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In early December 2013 Target suffered a cyber attack and as a result 40 million credit card accounts were compromised, including mine.
I’m not a frequent Target shopper but a few weeks prior the attack I was at my local Target buying shampoo for an upcoming trip to Colombia. I was traveling there in secret to meet up with my newly found Colombian girlfriend, Diana. We both wanted to spend some time by ourselves in Bogota before having to be separated during the Christmas festivities.
On the first day of our secret trip, the day started as planed. Both of our planes arrived nearly simultaneously at El Dorado airport in Bogota, and the AirBnB room I had booked looked even better than the pictures had let on. Diana and I couldn’t have been happier. It was a beautiful afternoon and we had reservations for Agave Azul, our favorite restaurant in the city. Diana had spent the past year helping some of the poorest folk in Brazil as a medical doctor and anesthesiologist. She deserved being treated to a special night out.
We strolled out of our apartment and I directed us to the nearest Bancolombia. It was about 7 blocks away. I bank with Wells Fargo in America, and I’ve only been able to reliably withdraw money in Colombia from the ATM machines at Bancolombia.
During our walk, Diana and I naturally began to chat about how silly the exchange dollars for Colombian Pesos is. How, for me, it’s hilarious to read that a meal costs 23 thousand pesos. And we also talk about Bitcoin. She tells me she wouldn’t trade me for all the bitcoins in the world. And as a doctor, she’s interested in how Bitcoin could aid in saving lives.
The conversation halted as I confidently approached the ATM and begun the ritual of withdrawing money. Years of practice have honed my technique so as to maximize the efficiency of every button press. If there was an Olympic event for such a skill, I would absolutely medal.
5 steps away, reach for wallet in my right rear pocket. 3 steps away, remove ATM card and flip it around in your hand. 1 step away, fumble your wallet into your pocket and get ready for the card slide. Now, just type in my pin, Ok. Withdraw amount? 400k pesos please - I’m treating my girl like a queen tonight!
I kiss Diana while we wait for my money to appear. Suddenly a message flashes on the ATM screen that reads: “Card not valid”. I try again. Same message: “Card not valid”. Ugh damn it!
For the next 45 minutes I was on hold between one incompetent banking employee and another. I was hung up on several times. I was never told why my card was invalid. There was absolutely no way of accessing my money. It was up to the bank and they simply said no. They offered no other recourse I could take except to get a new card. That would take 5 business days and I’d have to pick it up back in Los Angeles. I was stuck in a foreign country with no money and no way of getting to the money in my bank account!
I was determined not to let this ruin my special and romantic evening. I took out my phone and joined localbitcoins. I searched for people near me interested in buying Bitcoin and found several matches. I had found a way to access some cash thanks to Bitcoin.
When I told this to Diana she gently took my phone away from me and offer to be the buyer. She wanted her first Bitcoin purchase to be from me. I knew right then I was a very lucky guy. I’ll always remember sitting outside the Bancolombia with Diana and realizing how thankful I was to have her in my life and how thankful I was that Bitcoin exists.
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