Walking into that apartment 17 years ago, I realized something very important was missing.
My sense of safety.
I returned home from working a late shift and knew something was wrong when my apartment door was open. When I walked into my living room, the entertainment center was pulled to the ground. Everything of value was gone — my television, my stereo, my computer, my CDs (except, inexplicably, someone threw Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” to the other side of the room).
I couldn’t imagine feeling more vulnerable or more violated. Someone jimmied the lock to get inside my home, and now he’d taken permanent residence in my fears. Police never found the thief, and I lost a little bit of belief in the common good.
Fast-forward to this week. I received a notice from my health insurer. Someone got access to my information, including my Social Security number. My financial well-being was compromised.
I yawned. This was old hat. In the past year, my Social Security number has exposed four different times, including as part of that giant Equifax breach from a company supposedly monitoring my borrowing and telling people if I’m careful.
My Social Security number has been released so many times, I might as well share it in this column: 296-… wait, that’s a bad idea.
Each time, the company offers to pay to monitor your credit for a year or two. That gives you temporary confidence, until you realize these thieves could wait years before wreaking havoc on your finances.
It’s become such a way of life I can’t even stir up anger over it anymore. I’m more angry when someone passes me on Interstate 75 when I’m waiting to pass the the truck holding me up.
Each of my daughters’ information became exposed by a medical provider years ago. Someone stole my youngest daughter’s entire medical history from a home health worker’s car once. If the theft doesn’t come with a funny story, it’s barely memorable anymore.
Like the time we realized someone in London was using our debit card number to order car service and tickets, bleeding us dry. That was fun, arguing with the bank that we couldn’t possibly be filling up our gas tanks in Lima at the same time we’re taking cars around England.
Or the time a mysterious purchase popped up on my credit card. When I called, I was informed my wife made the purchase. They wouldn’t tell me what it was, so they made me put her on the phone. It was for a pornographic website. My wife, who was nearly nine months pregnant at the time, was not amused at their accusation.
It’s sad that this stolen information can be use to open credit cards or borrow money, yet I can’t get angry about it. It’s too much a part of our world, right up there with shocking tweets and different kinds of hot peppers hitting the mainstream every year.
I can’t feel safe, even when it comes to my money. As long as everyone from schools to credit card companies to the federal government all use the Social Security number as the key to proving you are who you are, it’s not going to change.
This is the new normal, whether we like it or not.