Why Do We Need to Worry About Identity Theft?
My father screams and yells at the phone. He just wants to activate his reissued credit card, but neither the machine nor the customer service agent will allow him. The primary account holder needs to call and provide a bunch of private data to confirm their identity. He tells me I should try to get a job with this company, because the people working for it now are complete morons. I resist the urge to call him a complete moron and just ignore him, my usual response.
My father is simply remembering the ‘good old days’, back when he didn’t need to jump through fifty hoops to accomplish a simple task. Maybe the credit card companies didn’t ask for as much verification back then, which is easier for the consumer, but I would also think it would be easier for the identity thief as well to do what they do. I suppose in the old days the identity thieves wouldn’t be able to sneak into an office and grab a file or even one whole filing cabinet, they would need a brigade of thieves to clean out one or perhaps multiple rooms of filing cabinets, depending on the company’s reach. Nowadays a clever hacker can apparently get a whole database including millions of people’s information.
When thieves can get their hands on millions and millions of people’s information, you have to start adding in verification steps. It’s not good enough just to have an account number and a password, you need to put in a time-sensitive security code emailed or texted to you, because let’s face it, hackers probably stole their entire database multiple times long ago, so it’s the only way to be sure that it’s really you.
But why does it matter so much if someone is pretending to be you? Well, thanks to capitalism, your life depends on how much money you have. If someone steals your identity, they can steal all of your money, perhaps even ruin your relationships, get you fired from your job, even frame you for a crime. With no money, you’re out on the street, without possession, roaming from church to homeless shelter to wherever you can find a crumb of shelter and warmth. Perhaps you keep your job and just lose your savings, but guess what? You have a car accident, and your insurance was a load of BS anyway so you’re stuck with medical bills you can’t pay, maybe you can’t even afford to get your car fixed either, so basically you’re stuck in some potentially inescapable debt, making you wish you had simply died in the accident.
The real problem here isn’t that someone stole your identity, that they stole your money, but how insecure your life really is, how completely dependent your life is on your bank account. Whether innocent or malevolent, a few mistakes or accidents can end in people losing everything they have.
Isn’t there some other way for people to live? Isn’t there some system of organizing society where people don’t have to rely on something as arbitrary, fleeting, ephemeral as money in order to just live in reasonable comfort? Or is capitalism all there is?
On the subject of reasonable comfort, as I hear my father muttering to himself about having to sit through another commercial interrupting what he was trying to watch, so much of the red tape BS that people have to deal with on a daily basis is simply thanks to capitalism and nothing else. Just ask yourself, what part of broadcasting a sports event onto television screens requires an advertisement? But they need the money, you say! Do they need paper bills or coins, though? Do you need to put coins into the cameras as a form or power or fuel? Do the athletes eat the paper bills? Is this money involved in any way in transmitting the video from the camera to your particular tv? No, the money is only necessary because it is a requirement of the capitalist economic system. It is simply a method for transferring and distributing wealth.
Sure, money can still be used as a way of managing resources too under a system like socialism, but the fact that the economy is run by and for the people means that if something deserves to be free, it can be free. If the people arrive at the conclusion that a basic standard of living should be free for all, then so it shall be. If the people decide that they just want to see their programs without being interrupted every 10–15 minutes to be harassed with manipulative propaganda by a car company, then so it shall be.
Most of life’s inconveniences are absolutely unnecessary. We all know how annoying they are, how unnecessary they are. But not everyone takes the time to consider the roots of why these unnecessary, annoying things exist, and whether or not another way is possible. Least of all my father, who simply vents his rage by spouting profanities and never spends another moment of thought on the subject.