Technology, Credit Cards, and Yesterday’s Attempted Thievery

AT 1:16 P.M. TODAY I CALLED TO PAY-OFF A PARTICULAR CREDIT CARD only to be told that three purchases had been made with the card yesterday evening around 10 p.m. Needless to say, that was quite a surprise. I know exactly where the card was used; for there is only one place where I had gone and used the card. Alas, I do not know who used my credit card. So I am not in the position to blame the person who did so. To be sure, it could have been the person who waited on me. But the reality is that the person who waited on me need not have been the person who used my credit card.

There is a sense in which it does not matter who used the card because the credit card company clearly grasped that the card had not been used by me. And thus I am not being charged with having made a purchase or several purchases that came to $130. That is the amount that the thief had charged to the card. In that respect I am extremely lucky. It happens often enough in life that familiarity with an individual’s pattern of behavior can provide one with considerable insight with regard to whether or not that individual is likely to behave or has behaved in a certain way or not.

Alas, the question to which I do not know the answer is who, in fact, used my credit card to make a purchase. Was it (1) the person who waited upon me? Or, was it (2) a person who saw an opportunity to take advantage of someone in an immoral way. Above all, though, there is the spending pattern that I have with the company in question; and my spending was so very, very contrary to the spending that caught the attention of officials. For I simply called that company in order to pay-off my bill for the month. Yet, within seconds after I had given my name and credit card number, the person informed me that my credit had been abused and that I will be getting a new credit card. I am so very grateful that I generally have a history of an extremely clear pattern with regard to how I use each one of my credit cards.

And the very rich shadow of that pattern with respect to the credit card in question made it ever so clear to the official with whom I was speaking over phone that there had been an abuse of that credit card.

Indeed, the person did not even ask me whether I had been at the place in question yesterday evening. Rather, the person stated at the very outset that there had been a misuse of my credit card by someone.
From a very different direction, we must increasingly be more attentive precisely because technology is making it increasingly easier for individuals to commit acts of wrongdoing. Accordingly, the idea of self-command first put forth by the economist and philosopher Adam Smith (1723-1790) is an idea that I treasure to the utmost degree. That idea has become relevant in ways that far surpasse anything that Adam Smith had in mind. Indeed, the excellence and moral significance of self-command has become relevant in ways that Adam Smith could never have even imagined. For in 2017, countless many human beings have ways of deceiving both themselves and others that would have been entirely beyond the realm of plausibility some 300 years ago–nay, even some 75 years ago. A most profound reality is that the future without tremendous strength of character on the part of a great many will be an utter disaster.

© 2017 Laurence Thomas

About Laurence Thomas

Laurence Thomas is Professor in the Department of Political Science and the Department of Philosophy at Syracuse University. His most recent book is The Family and the Political Self and his most recent article in French is "Juifs et Noirs: Au-delà du Mal" in Trigano (ed.) Juifs et Noirs: du Mythe à la Réalité. Thomas has published numerous essays on the topic of friendship. The essay "The Character of Friendship" has appeared in volume on friendship, entitled Thinking About Friendship, edited by Damian Caluori and the essay "Friendship in the Shadow of Technology" has appeared in the anthology Moral and Moral Controversies edited by Steven Scalet and John Arthur. His most recent essay--entitled "Being Moral and Handling the Truth"--is about circumstances under which it is morally permissible to lie. Indeed, an example is given in Section IV of a lie being morally virtuous.
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