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Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Notes On Nextel

What to say now. New job and responsibilities. In a familiar place surrounded by many familiar people. It is old and new. The first day I felt like a sophomore returning to campus after a summer off. It was as if I never left. Friends and former coworkers around every corner. Lunch at the BBQ stand and a chat with the folks at Jabos. With just three days on the books I am enjoying the new challenges. It is a different part of the business then I was exposed to before and that makes it interesting. And I am genuinely helping people. One of the Buddha's rules and all that. It makes it worthwhile. I work in the Fraud Operations Department and I spend my days investigating claims of fraudulent cell phone account activations and then I either turn off the phones/accounts or route the issue to the correct department for handling. It sounds a bit boring but there is some small bit of joy to be had. I get to help fraud victims by protecting their credit and I get to assist Nextel in protecting about $120 million in losses. And I get to a bit rude and downright mean to fraudsters who have used someone elses credit information or social security number to establish an account. It is perhaps sad that the world has come to this. That there is now a department in most medium to large companies solely dedicated to stopping fraud. Groups of office-phone-talking-computer-screen-scouring worker bees analyzing and micoscopically inspecting potential customer discrepencies for flagged details. It is humbling, really. As the country grows, as the technology that makes us free also traps us in the security of knowledge that seems to be compiled in some central repository, it appears also, that those same technologies which make us free are also technologies molding us into victims. Trapped against the desire to own the technology and the need to steal to obtain it. Trapped in the need to surround ourselves in technologies to protect and to then fight off hackers and felons trying to topple the digital walls we create. Just as days past, we fight battles to protect our villages. Months before I began this job I was talking to Renee who used to work in this office. And she said that her exposure to corporate fraud and identity theft rings has made her wary. She is now keenly aware of where and how her identifying data is used and even decided to call her insurance company to ask to have a different number used as her account number, rather than her social security number. She said she now shreds all her receipts and is vigilant about credit card receipts not being left at a restaurant or a car seat. Now if you were to know Renee, you would know she is hardly a person to be paranoid. The fact that these are the steps this mellow and calm, confident woman has taken is a telling sign. The fact that Nextel is confident it can protect itself by stopping $120 million in fraud loss and waste is shocking.