Monday, 28 April 2008

Identity Theft and Loss of Identity

I've just completed a short visit to Atlanta, GA where I attended a seminar. From the start, my trip was eventful. On my way to the airport I had to turn back and take a totally different route to get to Gatwick because the traffic jams were so bad. I've never had to do that before.

However, it was on arriving at Atlanta Airport that things took a turn for the worse.

Just after I collected my suitcase a fellow passenger fell and struck her head on the hard floor surrounding the baggage reclaim belt. She landed heavily and there was a loud thud as the back of her head hit the floor.

She was a middle-aged woman and pretty shaken up. Plus, because of the nature of her fall, we felt it was prudent for her to be seen to by the local medics. So, although the incident had nothing to do with me, I went off in search of ground staff who could provide further assistance.

I then decided to wait with her until the paramedics arrived. While there wasn't a lot I could do except reassure her, I didn't want to just leave her even though the passenger whose bag she had tripped over was there as well. The woman who had the accident was travelling with her elderly and wheelchair-bound parents.

The mother, in particular, was very anxious. Yet, at the same time, the daughter, while concerned about her own welfare, was naturally worried about her parents. My heart went out to them.

In some ways it was a loss of identity as the carer could no longer fulfil her role and the mother was equally powerless to fully express her maternal instincts.

I left once the paramedics arrived and then after going through a security checkpoint my travel wallet containing passport and other important documents was lost. What followed was a five hour ordeal trying, in vain, to find the lost wallet.

The circumstances under which it was lost are somewhat suspect - was I a victim of identity theft?

To my credit, throughout my extended stay at the airport, I remained remarkably calm though, of course, upset. I was also aware that while I was trying to sort out the immediate situation, at the back of my mind I was trying to work out solutions.

There was just one point, when it appeared as though my suitcase was missing too, that tears spilled from my eye and, although I had been told to report to the BA desk, there was no one there. I was really frustrated.

All I had was the clothes on my pack and my rucksack primarily containing my laptop. Fortunately, my suitcase was recovered and my next stop was the police station to report my missing passport.

It was while I was at the Police Station that I observed the second incident of loss of identity.

A woman waked in with her teenage daughter, two much younger girls and a man who was probably in his 20s. The woman told the police officer that the reason the family was there was because she had just discovered that her ex-husband had been sexually abusing her teenage daughter. To make matters worse, the abuse had been going on for years.

I listened in shock horror. I smiled at the young girl and then felt irrationally guilty. As I looked at the young girl she seemed unperturbed by and somewhat indifferent to the proceedings. For the second time since landing in Atlanta I felt tugs at my heart-strings.

I was able to see behind the young girl's mask. I recognised that for this young girl to handle what had happened to her she probably assumed an alternative identity - a safe world into which she could retreat. The innocence of childhood had been denied this young girl.

It all helped to put my loss into perspective. I had arrived safely in Atlanta, I was healthy and fortunately I had enough money in my purse to take care of the essentials such as travel. I was confident that, one way or another, I was going to be able to resolve my situation.

So please don't take my tale as one of gloom and doom although you can perhaps see that with trying to sort out this matter and attending my course, why I haven't been posting any articles. View this as a tale of caution and reflection.

I feel very philosophical about the whole experience. In my case, everything that was lost/taken can be replaced.

The rest of my experience in Atlanta was very pleasant. I found the people to be so warm and friendly. Also, at the hotel I was just about to go online so that I could file a report that my passport lost, etc. when there was a knock on the door. It was one of the receptionists:

"Ms Lovemore," she said. "Get your things we're giving you an upgrade."

So I was moved to an even larger and nicer room free of charge!

If you are concerned about Identity Theft then visit this site for details on how you can protect yourself online:

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