We Americans are an inventive bunch.
The variety, quantity and importance of our inventions are truly awesome. Just think of the impact on our lives of inventions like:
- Cheese Whiz.
Equally awesome is the fact that no sooner does one American invent something…
Than another one invents a crime inspired by it.
Take, for example, snowmobiles.
On a dark December night back in the mid-1950s, inventor Arnie Arneson of Biwabik, in northern Minnesota (population 213), was excited to be taking his invention, the snowmobile, for its very first test drive around town. The test drive went well, and Arnie was thrilled. So thrilled, in fact, that he parked the snowmobile in front of the town’s bar and ran inside to tell the owner, Olly Olafson, all about it. Because it was 58 degrees below zero, Arnie left the snowmobile’s engine running to keep the fuel line from freezing.
No sooner had Arnie disappeared into the bar than a figure bundled in heavy winter clothes, including a ski mask, appeared from around the corner of the bar. The figure ran to the snowmobile, sat down, revved the engine, and took off over the river and through the woods. Arnie’s snowmobile had inspired the first snowmobile theft.
Arnie was still seen around Biwabik, but alas, not his snowmobile.
No doubt Arnie’s story came to mind if you heard about the latest invention-inspired crime:
The new Medicare card scam.
In May 2017 the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that
“CMS is readying a fraud prevention initiative that removes Social Security (SSA) numbers from Medicare cards to help combat identity theft, and safeguard taxpayer dollars.
“The new cards will use a unique, randomly assigned number called a Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI), to replace the Social Security-based Health Insurance Claim Number (HICN) currently used on the Medicare card.”
To translate that alphabet soup of acronyms, our government had woken up to the fact that using Social Security numbers as ID was a dumb idea.
Alas, because the CMS has done such a poor job of informing the 44 million beneficiaries about the new Medicare cards – “more than three-quarters of Americans over age 65 know little or nothing about the federal government’s initiative” according to a recent survey – there’s a whole lot of people who are ripe for the scamming.
The scammers saw their opportunity and seized it – just like Arnie’s snowmobile thief.
The first batch of new cards had barely cleared the Post Office in April 2018 when a variety of telephone scams came to light. These include scammers:
- Posing as Medicare representatives calling beneficiaries demanding a processing fee to activate the new number, which they also ask for.
- Telling beneficiaries that they are owed a refund from transactions on their old card and then asking for bank account information to process the reimbursement.
- Advising beneficiaries that their new card has been kidnapped and will require a $5,000 ransom to release it.
OK, I’m lying about the last one, but you get my point:
New invention = new crime.
Americans will keep inventing and thieves will keep thieving.
What a country!