Tuesday, August 09, 2016

a breach in the chinese wall

"Your access to your My Social Security account is being terminated."

So said the good folks of Social Security in an email late last month. My ability to remotely open my Social Security account information was coming to an end in August.

Well, that is not really what the email said. But the tiny hysteric that lives in a condominium in my amygdala has a way of churning up glandular fluids before the better part of my brain has an opportunity to analyze it. The old Adler vs. Holmes fight.

What the email really said, in a very soothing bureaucratic drone, was that the process for getting to my data was about to change -- "to protect my privacy." We do not know if the Chinese ever plundered Mrs. Clinton's home server, but we do know that they have made a series of hits on government computers that contain personal information on current and former government employees -- and benefit recipients.

To ensure us that the Chinese will no longer be able to peruse why my Medicare payments withheld from my Social Security benefits have increased to over $300 a month (part of the humorously-named Affordable Care Act), Social Security will now require that I sign in with my username and password (as I have been) -- and then provide my text-enabled cellular telephone number.

Here's why.  Social Security will then send me onetime security code to open my account.

A number of financial institutions are doing this. But most of them send the code by email. I guess Social Security decided that was not a socially secure method.

I have been doing my best to divest myself of connections up north -- especially of the financial type. All of my telephones are Mexican -- Telmex or Telcel. My experience with American institutions is they go all weak in the knees when Mexico is mentioned. So, I was disinclined to provide Social Security with a Mexican telephone number.

Fortunately, I have kept a MagicJack account active. I was going to cancel it when I bought services to allow me to call The States as part of my telephone plans. I didn't, though, thinking I might have some use for it as a backup.

And so I have. It turns out the number is text-enabled.

If I had deep-sixed MagicJack, the Social Security guys let me know that sympathy is not one of my benefits: "If you do not have a text-enabled cell phone or you do not wish to provide your cell phone number, you will not be able to access your My Social Security account."

I am willing to bet a large number of Social Security recipients are covered by that conditional "if you do not." Sorry, gramps. You paid into the account, but our use of "my" in front of your account was simply a post-modern twist of irony. It's our account, and don't you forget it.

Had I been writing the notice, I would have blue-lined the in-your-face-Mr.-Taxpayer jab and skipped to the reality:
"If you are having trouble using our new security measures, try logging onto igotyourstuff@beijing.com.ch. While there, you might be interested in reviewing your FBI file, any information the NSA has collected concerning you during the past 10 years, and your voting preferences in the last two election cycles."

And, now, about that triple increase in my Medicare premium --


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