Get immunized against fraud


Get immunized against fraud


GOOD MORNING! IN December 2021, the Centers for Disease Control declared that if you're five days into covid and your symptoms are receding, you should be fine to get back to work, rather than waiting a full 10 days to recover and stop being contagious. The guidance didn't mention testing yourself before getting back out there—presumably because, as the CDC's then-director, Rochelle Walensky, eventually would get around to confessing about the decision to switch from 10 to five days, "We needed transport, we needed mail to work, we needed pharmacies to be stocked, and we needed pharmacies to be open."

It's Day Nine since your Indignity editor tested positive for Covid, and I marked the occasion this morning by taking my first Covid test since that original one. In between, I was either crushingly sick or taking Paxlovid (or, for two or three days, both), so there was nothing really worth testing for.

The result:

Thanks to the Paxlovid and the passage of time, I can now sleep on my back without snoring or snorting myself awake as the parts of my raw and swollen pharynx flap together to cut off my airway, and I have started getting up in the morning and going to bed at night, rather than drifting in and out of sleep through the hours in confusion. The dry cough, which comes in little bursts with the exact cadence of the first rhythmic sample in "Fight the Power," is still around. The week's publishing schedule will remain a work in progress.

On August 16, while I was still fighting the fever, the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics at Harvard Law School announced it was welcoming Rochelle Walensky as a Senior Academic Fellow. Walensky will also have fellowships at Harvard Business School and Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Again, please, wear a mask out there.


The Debit-Card Company Was Siphoning Off My Kid's Covid Payment

OVER THE WEEKEND, the writer Osita Nwanevu posted on the Bluesky posting platform* about a subject of longstanding concern to Indignity:

At least 25% of being an adult is trying not to get ripped off. It is constant. In the mail. On the phone. On your TV, On your computer. At stores. At work. Keeping that watch. Trusting almost nobody. And then we wonder why people get conspiratorial.

This was almost entirely correct; the only slight misstatement was the part about "being an adult." Yesterday, coincidentally, my younger son, age 11, decided to claim the $100 reward he got from his first Covid vaccination, back in the fall of 2021. We had gotten the shot at the American Museum of Natural History, where there was honestly no need for any incentive program to convince people to show up for the then–newly available pediatric vaccine. The place was packed with parents trying to get their kids immunized, in the grand shadowy galleries under the replicas of sea life. Still, why not collect the reward for civic participation? Money is money.

Or is it? In this case, the money was a debit MasterCard, with the boy's name printed on it, delivered sometime afterward by mail. The brand name on the card was Akimbo Now, which was previously known as FiCentive, a division of the San Antonio–based Usio, which was previously known as Payment Data Systems. Akimbo Now/FiCentive, which got a $50 million no-bid contract to handle the payments, had considerable trouble activating the cards and getting people their money, at first, according to a news story in The City at the time. We had no idea, because the boy just tucked his card away for later, with the call-to-activate-this-card sticker still in place.

When he thought about the card again nearly two years later, he was by some miracle able to lay hands on it in his room—a room where books, articles of clothing, electronic devices, and packets of schoolwork have been known to go chronically missing. (A large shoehorn went in there once and I ended up putting on my shoes with a butter knife for months.) He went online, tried to activate the card, clicked the various terms-and-conditions boxes, and ended up stuck in a loop, unable to finish. I called the phone number on the card sticker instead, got through to the automated system, and was informed that the card had been successfully activated.

The balance on the card, the system told me, was 37 dollars and 45 cents.

How had the child's untouched $100 Covid reward turned into $37? I pressed the menu option to hear recent transactions and the robot voice began reciting a series of debits: six dollars and ninety-five cents in August, six dollars and ninety-five cents in July, six dollars and ninety-five cents in June, May, April, March... It was a familiar and obvious pattern, the one you get when an account is being bled off by monthly service charges. What service was he being charged for? He hadn't done anything with the card at all!

The humans at Akimbo Now/FiCentive/Usio/Payment Data Systems do not answer the phone on weekends. First thing this morning, I called and, after sitting through a spell of extremely annoying hold music, asked the customer-service representative who answered what was going on. What was going on, the customer-service representative explained, was that the 11-year-old was being charged a monthly "Inactivity Fee" because he'd gone 12 months without using the card.

We had, the customer-service representative said, agreed to the terms and conditions when we activated the card. Setting aside the basic problem of the checkbox terms-and-conditions system, which is designed to push through terms with no inspection or agreement, Akimbo Now had been clearly draining the money each month before the card had ever been activated.

Rather than dwelling on any of that, though, I just asked for the full $100 back. The customer-service representative agreed, instantly. The balance would be restored immediately, they said. It was as if the company had known all along the money wasn't really theirs to take. And yet they took it.

* If any readers of Indignity would like an invitation code to Bluesky, the still-locked clone of Twitter that has many fewer Nazis and no autoplay video, let me know; I've got two spare ones.


New York City, August 20, 2023

★★★★ Sun shone through the leaves of the fig plant on the balcony. The air that had been perfect all through the previous day was still pleasant, but there was a gathering heat and heaviness behind it. A tinny voice on bad speakers blabbed incomprehensibly from somewhere, like a filmstrip cassette running in another classroom. What the bird app identified as the cry of a red-tailed hawk came down intermittently. The National Weather Service had tweeted a warning that people going out to the beach should wear sunscreen. The balcony was destination enough, the red plastic slides heated by the sunlight. Sometime in the undisturbed days out there, a spider had strung a web between the window screen and the spider plant. Once the direct sun had moved off, an afternoon sitting on the iron chair was mild and tranquil.


Indignity Morning Podcast No. 128: Ceased its existence.

Tom Scocca • Aug 21, 2023

Listen now (5 mins) |

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WE PRESENT INSTRUCTIONS for the assembly of select sandwiches from Handy Household Hints and Recipes, compiled by Mattie Lee Wehrley. Published in 1916, this book is in the Public Domain and available at for the delectation of all.

Cheese and English Walnut Sandwiches.
One cake Neufchatel cheese; add sufficient creamed butter or olive oil to enable you to spread it like butter, season lightly with salt and cayenne pepper; add one-half cup chopped English walnuts. Mix thoroughly and spread over thin slices of bread, cover with another slice and cut in fancy shapes.

Cream Sandwich Filling.
One cup sweet milk, one tablespoon flour, one-half pound cream cheese, one can pimento, one dash of pepper, and heat until creamy, then spread on a whole loaf of bread that has crust removed and is cut through the center ; then slice.

If you decide to prepare and attempt to enjoy a sandwich inspired by this offering, kindly send a picture to us at


19 FOLKTALES collects a series of timeless tales of canny animals, foolish people, monsters, magic, ambition, adventure, glory, failure, inexorable death, and ripe fruits and vegetables. Written by Tom Scocca and richly illustrated by Jim Cooke, these fables stand at the crossroads of wisdom and absurdity.

HMM WEEKLY MINI-ZINE, Subject: GAME SHOW, Joe MacLeod’s account of his Total Experience of a Journey Into Television, expanded from the original published account found here at Hmm Daily. The special MINI ZINE features other viewpoints related to an appearance on, at, and inside the teevee game show Who Wants to Be A Millionaire. Your $20 plus shipping and tax helps fund The Brick House collective, a Publishing Concern featuring a globally diverse set of publishers doing their own thing, with interesting items and publications available for purchase at SHOPULA.

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