The email came last week from my sister, and if one can be breathless in an email, she was. “Here’s what’s happened,” she announced. I could envision her pounding the keys.

Apparently, she’d gotten a readable Xfinity voice mail (don’t worry, I’d never heard of that either). The transcript of a voice mail shows up in your email inbox (who knew?). This was, however, suspicious – it came from my mother’s cellphone, and the message appeared to have been sent by “Doug” (not my mother’s name).

This unusual message set off all sorts of alarms. My mother rarely uses her cellphone, so why would she now? And, perhaps more importantly, was my 87-year-old mother dating someone named Doug?

My sister balked at the pragmatic idea of actually listening to the readable voice mail – because opening a file so suspect would surely release all sorts of harmful viruses to her computer. She instead shared the arrival of this strange missive with my mom, who knew nothing about it. As they parsed the oddness of this situation, my mother confessed she had given a portion of her Social Security number to a clerk at Staples. A security breach at the Pentagon might have triggered more chaos, but I doubt it.

There was not enough time to react, and my sister spanned the globe with her advisories. “Mom’s given out her Social Security number, possibly to someone named Doug, and it appears as though he’s hacked in to her cellphone account and has all our names.”

The ink was barely dry on the email before all family members were all on the phone, freezing bank accounts, shredding credit cards, cashing Treasury bonds. I bought night vision goggles and that travel underwear you rinse out in the sink.


We felt vulnerable; clearly, nothing was safe. We all envisioned Doug, lounging poolside in St. Maarten, ordering tall drinks with small umbrellas in them. Using our credit cards. We panicked as our life savings were drained. Damn you, Doug.

Taking no chances, I joined the Witness Protection Program and assumed the name Oksana Baiul (whatever happened to her?) – inspired, of course, by the Winter Olympics in Sochi. (Heck, I’ll bet Doug got front-row seats for the luge.) I was determined to outsmart Doug and protect my assets. I write this from my new (unmarked) home in Elm Creek, Neb.

Late today, the call came. “Ooopsie,” my sister said. “The message actually did come from Mom . . . .” (She had to say it twice because the wireless reception here in Elm Creek is not great.) Turns out Mom did call my sister using a cellphone, and promptly forgot she had done so. Xfinity voice mail has some translation issues – so words get misconstrued. Are we surprised by this?

There is no “Doug” (who, for the record, is not dating my mother). Instead, Xfinity voice mail simply jumbled my mother’s words. All is well. And now, with no credit cards or fingerprints, I am adjusting to life in Elm Creek, complete with enormous, movie-star sunglasses.

— Special to the Telegram

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