I got the text on Friday, after a week that had been fraught with Insecurity.

Have you made a $40 charge on your MasterCard to iTunes? If Yes, text “1” in reply; if No, text “2.”


To backtrack:

On Monday, Microsoft had sent me an email: someone had tried to hack my Hotmail account.

My Hotmail account is an old one, used by folks who never bothered to switch to my newer Gmail address. I still get my Hotmail messages, because I arranged for them to be sent automatically (POP Mail) to my Gmail inbox. But I never check my Hotmail account.

It chilled me that somebody was hacking my email, even this old, passive account. So I checked Hotmail and, sure enough, my history showed that somebody from the Emirates had tried to sign on. Unsuccessfully, thank the gods.

I changed my Hotmail password to render it more Secure.


On Wednesday, I got a cellphone bill in the mail from Verizon. A hefty bill: the cost of my new phone, plus generous call, data and text allowances.

I hadn’t bought a phone. And I don’t have a Verizon account.

I found the Verizon number on-line. After a half-hour’s hold time, during which recordings welcomed me to the Verizon Family and listed the great Verizon services I could get, I reached the Verizon Fraud Lady. I told her about the bogus bill and gave her my supposed new telephone number.

The Verizon Fraud Lady assured me no such number existed. She advised me, for my Security, to contact the FCC.

The FCC website offered several categories for cell phone complaints—email scams, phishing phone calls, electronic bill errors—but nothing that fit a bogus paper bill. Even the FCC thinks the Post Office is obsolete.

I chose “email scams” and tailored my complaint as much as possible to the anachronism of ground-up trees and pigment in solution.


Then, on Friday, came the text about my Citibank MasterCard charge.

I texted “2.” It was not my charge. How would I spend $40 on iTunes? I’m a dinosaur: I buy CDs and play them on our radio/CD player (yes, it’s electric). The apps I download are usually free—except for the MLB app I use to track the decline of the Red Sox and watch painful videos of Jacoby Ellsbury making amazing outfield saves for the Yankees. Even that app, bought months ago, cost me less than $40.

I called Citibank. The Citibank Fraud Lady told me, “Since you didn’t make the charge, it means your card number’s been stolen. For your Security, we’ve suspended it. Cut up your card, and we will send you a new one.”

I cut my MasterCard to teensy bits and buried them among coffee grounds and blackened banana peels in the trash.

Then I spent an hour on my computer, deleting the card from Secure sites.

It’s amazing how many Secure sites had my MasterCard number on file. Sites like PayPal, Amazon, TravelSmith, LL Bean, even King Arthur flour, where I buy my special bittersweet chocolate chips.

I fell into a Security frenzy. I hadn’t changed passwords after the Heartbleed attacks upon every account on earth; at the time, it just seemed so futile. So depressing. But now I had Religion.

I spent three hours changing passwords.

It’s amazing how many Secure sites use passwords. There are far, far more of them than Secure sites that file one’s credit card information.

At last, I felt Secure.

Then, I realized that I would never remember all those new Secure passwords.

So I spent another hour typing every password I’d changed.

But where could I store those passwords so they would be Secure? Computers can be stolen, drawers rifled, file cabinets dug through by thieves.

I attached the list to an email and sent it to myself. I moved the email to a Gmail file that was named for something completely irrelevant to password Security. I deleted the copy that was left on my computer desktop and emptied the virtual trash.

I felt Secure then.

Until I realized that, if I got hit by a bus, my husband would be totally unable to run our financial life because he didn’t have a copy of all these passwords. He couldn’t bank or pay bills, check credit card statements, monitor our electricity use, or even buy my special bittersweet chocolate chips.

I had made all our accounts Secure from Paul.

I signed onto Gmail—it took several tries, because I couldn’t remember my changed password—and opened all of my files until I found the irrelevant file where I’d stashed it (It wasn’t easy, since all my files are completely irrelevant to password Security). I re-downloaded my Secure password list to my computer desktop. I went through the list and arranged everything by name, and included my sign-in ID for each utility and institution that required my changed passwords.

I printed the list, gave it to Paul, and told him to put it somewhere only he would find it, somewhere Secure.

Even I don’t know where he put it.

I re-sent the amended list to myself, re-stashed it, re-trashed the copy on my desktop, re-dumped the trash.

And I felt Secure.

Until I realized that one of the passwords was case-sensitive, and I hadn’t written it right.

Back to the Gmail, the irrelevant folder, the printer; back to re-sending, re-filing, re-trashing.

I handed Paul his amended list. He gave me a long, serious look. “Is there something you haven’t told me about your last doctor appointment?” he asked.

I assured him I was just making us more Secure. He didn’t look convinced.


After all this, late Friday night, I received an email from iTunes.

To backtrack:

Two Christmases ago, I bought Paul the latest iteration of the iPad. I sync-ed it to my computer, as I routinely did with his old device. Somehow, in the process, I lost a great many of his old vacation photos. Even the iPad Geniuses couldn’t recover them.

He still won’t let me hear the end of it.

So last year I bought extra storage on iCloud to make sure Paul’s iPad, including his precious pictures, would have Secure back-up that I couldn’t screw up.

Late Friday night—after I’d cut up my MasterCard, changed my passwords, securely stashed them, written and re-written instructions for Paul to use if the bus hit me, and spent my entire day in the service of Security—I received the email from iTunes.

It was a notice that my iCloud storage had been automatically renewed by iTunes that very morning, using the credit card I’d approved for this the year before. The one I’d cut up.

The cost for this automatic, approved, Secure renewal was $40.