Blindly Paranoid

The story has a happy ending: my bank account is still a bank account, and—even better!—it is still my bank account. So breathe easy, everyone.

I do not know if 10:30 a.m. on a Sunday is the worst time to learn that something is amiss with one’s bank account or if it is the second-worst time to learn that something is amiss with one’s funds, but that was the time I learned this scary fact. Now, I have watched friends lose their ATM cards into an ATM at 2:00 a.m. because the ATM had been given instructions by the bank to stop my friends from doing more damage to their (the bank’s) reputation. That would be worse than what I experienced, except for one crucial point: this is me I’m talking about here, and it happened to me, not to a memory of a friend. Me. Everything is always worse when it happens to me.

After I logged in to my account, something that looked an awful lot like the image at the top—Denied!—flashed on and off. (Not completely true; the Denied announcement was written in a plain, grammatically clear English sentence, but the only word I perceived was “Denied.” There was no exclamation point. It was almost apologetic. My bank lacks a sense of danger.) I could not log in to see my bank account’s balance.

There was an 800 number I could call, but I visited the web site three different times and attempted to change the password before I noticed the phone number, and then I went downstairs to my kitchen and my girlfriend, which was followed by a fourth visit to the web site—Denied!—before I then noticed that the customer service representatives were available at that very hour.

Panic room? Any room I happen to be in can be a panic room. Jen did not panic with me, though.

I was not unconvinced that I was or was not in trouble with the federal government. Last month, I wrote several articles exclusive to this web site that were sourced first by a “rogue” government Twitter account and then verified by other sources. That very same Twitter account was the subject of a lawsuit last week that made international news and was defended in the courts by the ACLU and Twitter itself. The person or persons behind that same Twitter account contacted me behind the scenes on Saturday …

Was my bank account frozen as a result of this slender connection? Not to pop my bubble, but no.

I have published some letters written by a prisoner in jail, have friends the U.S. government is attempting to prosecute, and have other friends who have advise-cautioned me with words like these: “If you think the government is watching you, that means the government is watching you. Especially now that you’re talking with us. Some of us think paranoia is not cautious enough. When you think you are being too paranoid, you have probably left something unchecked.”

Did my bank “know” “something” “about” “all” “those” “things” (air quotes everywhere)? Not to pop my bubble, but no. Un-uh.

No. In my paranoia, I started using proxy browsers and a virtual private network (VPN) to anonymize myself, which is a thing, and my bank’s web site, after it received log-ins from Israel, France, Canada, and my hometown branch bank on the same day decided that something was amiss with me.

The first question from the customer service representative (after twenty-five minutes on hold, which was worth it because now I know a lot about my bank’s various investment offerings, and the main thing I know is that I can not afford any of them) was this, and I quote: “Are you using a VPN? Stop. Please stop. You paranoid people are eating up our hours here. Stop it. If you think the government is watching you, that means the government is watching you. So stop pretending you can hide.”

I made up almost all of that quote. The representative, Matt, did indeed ask about the VPN first. I promised him that I will not use a VPN to log in to my bank account. This has been tonight’s episode of “The World Is More Complicated Than It Needs To Be and Less Complicated Than I Think It Is.”

The WordPress Daily Prompt for April 10 asks us to reflect on the word, “Blindly.”

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