Probe: Dec. 28, 2001

December 28, 2001

QUESTION: When I wanted to rent a movie, I had to fill out a credit application. The video store wanted my Social Security number. Isn't that against the law? — Suspicious, El Centro

It's not against the law, although some privacy rights advocates think it ought to be. As it stands now, you can refuse to give up your Social Security number and risk not getting credit approval, or in this case, the right to rent movies.

In most cases if you stand your ground, the video rental store will back down and let you supply some other identifying information.

However, that won't be the case if you apply for credit to buy a car or a house. The lending institution needs your Social Security number to check your credit report.


We're not sure why video stores think they need Social Security numbers to rent movies. As far as we can tell, there's nothing they can do with the number if you abscond with the movie.

Since everybody has a Social Security card, it proves nothing more than that you exist. It's value, and a good reason to protect the card and its number is that the number can be used to get credit in your name — if you have good credit.

Banks may require your Social Security number to give you the balance of your checking account. You can't lose anything here since the bank already has your number. The bank just wants to know if you have the number. It wants to make sure the person asking for the balance of your checking account is really you.

QUESTION: I am a veteran of the Vietnam war. I agree with Ed "Gato" Castillo-Rubio and Danny Santillan. When we came home, there were no parades for us. They called us baby killers. Why did Americans treat the veterans so bad? I know they didn't like the war but it was our country's war and we fought it. — Vietnam Vet, El Centro

We can't go back and make a parade for you. There was an effort to make it up to you when the Vietnam veterans were invited to join the homecoming parade for Gulf War vets.

We don't want to go into the anti-war movement's effect on the returning vets. In a free country, people have their own opinion of government actions.

Some young people supported the war and some resisted it. Both groups were forever scarred.

But the lack of honor for the returning warriors may have had something to do with the rotation of troops to Vietnam. They went in and came home 12 months later in dribs and drabs.

Eventually you and later the Korean War vets were honored with heroic memorial monuments. The gestures were too little and too late.

Then somebody noticed there was no such memorial for World War II vets, "the greatest generation." That oversight is now being remedied. It's been the fate of every generation since World War II to live in that generation's shadow.

OLIVES ON THE SIDE — Why don't people making tamales leave out the olives with the pits? You could serve a little dish of olives on the side for those who like to chew them. It would save a lot of teeth. — Tamal Eater, Calexico

Mexicans have been eating tamales with olives, pits and all, for centuries. Although a few teeth may have been lost, Mexicans have survived.

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