Sunday, February 7, 2016

No need for a password.

Why bother with a password?

Last week I wanted to access a bank account on line. For some reason I could not access it. There was a prompt that asked me to put in my cell phone number. I did that—and again—the number was not recognizable.

It was not urgent that I get to the account, but the episode was disconcerting.  In our computer age, when you stop and think about it, do we really have any money in the bank? You make a deposit and then your balance on a screen increases, but the money is not really there. If everyone at your local bank came in one day and asked for their shekels, the bank would run out before ten percent of the customers got to the front of the line.

Every once in a while—when there is a computer snag of some sort and I can’t access my account—I begin to consider the possibility that the shell game is just that.  I don’t really dwell on that since every time, thus far, somehow the glitch is resolved and I return to make believing that there really are some savings stored away in case I need to pay a bill. 

Back to the day last week when my account could not be accessed. After I tried my phone number and that did not work,  I received another prompt. This one read that if I so desired, the computer could generate some questions from public records that would confirm I am who I am.  I hesitated, but gave that a shot figuring that the questions would be about social security numbers last four digits or where I worked.

Within seconds of my clicking ok to the “public records” inquiry,  a series of questions popped up that I had only a couple of minutes to answer.  So, within seconds a computer knew what questions to ask and, of course, what the correct answers were.

The questions were stunning.  What was the color of my car? Where did I live in 1965?  What city was a street address for my parents in the mid 90s?  When did I buy my home?

I answered the questions and was able to get into my account.  But I was a bit dazed by the experience.

What is the purpose of having a password?  This bank knew things about me that I had never disclosed.  My personal questions—which I thought were important-relate to the name of my nephew, paternal grandfather, and cat.  These questions are nothing for big brother.  They want to know who I dated in 66 and if she thought I was a good man.  And they know the answer to both.  How do they know what color my car is.  I never told the bank the color of my car. (They also knew the model).  How do they know where my parents resided in 1995?

It does not seem as if much is a secret anymore so just bypass the password. They knew who you are.  

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