I read recently that “identity theft” is quickly becoming one of the world’s fastest growing crimes.
It’s definitely a problem in the United States, where nearly a quarter of Americans report their credit card information has been misused by strangers, and 75 percent say they fear someone will steal their personal information.
I wish I could say I sympathize.
But in my case, identity theft would be a blessing. I’m an Arab American. The poor fool who steals my identity doesn’t know what he’s in for. Before the thief even knows what has happened, he’ll will find himself on the FBI’s 25 Most Wanted list. They’ll have trouble boarding planes. They’ll get pulled out of security lines for extra-special treatment more often than most others.
The next thing you know, he’ll be in “the Gulag of our time.”
If someone does steal my identity, I’ll be the first to call the FBI. Not to report the theft, but to call in more accusations about myself.
“Yes sir, Mr. FBI Agent. Ray Hanania is definitely engaged in terrorist activities. I saw him taking pictures of buildings downtown. And he was talking in this ugly, foreign language.”
“Arabic?” the agent on the telephone asks.
“No,” I reply. “He sounds a lot like Bill Clinton, from the deep, deep South.”
One phone call to FBI
“Ah. A Democrat from the south? That’s ugly,” the agent agrees.
That’s all it takes. One phone call to the FBI.
Under the U.S. Patriot Act, the FBI doesn’t ask questions, any more. They just grab you and throw you in a fancy place called the Gulag. It can take more than 18 months before anyone realizes the person they have is not me, let alone a terrorist.
I can just imagine the shock on the face of the guy who steals my identity when the FBI comes knocking on his door. Try denying that!
The whole issue of identity theft can get even more complicated when dealing with the issue of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Well, you can’t have your identity stolen if someone says you don’t really have one.
“Palestinians. They don’t exist. Never did.” It’s a daisy of a lie, of course. I know I exist because I walk, talk, stalk and squawk.
Still, “not existing” can have its benefits, like when the bill collector knocks at your door.
“Can I help you?” I ask.
“I’m here to collect on the money you owe on your credit card,” the bill collector explains.
Ray doesn't owe - he has no identity
“Ah, but I don’t owe that money.”
“You don’t owe it? Your name is right here. This is your address,” the collector says pointing to the top of a long billing statement he is holding in his hand.
I scan the bill and read some of the billing charges: “Fifty pounds of Semtex … Twenty five fly-fishermen vests with large pockets … one one-way ticket to the Middle East … Ooooh, this one is expensive,” I say pointing to the bottom of the billing list. “A genuine red Kaballah string blessed by the high priestess of Kaballah, Madonna.”
Still, I hand the bill back and shake my head insistently.
"Obviously, that bill doesn’t belong to me. I can only afford Kaballah strings autographed by Paris Hilton.”
Who looks at Britney's back?
Flustered, the collector starts to argue. “Listen. I don’t care about Madonna, Paris Hilton or Roseanne Barr …”
Seeing his frustration, I offer, “Now, Britney Spears has one of the 72 names of God tattooed on the back of her neck. Of course, who looks at Britney’s neck?”
“Let’s get back to the issue, Mr. Hanania. About your bill.”
“Oh. That’s not my bill,” I point out.
“Not your bill? It has your name on it, right here,” he protests, pointing to the statement. “Ray Hanyananyanahaaahaaa.”
“Maybe so,” I reply. “But I’m Palestinian. I don’t exist. See ya!”