I stopped for gas tonight at the freestanding station in front of one of the grocery stores where I have a "club card" that gives gas discounts. The card-reader machine was obviously having some issues, as we were required to leave our card with the attendant if we wanted to fill up. Over at the next pump, a guy in a suit and loud Christmas tie, who looked more than a little like a potbellied Lyndon B. Johnson, wasn't too happy with that setup...
LBJ: I get really paranoid when [crap] like this happens...
ME: Ehh, I'm not too worried about it.
LBJ: It'd be so easy for him to steal our numbers.
ME: Yeah, but think about it--we give these cards to servers in restaurants all the time, and they always go in "the back" somewhere. And let's not forget the old days when they had those portable things at the gas station.
I wasn't really sweating this one; the guy was so busy having to ring up everyone's transaction by hand that I doubt he would have even had time to write down anyone's numbers if he'd wanted to do so. I did hear one guy get in a heated discussion about the process and end up leaving; the attendant seemed relaxed through the whole ordeal, telling the guy "I'm not hurting you, and you're not hurting me." It also occurred to me much later--now, as I write this post, to be precise--that anyone who didn't want to leave their card with the attendant could have just prepaid for a certain amount (ten or fifteen dollars, perhaps) and never let the card leave their sight.
Sure, there are lots of opportunities for ID theft, and I think I'm really careful about things--only shopping from secure online sites, shredding any credit-card applications I get in the mail (as well as old bill statements before they get thrown out), and things like that. This situation didn't set off any alarm bells with me; in fact, I might not have thought about it at all if "LBJ" hadn't brought it up. Granted, if money started disappearing from my account, I'd know exactly where to start the investigation. But generally speaking, I'm not going to go through life being quite that paranoid. (And I really, really hope that "LBJ"'s suspicion didn't stem from the fact that he was both white and "of a certain age" and the attendant was black, though I concede that it was possible.)
The lights fantastic, part XVIII: I always try to catch the cool Christmas light displays in my general area, and tonight was my annual trip to SpringPark. The street that won "best block" had a great new concept: the theme was "Christmas Express" or something like that, and every yard featured not only train cars but also two parallel sets of light strips made to look like railroad tracks. Save for the driveways, they made an almost continuous track down the entire street. (My list of favorite D/FW area light displays can be found here.)