Thursday, April 29, 2010

My momentary brush with identity theft.. or not.

So today, after oh say a couple of months, I decided to check my Rogers email account. This is the account I got with my internet service and I rarely use it. It's the one that goes on my resume (since my others are not real professional-like) and it's also the one I use when I sign up for something and expect to get some junk mail, but no important mail. Generally when I check it, it's just to delete the 100 or so junk emails I've accumulated since the last time I checked it, which is usually every three to six months.

Today when I checked a couple of emails caught my eye. There were three from a gentleman informing me that my tax return was ready and could I please come and pick it up. Oh, and since I'm owing some money, please drop payment in his mailbox sometime this week.

Huh? come again? To someone who has been going to H&R block for the last 5+ years, this seems odd.

The next email is from a woman who appears to be a real estate agent, and is informing me that she can't show my condo on Monday due to a previous engagement.

curiouser and curiouser.

My first instinct is that dear god, my account has been hacked! I sit there reading the emails and sweating nervously, wondering if my first call should be to my internet provider or to my bank to check for 'unusual activity' since any weirdo with the balls to use my name and email probably has my credit card info, and SIN number and all my pass words and the keys to my house and OH DEAR GOD IM SO SCREWWWWWWEDDDDDD!! FFFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU!!!1!1!!11

*okay.. breathe andie, breathe*

Instead I google the numbers on the emails. Both are from the toronto area and appear to be, for all intents and purposes, real people. I emailed the tax dude and had the following bizarre exchange:

Hi Andrea

As you have a small amount owing please pick-up your return and post no later than Apr 30/10 to avoid any interest or penalty. I will leave envelope in my mailbox for you to pop by today.

Have a good summer.

-C


Dear C,

I believe you may have the wrong email address. I do not know who you are. My return was filed at an H&R block, as they have been for the past 5 or more years.

Sorry for any inconvenience.

Andrea


Dear C,

Following up, I would greatly appreciate it if you could tell me where you got this email address. I'm greatly concerned as I've also received an email regarding a condo that I'm apparently supposed to see, according to some woman I have never spoken to in my life.

Thank you.


I assume you gave it to me as I would have no other way of knowing your email. Sorry you are having trouble with it. What email address should I use?

I don't know what email address you would use, as I am not the person you are trying to reach. I'm sorry there has been a mix up. I'm just trying to find out who is using my email address (and name as well, apparently), as I have never filed a tax return with you.

Yeah it gets pretty boring from there. I called the real estate agent who assured me that there was actually another real person, with my same name, whom she had spoken to in person the other day.

So it turns out there's just some random woman in the Toronto area with the same name, same internet provider and a very similar email address that she keeps getting wrong.

Big sigh of relief.

It happens, you know? Hell, when I got my new cell phone a while back, I was giving out the wrong number for a MONTH. True story. Interesting post-script, during the time that my parents were trying to reach me at the wrong number, my dad finally got a hold of someone who explained that he had the wrong number.

The twist? This someone happened to be a friend of Dad's from high school.

SMall world, right?

On another note, this whole situation has me thinking about the culture of fear that we live in, not to mention the lack of privacy or security in the information age. Funny that my first assumption should be the worst.

In the line of work I am in, I've seen the devastation that can occur when people use the anonimity of the internet as a means to swindle others out of their cash. It's incredibly easy to use fake names, email addresses, phone numbers and create an identity then disappear from the face of the virtual world.

It's also disconcerting how freely people will do things like give a credit card number over the phone, or even in an email. Many people would rather give a credit card number over the phone than enter it into a secured, encrypted site. Bizarre, when you think about it. One may be more comfortable with an actual person on the other end of the line than a computer, but the fact is, while many people are generally honest and on-the-level, I don't think I've EVER met an ill-intentioned computer.

Think about that.

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Some random questions that have popped into my head through the course of the day.

Why do crackers have holes in them?

What in the name of god is the point of saltines with unsalted tops? Doesn't that defeat the purpose??

Do all animals yawn, or is this strictly a mammalian tic?

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