Opinion: It takes what to get your number?


I’m a big “60 Minutes” fan. I remember watching the premier show in 1968. The producer of that show was Don Hewitt, an alumnus of New Rochelle High School where I graduated in 1965. The high school has a list of famous graduates and Don is listed along with 29 other people. I must have been No. 31 because I couldn’t find my name.

Recently, “60 Minutes” did a show about artificial intelligence, and the story focused on how some of these AI programs can mimic someone’s voice and be used to trick people into sending money or giving out personal information over the phone. This freaked out my wife, who is very concerned about having her identity stolen. She is not worried about my identity being stolen because, to quote Mary Ellen, “I don’t think anyone would want to be you.”

She is very paranoid about this kind of stuff. She shreds everything, convinced that people will rifle through our garbage to find vital information.

“Mary Ellen, why are you shredding our junk mail?” I asked her.

“Dick, I don’t want people to know our address.”

“Well, if unsavory people are going through our trash at the curb, they can figure out where we live, because we live right behind the trash.”

Now, because of the “60 Minutes” story, she has heightened concerns about privacy. I called her the other day to ask a question.

“Hi, Mary Ellen, It’s Dick. I need your Social Security number to fill out a form here at the bank.”

There was a pause on the phone … a long one.

“Hmm, when you call you never say, ‘It’s Dick.’ You always say ‘Hi, it’s me.’ Now, who is this?”

“It’s your husband. Now, can you give me the Social Security number, please?”

“I have a couple of questions before I give out this highly sensitive information. What is your brother’s name?”

“Peter, of course.”

“And where were you born?”

“New Rochelle. Look, if this is some kind of an IQ or memory test, you need to make the questions a lot tougher.”

“This is my way of checking if it’s really you. With all the new technology available, a crook could be calling me and making his voice sound like yours.”

“Okay, Mary Ellen, you may ask one more question. Make it a good one.”

“OK, Dick — or whoever you are — when we got married, we stayed in a magnificent vacation spot in Big Sur, Calif. You said it was the most romantic, glorious hotel you had ever been in and it was a weekend you would never forget. What was the name of the hotel?”

“I don’t have a clue.”

“Oh, good it’s definitely you! It’s 897-006-0000!”


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