Welcome back to another What if Wednesday!
I may have mentioned previously that I started a book club. Our most recent book inspired some lively discussion on the overlapping topics of money and vulnerability. Side note: 20 points to anyone who correctly guesses the book (also a show!) that inspired this week’s post! :)
None of us want to think that our money could be vulnerable to attack or theft. We all take great pains to protect what we have. And we take every opportunity to add bulk to the coffers whenever we can.
Additionally, we all place a whole lot of faith in the virtual systems that gird our society. Everything from banking to medical records, social security, and social media is largely online. Sure, there are backups in case the power goes out, or the system goes down temporarily. But even the backups and failsafes are not always 100% immune to attack or damage.
So here is the question: What if you checked your bank account right this minute and found a $0 balance? Unless you really are broke, you’d assume it was a mistake. What if you tried to log into your social media to #tweetaboutit but suddenly none of your apps recognized your username? …What if every online imprint of you was somehow simply gone?
- You have just discovered that all your money is gone.Everything in the bank… everything you invested in stocks, bonds, CD’s, Roth IRAs, 401Ks, etc,… vanished. Into thin air.
- Your keycard does not allow you access to your work building. You call IT and HR, but there is no record of you having ever worked there.
- The electricity, internet, and water to your house is shut off because the companies have no record of you.
- Your cellphone stops working…the carrier has no record of you.
- You ask your tech-savvy friend for help. After doing some intensive digging, he says he can find ZERO trace of you ANYWHERE.
- You have been wiped from every database. Your social security, credit score, government records, taxes… even your social media accounts have been deleted.
- You do not exist.
- Now what?
Every time I read a book or watch a movie with a similar “you’ve been wiped” premise, it always gives me pause. Could something like this really happen?
First, can we give props to the tech-savvy friend for a sec? I mean this person is in every movie. You know the one character that tends to be surrounded by computer monitors, and somehow always able to do internet-magic with a keystroke. Without fail, character can hack into the most protected database in a split second. We all need a friend like this in our lives for precisely this moment.
Right. Back to the premise…
So, for the sake of this thought experiment, let’s just say that this really did happen. Let’s say that a sinister virus erased all trace of me RIGHT THIS SECOND.
My initial thought is that it would suck to lose everything. Even if I brought my birth certificate, passport, and social security card, the bank probably wouldn’t be handing over any money if they can’t corroborate that I exist. It’s more likely that they’d have me arrested for trying to steal money with forged documents. So in this scenario, I am pretty sure that I wouldn’t be able to get my money back.
It would also certainly be unsettling that there are no tax records of me, not even with the IRS! Sure I have copies of all my tax documents, but would anyone in the government believe a random chick with printouts? We all know how undocumented immigrants get treated in this country. And it’s only getting worse. No one is exactly rolling out the welcome mat. So yeah, rather than try to convince government officials that I’m actually a law-abiding citizen, I’d probably try to figure things out on my own.
Upon further thought, I have realized that there are some pretty great upsides to this… after all, erasing all my assets also means erasing all my debts, right? And hey, I wouldn’t mind saying byebye to that mortgage! Plus, if my social security number vanishes and the IRS doesn’t have record of me, that might also mean byebye taxes. One less thing to do every year.
I’d run into a pretty big kink with income though. Not having record of existence means not being able to continue working at my current job. Even if I tried to convince HR that I’m actually an employee, they would need to have my social security number, etc, which we all know has been wiped. Gah! So I might as well say goodbye to my job.
I’d probably need to find an employer that doesn’t require any documentation, and is willing to pay me in cold hard cash (I wouldn’t have a bank account, remember?). I don’t know any reputable employers that would be cool with this situation, but you never know. Or maybe I’d have to do stuff like walk dogs or mow my neighbors’ lawns. I think I could be down with this. I love dogs. And mowing could be fun…? I’d figure it out.
In thinking about this scenario, it’s funny how non-scary it suddenly becomes. Not at all like the movies, amiright? Characters in books/movies that find themselves in similar situations tend to also have something dire going on at the same time… like trying to save the world from a ticking bomb, or desperately searching for the villain who threatens humanity. I don’t have any of these earth shattering issues to resolve, so if I were to “get wiped,” I don’t think I would freak out too badly.
I mean, I would be mad that my money disappeared. But it’s not like I’ve got billions sitting in a Swiss bank account. And once I took a beat and remembered that my mortgage was gone too, I’d chill out real quick.
What about you?
How would you react if you suddenly “got wiped”? Any guesses as to what book/show inspired this post? :)