The wonders of high-speed villainy

I HAVE just spent 648.76 cents in Salerno, Italy.

I did it at 3.45pm on Wednesday, which is strange because I remember I was crossing the road in Ogden Street, Townsville at the time. Must be something to do with the wonders of modern, high-speed communications…

But no! More like the wonders of modern high-speed villainy.

I was alerted to this extravagance by the credit-card security people at Commonwealth Bank, God bless ’em.

They rang me on Thursday. “Mr Pearce? Were you in Italy yesterday afternoon?”

“I wish!”

“No, we thought not. We can see you used your credit card at The Willows shopping centre, Thuringowa, on Wednesday morning. So either you caught a very fast plane, or your credit card has been nobbled.”

The hairs all stood out on the back of my neck. Of course, I’m very impressed. If they hadn’t spotted this rogue purchase then, presumably, my credit-card account would quickly have been milked until it was empty.

But how did it happen! True, I have just got back from Poland, England and Holland, but my credit card was never out of my sight! I used it in shops and restaurants and I slotted it into teller machines. And yet someone managed to access the details, leg it across Europe to Italy, and start having a party at my expense!

If I’d checked my credit-card account on the internet on a daily basis, I might have spotted it myself. But who does that? Lots of people don’t do their banking by internet, so they can’t check it every day. They have to wait till their statement turns up and alerts them to this strange other-life they’ve been leading in all the hotspots of the steamy Mediterranean night.

Except they have not been leading it, someone else has.

I was lucky. The lady at the Commonwealth Bank was on my case.

But, I ask myself, is that a good thing?

She even knew I’d been shopping at The Willows in Thuringowa. Does she know what I bought? And will she tell my family? Luckily there are no sex shops at The Willows, so I’m in the clear. But what if I’d bought, say, a handbag… or a pair of tights? Perfectly innocently, of course, but how would anyone know!

I can hear them in the security office at Which Bank: “Oooo-er… poor man. I think he needs help… maybe he should see someone.”

They can probably track my entire day – and night! Do they know who I’ve been sleeping with. Do they know I haven’t been sleeping with anybody?

And what about the constipation? Can I expect a phone call from Which Bank security: “Mr Pearce? We couldn’t help noticing you’re still taking the constipation pills. Maybe you should change them. Have you tried…?”

Not only is big brother (or sister) watching me, but they seem to care!

That can’t be true. Maybe they’re just nosey. Someone, somewhere, sitting in a credit card security office, knows whether John Howard has a fetish about latex. At least, they’ll know whether he’s made any purchases from the latex shop, and after that it’s just a question of putting two and two together.

They’ll know – or they’ll have the clues – to whether he’s incontinent, or makes donations to dodgy right-wing organisations.

I wonder if he’s had a holiday in Italy recently, at my expense…