We are all just numbers
Nov. 30, 2018
by Ivan Raconteur

Minneapolis joined other cities across the US this week looking at a plan to issue municipal ID cards.

It seems the purpose of these cards is to provide a form of identification for undocumented individuals.

Supporters say this will improve safety and “improve the community’s relations with law enforcement.”

Minneapolis city officials have also said the municipal ID could be used as a transit pass, library card, and official ID to open a bank account.

Without getting into a lot of details, I’m not impressed with the idea because it sounds like another example of government inefficiency in action.

There is already a system in place under which the government issues identification cards. But instead of finding a way to incorporate everyone under that system, these cities are creating an entirely separate system to accomplish basically the same thing for one sub-group of the population.

While I don’t agree with the idea of municipal IDs, I do sympathize with the plight of anyone who does not have identification.

With each passing year, we get closer to being numbers instead of people.

If you don’t have the “right” number, you don’t officially exist in the eyes of some companies.

I recently had a battle with one such company that lasted weeks for something that should have taken a couple minutes.

The trouble started when my credit union merged with another. As a result, I needed to change the routing number on the automatic payments I had set up with various companies.

In most cases, this would take a matter of seconds to log in and change the information.

However, I had failed to write down my username for one company that I use.

In my innocence, I thought this would still be a simple process. Usually, companies provide a simple mechanism to recover one’s username if one forgets.

Not this company.

On this website, when I didn’t have my username, it wanted my 16-digit account number, which I did not have.

My only recourse was to call their customer service department.

I still had high hopes that I would be able to get through this, but those hopes were soon dashed on the rocks of incompetence.

When I got the customer disservice rep on the phone, I explained my situation. I told her I was unable to log in to my account because I had forgotten my username.

“What’s your account number?” she asked.

I explained I have been on paperless automatic billing for ages, so I can’t simply look at my invoice to find my account number, as their website suggested.

“That’s OK,” she said. “What’s your land line telephone number?” I explained that I never had a land line installed when I started my service, and even if the company had issued such a number, I would never have had a reason to know what it was.

“What is the four-digit PIN that was issued when your account was opened?” she asked.

I tried to remain patient as I explained that there is no way I could remember a four-digit number I may have seen once several years ago and have never seen since.

“Just guess,” she suggested.

“Are you kidding?” I asked. “That’s the most absurd thing I have ever heard.”

“Go ahead and guess. You might get it right,” she said.

We went back and forth along those lines for awhile until finally, out of frustration, I said, “One-two-three-four. There’s a four-digit number for you.”

“Oh, I’m sorry sir. That’s not correct.”

I’m afraid my response may not have been suitable for a community newspaper, but it was at about that point that the top of my head blew off.

In the end, the only solution the dis-service rep could offer was that she could send me a temporary PIN – via SNAIL MAIL – and I could use that to log in to my online account. It took two weeks to arrive, so I’m pretty sure they sent it via pony express.

I realize the initial problem came about because I forgot my username, but there are any number of other ways the company could have verified my identity.

There are three “security questions” I set up when I started using that service. They didn’t ask me any of those. They didn’t ask me the address or anything else about the account. I didn’t have the specific information they were programmed to receive, so I was basically out of luck.

I am astonished that they need that level of security. About the only thing someone could gain by hacking into my account would be to pay my bill, and if that’s what they want to do, let them.

I’m afraid it’s just going to get worse. As our reliance on technology continues to increase, we may find ourselves standing in front of someone, but if we can’t guess the right code number to prove who we are, we will not officially exist.

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