Friday, July 29, 2011

Freaky Things

On Wednesday I was heading up Ponemah Hill Rd for my last interval of the ride. A kid, maybe 9-10 years old, came bombing down a dead end side street onto Ponemah Hill Rd ahead of me. He went the same way I was going and I was pretty sure he saw me. It was steep there, maybe 10% grade. He was on a cheap 24" mountain bike. I was going all anaerobic and thought dang, I'm not exactly catching the kid very quickly. He was standing up mashing the whole time.

Eventually I caught him. He heard me coming up from behind, looked back and started screaming. This wasn't just a yelp, like I spooked him, but a continuous barrage of screams like he was being chased down by a grizzly. Just as I passed him, he scooted into a driveway, presumably his home.

Now I was nervous. What if his dad was outside. Would he think I tried to do something to his boy? Will he come after me with a shotgun in a pickup? The boy's reaction was kind of bizarre.

Had me wondering why he reacted that way. A few scenarios come to mind. First, maybe he was trying to outsprint me to his driveway, and when he saw I was closing in and he might "lose", he let out with a battle cry, like "I'm gonna beat you sucka!"

Maybe the Hill Junkie in VOmax mode is a scary thing to a little kid. I'm sure I had drool hanging from my chin, tongue out, breathing really, really hard, and coming right up behind him. Could freak anybody out.

Maybe the kid just has a phobia of strangers and spazzed out. I may never know unless I encounter the kid again. On a bike, usually I'm the one that's prey, whether riding in Alaskan wilderness or the local urban jungle.

The other freaky thing that happened to me this week was I received a letter from Best Buy congratulating me on the purchase of my new HDTV. They were selling extended protection coverage. Only problem was, I didn't buy a new big screen TV. The letter had my correct name and address, price, SKU number and date of product I bought. Very detailed.

Normally, I would just ignore this. Seemed a bit like a phishing email, but it sure looked legit.  I've been crazy busy with work lately and don't have time to mess with silly stuff like this. But this wasn't a normal situation. You see, a day before I supposedly made this big ticket purchase from Best Buy, an online account was compromised and fraudulent charges were made against my credit card. The custodian of the account quickly caught this and reversed the charges.

I called Best Buy. They have absolutely nothing in their system on me. Not my name, address, phone number, nothing. They cannot figure out how I got the promotional letter from the Geek Squad for extended protection. I called the number on the letter (and waited 20 minutes for the next available associate). They did send letters like these out, it's just that I should not have gotten one.

So is it a coincidence that Best Buy sends me a letter to buy extended protection on a TV I supposedly bought the day after another account was compromised? I don't think so. As best as I can tell, no new suspicious charges have popped up on any of my accounts. We have only one active credit card and one checking account. Something tells me I haven't gotten to the bottom of this one yet.

Remember kiddies, change your passwords frequently. I was asked by the custodian of the account that got hacked if I ever used that account's password anywhere else. I did. He said quite often hackers will go after say Joe Smoes Bike Parts, because they are small and often don't protect their data well. The hacker will harvest a few thousand usernames and passwords, then try his luck on other related websites where it may be possible to convert an active username/password to real currency. I've not been very proactive in both using different passwords for different services and changing them regularly until now. Funny thing is, I'm forced to change passwords regularly at work and use strong coding.  I should know better. The best passwords are ones that you couldn't possibly remember. They are not derived from anything related to you, past or present. They use lower and upper case, they use numbers, and they use special characters like * or #. Pick 12 at random, then you have a good password. Never use the same password more than once for anything that matters. It's a pain, you may be tempted to write them down at home somewhere (verboten at work), but you'll be much safer online.

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