Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Our Numerical Identities

I received a replacement debit card in the mail yesterday and the envelope was open. Not just the edges, not like the glue had come unstuck, but intentionally and completely opened. I immediately called the bank to have them reissue a replacement for my replacement.

I’m imagining a thief sitting in a dark room, twiddling their fingers, while watching late night infomercials, just waiting for me to activate my new debit card, and at that very moment, they break out a pristine piece of paper with all of my card information written neatly. And poof. My life is destroyed.

Maybe I’m exaggerating…but maybe not…We are our money. We are our credit. We’re just numbers to the big bad world. And our numerical identities are so vulnerable.

A credit card sitting in the mailbox all day. A receipt left in a gas pump or ATM. Unsecured WiFi  Unsecured websites. Phone and email scams galore. Using the last four of our social security numbers for verification. From where I’m sitting, it all seems a little too easy for a thief to become me if I just drop my guard for a moment.

When it comes to what’s in my control, I shred important documents and receipts, I log out of online accounts and close the tabs afterwards, I don’t give out sensitive information unless I’m 100% sure it’s not a scam; basically, I consider myself careful, without being overly obsessive.

On the other hand, most of it isn’t in our control. We give our numbers to so many different companies. And we just have to trust that they are following all of the rules and regulations to protect our information. In these situations, I’ll admit to being a bit of a naive optimist so that I can sleep at night. But it’s hard when I’ve been given someone’s account information as the plate of my street food in an Indian metropolis…

Back to yesterday’s mail: Right when I'm feeling very proud of myself for thwarting the thief's evil plans, there's a knock on the front door. It's my neighbor. She just wanted to let me know that the mailman accidentally delivered my debit card to her house and she didn't realize it wasn’t hers till after she opened it. And the world is a safe and beautiful place again. 

So, what’s a person to do? Personally, I’m going to stick my head back in the sand, do what I can, hope for the best, and plan for the worst. My plan? Have you seen the movie “Identity Thief”? Close enough. 

What would you do if someone stole your identity? 

-Leah Schonlank

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