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Digital living

Postby M. Henri Day » Thu Jun 23, 2005 9:40 am

I had a colleague in Molde who used to proclaim that he had lived analogously and would die analogously (i e, not digitally), which, in the end, I suppose he did. Myself, I am fascinated by the net - but I hope to avoid being constrained to make payments over it. I intend to die as I live - chimerically, half digital, half-analog....

Henri

Ted Rall

CHECKING OUT

NEW YORK--"I don't think there are any bills for which I use a paper check," Princeton grad student Larry Lyons, 23, tells the New York Times. And he's not alone. Millions of Americans, especially young adults, prefer to pay their bills with a debit card or via the Internet. In 2003 checks accounted for just 45 percent of non-credit card payments, down from 57 percent in 2000. "Checks over the next two decades," reports the newspaper, "are likely to become as prevalent as electric typewriters."
While it comes as a surprise to customers hit by big fees for bounced checks and low balances, high processing expenses have caused banks to view the checking account business as a "loss leader"--an unprofitable line of business they only maintain because people expect it. So banks are dangling carrots--Citibank charges lower fees to customers who agree not to write checks--and swinging sticks--refusing to return canceled checks--to coax their customers into fully digitizing their personal finances.

"It's much easier to be able to point and click to make a payment," says Larry Lyons, the student. I don't know what he's talking about. I have broadband, a fully-loaded computer and I'm a former computer programmer--certainly no Luddite. Yet, for me, paying bills online compares unfavorably with a visit to the dentist.

First you fill out your name, address, credit card information on a long form. Don't forget the four-digit security code on your card. No, not the one on the front. The one on the back. OK. Now wait a few moments while we process your payment. What, you don't have "cookies" activated on your browser? Go reset your preferences to allow us to plant mysterious tracking files on your computer. Don't worry about all those identity theft stories on TV, just do it. Now reenter all that stuff in the long form. Great. Now wait a few moments while we check to see if your chosen username is available. Wait--you have to enter your password twice. Four to six digits. Now wait a few moments while we e-mail you a link to verify your account. Click on the link. The link isn't live? Cut and paste it into your browser. Wait for it to reload. Now re-enter everything. Now wait a few moments while we process your payment. What's that? Your screen is locked up? Better do a hard shut-down and reboot. That should take about ten minutes--assuming that a utility crew across town isn't about to accidentally knock out your DSL or cable connection.

Compare high-tech bill paying to the old-fashioned way: Write check. Place in pre-addressed envelope. Lick. Stick on a stamp. Total estimated time of procedure: one minute.

Bankers say you can access the Web anywhere, but they've never surfed on a PC running Windows 98 at a cybercafé in Ashkhabat. It takes five minutes just to send an email. Seriously. Accessing the first page of an online banking site is absolutely impossible. There is at least some chance that the Turkmen postal service will eventually come through.

Seems like an obvious case of not broken/don't fix. But, says Edward Bachelder of Dove Consulting, "The youth of America has no interest in using checks." Hurrah.

The death of checks presages a cashless society in which employers wire salaries to workers' bank accounts via direct deposit, who in turn pay bills online and use debit cards--which account for over 20 percent of all non-credit transactions--at shops and restaurants. The next obvious step, some future politician will reason, will be to eliminate cash.

Once legitimate money flows digitally, after all, all cash will be used the way most $100 bills are today--for drug sales and other illegal activities. Economists Friedrich Schneider and Dominik Enste estimate that between 6.7 and 13.9 percent of our gross domestic product was generated by the American "underground economy"--transactions conducted in cash--in 1990, the last year for which such data was available. Whether you're selling your futon on Craigslist or moving ten kilos of Afghan heroin, the I.R.S. wants its piece of the action.

Going after tax cheats seems reasonable. But the cure would be worse than the current "lost" government revenue. You have ample cause to fear a cashless America even if you're strictly legit. As Islamic charities learned after 9/11, bank accounts can be frozen by a government acting against its political opponents. Credit and debit cards can be deactivated at a keystroke. Politicians of the future will find the power to instantly impoverish anyone, anywhere, for any reason, irresistible. And consolidation makes an online banking account ultimately vulnerable to such attacks. Your cellular provider, landlord and travel agent are scattered across the country, currently known only to you. Now it would take time and effort for a government agency to find them to cut you off. Not so if you pay your bills online.

Of course, there's no reason to worry if you trust all politicians and government agencies, including those not yet conceived, appointed or elected, to do the right thing. Oh, sure, the Social Security guys just admitted giving away "secret" information to HomeSec goons, no warrant requested. But that was just a fluke. Go on, do whatever they tell you. Keep pointing and clicking--and save those 37-cent stamps.

