bogus emails knew at once that I could not have written the message sent in my name, and so we had a little laugh.

But the issue is serious. The great convenience of the new communication technology can easily blind us to the many new and unknown ways in which our inventions can hurt ourselves or be misused to hurt others because of a timeless reality that transcends all human inventions: selfish greed.

Dante would have understood this. I would like to think he would put my London thief in the lowest (ninth) circle of Hell with the traitors, but it's more in keeping with poetitc justice that they would fit in the eighth circle with those thieves who are punished for all eternity by losing their identity: they are turned into snakes.

As for me, my punishment for being taken in was at best a bit Purgatorial or at least humbling: two mornings spent sorting out email accounts and messages from puzzled recipients of the bogus request.

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