Just Don’t Ask for My Social Security Number
I walked into a bar, err, rather the Comcast Cable Co. on Long Beach Island. I had a simple request. I wanted to change the name on the account. For the past 15 years my bills had been sent to my late husband. This was the only mail I received addressed to him. It was not a big problem, as they always accepted my check, but I had decided it was time to fix the situation. I did try to make the change 15 years ago to no avail, but now I was determined.
Over the years, I had called the cable company and gone through the same routine. I found calling Comcast to be a challenge. I was asked for my name, account number and Social Security number. I gave the last four digits and passed muster to state my case. There was always a glitch. My name did not match the owner of the account. “Of course it doesn’t,” I would reply, “because he’s dead!”
After a shocked silence, I would hear a few clucks of sympathy and be assured my cable could be fixed. I was an “authorized user.” A technician would send a few signals over the phone and I was back to couch potato status. My television was working again. Not so with the name change. For this I was told to visit the business office.
Fast forward to the office. I arrived with a check to pay the latest bill and three forms of identification. It was bad timing on my part, being the lunch hour, and there was only one clerk behind the desk. After cooling my heels for a half hour, I explained the situation. The man politely informed me that this was a simple procedure. All I needed was identification. I handed over my license, the cable bill addressed to my husband and a 15-year-old death certificate. “I need your Social Security card,” he said. “None of this is acceptable.”
I smiled and then frowned. I was stunned beyond belief. I explained that I don’t carry the card with me for security reasons. My Medicare card had all but the last four digits blacked out as recommended by the Federal Trade Commission. I told him that in 2018 Medicare numbers will be changed so that they are different from Social Security numbers to cut down on identity theft. SS numbers will no longer be on medical cards. “No problem,” he said. “Just tell me the numbers or write them down and I’ll input them in the computer.”
I smiled, I begged, I cajoled. I offered to go home and get my passport. For 30 years I had paid this cable bill and now I had to divulge my SS number to prove I was the rightful owner and lived at the billing address. I pointed out my photo on my license. It was not enough. I asked to speak to his supervisor.
There was more cooling of my heels until he reached her by phone. She politely explained that “rules are rules” and she could not break them. I hedged and explained that Comcast must already have my SS number because I am “authorized user.” I offered to give her the last four numbers, as I did with other companies. I told her that the bill was going to a dead man. I had a copy of the death certificate. No, no and no. Only my full Social Security number would do.
I started spouting nonsense about WikiLeaks and classified information. “Where is my security?” I asked. I was told again that I could continue to pay the bill as an authorized user. I realized this was a “Catch-22” conversation, thanked her and hung up the phone.
All of this has bothered me big time. I am now obsessed. I am determined to never give Comcast my SS number. Put me on the rack! I will never give up the ship! I will not say uncle! I have become a cranky, old codger (usually a male designation, but due to equal opportunity, it also applies to women). I can’t blame Comcast for my being old, but my curmudgeon-like attitude is its their fault. I quote the line from the movie “Catch 22” for proof. I say it with conviction. “Insanity is contagious.” I am now walking into the bar.
Kathleen Donnelly lives in Beach Haven Terrace.