Mercantile Enterprises "Mercantile Express" Card
The Computer requires every citizen to carry a Mercantile Enterprise card.
Though it looks and works much like Old Reckoning credit cards, your ME Card is far more. Loaded with your biometric data, credit history, property inventory, and authentication codes, the ME Card is, in a sense, your identity.
Sadly, the card’s built-in sensors don’t test whether the individual carrying your card is the rightful owner. The Computer, in its analysis of economic systems, has determined it doesn’t matter who is spending the money so long as someone is. So if you lose your ME Card, the thief can become Officially You until you recover, destroy, or cancel your Card.
Because cancelling an ME Card is a slow, all-day ordeal at Central Processing (though nothing compared to the three-day hell of getting a replacement), it’s far more practical to try tracking down your stolen Card—and in the meantime even to ‘borrow’ someone else’s Card and become Offically Him for a while.
Identity theft in Alpha Complex has thus become not just a concern but an everyday event. Wise citizens go to extremes to protect their Cards.
Still, take heart! Theft of one’s Card doesn’t always mean immediate financial ruin. The ME Card’s resources are highly unreliable, varying in their buying power and perquisites by sector, time of day and database availability.