The other day an institution that shall remain nameless contacted me via form letter to notify me that my social security number was “accidentally” published on their public website along with thousands of others. They basically said “our bad” and suggested that I do something to make sure that I don’t become the victim of identity theft. Great. After over a decade of building a pretty decent credit record it can all be potentially taken away because of a frickin’ accident. (The only reason I don’t want to mention the institution by name is because their security protocol obviously has serious holes in it and some overzealous hacker may opt to infiltrate and jack others.)
When you think about it us regular Joes and Janes are at the mercy of a flawed credit system. Our ability to get credit, which allows the working class to buy houses and cars, is tied directly to our social security numbers. These are the same social security numbers that every doctor we’ve ever seen keeps on file, that every job we’ve ever had keeps in a dusty archived file in some random storage unit that no one monitors, that every tax preparer we’ve ever hired keeps in a file, that every insurance company we ever applied for a policy with has on file… you get the picture.
Our information is out there in many random hands. Our livelihoods depend upon incompetent people not being incompetent and not accidentally posting our social security numbers on the internet. It also depends on the hiring practices of companies. If companies that handle sensitive personal data are hiring crooks then we’re in a heap of trouble.
The dirty rich don’t have anything to worry about. You can try to steal Jay Z’s identity all you want. Even if you get way with some fraud when he wants to buy a new house he can write a check and no one will ever run his credit report. Then, when he’s good and ready, he can get an army of attorneys to crush whoever did it and restore his name without even breaking a sweat. You steal a regular working guy’s identity and when he goes to take out a loan for his dream home his whole world will come crashing down around him. His dreams go up in flames and there are no million dollar lawyers to come to the rescue. All he can do is fight to reclaim his name the best way he knows how.
I have taken all the necessary precautions to protect myself and my family (yes the Dev too). No apparent fraud currently exists on any of my accounts or credit reports. I’m not out of the woods yet, though I am confident that I have done all I can. Now I watch and wait. What galls me is the fact that I’m at the mercy of a screwed up credit granting system. The same system that that is currently reeling from its own glut and bad home loans. Social security numbers written on little blue cards was a good idea in 1936 as part of the New Deal, when the first numbers were issued. But in 2008 they are just another thing to be worried about in a world already fraught with overwhelming concerns.
Nameless institution with sloppy, feckless staff – consider yourself Black