“I’d like you to meet Amanda. She’s a ghost.” That is not how every hardworking woman wants to be introduced by her boss, but it happened to me several times. Ghost isn’t a derogatory term in literary circles, although I am happy to be a flesh-and-blood author now as opposed to an apparition.

Ghosting is a funny job. In my experiences, the publisher asks you to write a book on behalf of a too-busy “name author.” Sometimes you get to design the material; sometimes you’re given an outline. Sometimes you work directly with the name author; sometimes that person doesn’t even know your name. Always you must capture the “voice” of the credited author: no reader should ever suspect the book wasn’t written by the name author.

This week I learned a different definition of ghosting, but that profession is far more insidious. Monday morning I was frantically trying to pack David for an impromptu work trip when I got an email from RedBox thanking me for my purchase. I’d supposedly rented “Blood, Guts, and Guns” (or something like that) to play on an XBox I do not own at a kiosk a good 20 miles away from my desk. I called RedBox immediately, and they were confounded: in order to rent a RedBox DVD, you must physically swipe your card. “Have you lost your card?” they asked me. Nope. And David had just booked that last-minute $900 flight on his–those cards were in our possession.

My next call was to the bank. By then I had another email from RedBox: “Thanks for purchasing ‘Zombies Attack Vampires’!” again for the XBox I will never own and this time 25 miles away from my desk. Long story short, someone–I assume a man–had physically swiped my card when I made a purchase and later “ghosted” my card (copied the digital information to a physical card). The RedBox trips were the ghost’s trial runs to see if the card worked before he went to buy expensive stuff.

I like to think my ghost will thank me someday for being so obsessive about monitoring David’s and my digital identities. I like to think that I saved this idiot from a federal charge of “grand theft” and a lifetime of crime. You see, this person had to be a newbie:

  1. My credit card was linked to my email, so RedBox sent me a confirmation of each transaction immediately.
  2. RedBox tells me the exact time when the purchase was made.
  3. RedBox tells me the exact location where the purchase was made.
  4. RedBox has a camera in each of their kiosks.

There was no way he was getting away with this.

Our bank has always done an amazing job of watching out for our identities. While I was on the phone with a bank operator, I received a notification from the bank asking me to verify the RedBox purchases. The transactions flagged because the games didn’t seem to be things I’d purchase; the ghost wasn’t imitating my “voice,” if you will.

Maybe he’ll have better luck next time. As a ghostwriter, I always did a better job when I’d met my author face-to-face. My identity thief will get a chance to do just that in a couple of months. He committed the fraud in Denver, and I’ve been invited to his arraignment.

I don’t think I’ll be hiring him as my ghost anytime soon, but I bet I’ll be “haunting” his dreams.

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