My identity has been stolen. I may possess the driver’s license and Social Security card of one Daniel P. Finney of Des Moines.
But these documents mean nothing against the weight of data in the computers at Iowa Workforce Development.
Those computers say Daniel Finney has a different birthday than the one I celebrate, a different address than where I live and, most importantly, chooses to get his unemployment checks on a debit card rather than direct deposit into his credit union.
There is the possibility this evil doppelganger has already stolen roughly $1,200 of my unemployment benefits.
Once more, this faux Finney has forced the unemployment office to put a fraud hold on my benefits — as in the actual Finney — pending an investigation by the fraud department.
“How long will this take?” I asked the unemployment office.
“We don’t know,” the woman said. “There has been a lot of fraud. Our investigators are backed up and the cases are worked on in the order they received.”
“Will I get paid while the investigators figure this out?” I asked.
“No,” she said, “but you will get paid back pay when the case is resolved.”
“But you don’t know when that will be,” I said.
“No,” she said.
The social safety net frayed greatly during the pandemic, but it doesn’t help when criminals pick at the ropes like bored crows eating the strings of a basketball net.
The interruption in my benefits is stressful, but I remain chipper.
I spend my time wondering what faux Finney looks like. The original series of “Star Trek” episode “Mirror, Mirror” set the standard for the evil doppelganger trope: It’s a person who looks exactly me with a wiry goatee and silky shirt and a gold sash at the waist.
So, if you see a goateed, morbidly obese man limping along with a cane going on a spending spree at comic bookstore, call the cops. It could well be faux Finney.
If faux Finney has stolen my identity, that means Finney actual is tabula rasa.
Philosophically, this makes some sense. I’m amidst the greatest transformation of my life since my first trip through college.
I am trying to leave behind a career in journalism for a career in teaching. I happily give all the grief, rage and anguish that went with 23 years in a variety of mostly Midwestern newspapers to faux Finney.
My doppelganger is welcome to my student loan debts, my arthritic knees and the tendonitis in my elbow and shoulder.
Heck, I’ll even throw in my Green Arrow and Hawkeye comics. Nobody really needs comics about guys who shoot arrows.
I suppose I could let go my gallows humor catchphrases such as “too fat to live, too lazy to die.”
If I ever met faux Finney, I doubt there would be a big battle in the tradition of mighty Marvel mayhem. I might even give him the keys to battered-but-beloved big black car and the number of my very understanding insurance agent.
I would probably ask faux Finney for his address, so I can forward my bills to him.
What I would really ask this scofflaw is how many other people he’s ripped off. Or she. Or they. I don’t want to get hung up on pronouns when dealing with low-rent criminals.
I wonder if you’re creative enough to figure out how to rip off people who need help while they’re unemployed, why couldn’t you put those skills to work getting a job.
You hear all these rumors about how inventive prisoners are about sneaking in drugs, smartphones and pornographic magazines into their facility. Some make wine in the toilet.
I met an ex-con once who told me they made a kind of panini maker by covering the inside of a shoebox with tinfoil and cutting a hole for a bare tungsten light.
I would not have thought of these things.
But I’m not a very creative guy.
In fact, I’m not any kind of guy.
Tabula rasa, remember?
I’m certainly not the kind of guy who is going to see his unemployment checks for a while.