COPYRIGHT 2005 TED RALL

RALL 6/21/05
曾记否,到中流击水,浪遏飞舟?
M. Henri Day
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Postby KatyBr » Thu Jun 23, 2005 10:07 am

re: Ted Rall
First it's a three digit number (not foiur as he stated) that verifies on the back of your card and passwords are not 4-6 digits but 8 and at least one has to be a letter, and one a number and one at least capital. (you figure that out) and it takes considerably more than a single keystroke to wipe ones' bank account.
That said It was a good article, I agree with Ted, but I pay my bills online, it's so much easier than dragging out the checkbook, writing out checks, finding stamps.....and the bills are paid, my account is debited and my running tally on the 'check'book is clean, no waiting for transactions to clear, months from now. Some companies insist on being paid in paper, but they are phasing out fast. It can be all the hassle that he says, some sites are impossible, but that's changing too, I write emails to the ones that are hard to pay online.
As to the government, I don't trust them, (ANY) at all, but I trey to stay under the radar....

Katy
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Postby M. Henri Day » Thu Jun 23, 2005 3:40 pm

You're a brave woman, Katy ! The risk of so-called identity theft suffices to discourage me from paying bills on-line or using credit cards. For face-to-face purchases I prefer to use cash ; when paying bills that arrive in the post, I use the giro system. Not quite as fast, of course, but it strikes me as safer....

Henri
曾记否,到中流击水,浪遏飞舟?
M. Henri Day
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Postby KatyBr » Thu Jun 23, 2005 4:48 pm

not so brave,I've had my identity stolen, when they find out just how poor I am they just quit, and I get my money back. I'm forced to do business online, it's when my venders shave my sales that it hurts. I'm no fan of credit, I pay cash in stores and use my debit card on the internet.
When one doesn't use credit they have a "bad" credit rating, so who'd want my identity?

Katy
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Postby uncronopio » Thu Jun 23, 2005 7:25 pm

I have been using only electronic transactions since 1996, so I have not written a cheque for almost ten years. I have never had a problem with the transactions.

I am surprised with the problems people see in the system. At least in Australia, I register a biller only once in my internet banking system and then the only thing I need to do is choose the account from where I am paying using a drop down menu, the amount to pay and press OK. Certainly less than a minute and my balance is automatically updated.

The procedure described in the article seems to be for once-off transactions. Now, if you often use the same merchant (like Amazon, for example) your details are stored there, so just use a one-click purchase.

Luddittes...

So Katy, are you the real one or is some one else posting using your name? :)
"Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest." -- Mark Twain
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Postby KatyBr » Thu Jun 23, 2005 8:39 pm

uncronopio wrote:Now, if you often use the same merchant (like Amazon, for example) your details are stored there, so just use a one-click purchase.

Luddittes...

So Katy, are you the real one or is some one else posting using your name?


Luis, it's the real me.
I use Amazon often to buy books, no problem, I did have an odd happening once, from each of my 2 bank accounts I ordered from a company(A), then my information was used by someone to purchase two items (from different companies) that they had sent to me! I know the company A I had ordered from was to blame for giving out my information, because I never used the second account to order anything from online except for them.

I like paypal it's very secure and use it for most of my monthly bills, ISP, Yahoo advertising, and bandwidth for my sites (I have 188 now).

Katy
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Postby M. Henri Day » Fri Jun 24, 2005 12:57 pm

KatyBr wrote:... and bandwidth for my sites (I have 188 now).

Surely you jest !...

Henri
曾记否,到中流击水,浪遏飞舟?
M. Henri Day
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Posts: 1142
Joined: Tue Feb 15, 2005 8:24 am
Location: Stockholm, SVERIGE

Postby KatyBr » Fri Jun 24, 2005 1:01 pm

How odd that the things I say when I'm kidding, like removing every third letter in a post are accepted as serious, and a completely true thing like having 188 sites (how is that something to kid about?) are seen as jests? No, I really do have 188 sites it's my job...I sell thru' my sites, not as easy a vocation as one might think.

Katy
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Postby M. Henri Day » Fri Jun 24, 2005 2:00 pm

KatyBr wrote:...I sell thru' my sites, not as easy a vocation as one might think.


Doesn't sound the least bit easy to me !...

Henri
曾记否,到中流击水,浪遏飞舟?
M. Henri Day
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Location: Stockholm, SVERIGE

Postby KatyBr » Fri Jun 24, 2005 2:19 pm

one of my favorites is listed in my profile if anyone's curious.

Katy
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Postby Stargzer » Mon Jun 27, 2005 1:05 pm

Katy, I'm glad you don't advertise via Unsolicited Commercial EMail. As I told someone recently, in general, I'm against the death penalty (prefering life in solitary--REAL solitary--instead), but I could easily be convinced to make an exception for spammers. Especially if it's a slow and painful one.
Regards//Larry

"To preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms, and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them."
-- Attributed to Richard Henry Lee
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