1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

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cellocgw
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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby cellocgw » Fri Oct 18, 2013 11:29 am UTC

keithl wrote:
rhomboidal wrote:I just assumed everyone over fifty is on AOL.
Nope. We have UUCP bang addresses, like the famous ...!mcvax!moscvax!kremvax!chernenko


Hey, my email address is 48375,46714@compuserve.com, you insensitive clod! :twisted:


OK, on the "srsly" side of things: spend the lousy $20/year or so to get your own hosted domain name. Granted, johnsmith.com is probably taken, but johnandhelensmith.com probably isn't. Gotta be less likely to get reverse-thefted than anything@gmail.com .

ETA:
There's a related problem: making sure one's online 'handle' doesn't get snitched. I've made sure to register accounts at gmail, yahoo mail, wordpress, twitter (which I would otherwise never go within 35 router hops of), slashdot, etc etc just to avoid the possibility that someone else might become "me" at a so-called social media site.

Too late for our beloved punsaw artist, tho'. I fear there are several folks with the same moniker :(
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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby You, sir, name? » Fri Oct 18, 2013 11:38 am UTC

My email address follows the pattern in the xkcd-post.

I get a lot of emails intended for other people :-(
I edit my posts a lot and sometimes the words wrong order words appear in sentences get messed up.

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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby orthogon » Fri Oct 18, 2013 11:39 am UTC

cellocgw wrote:OK, on the "srsly" side of things: spend the lousy $20/year or so to get your own hosted domain name. Granted, johnsmith.com is probably taken, but johnandhelensmith.com probably isn't.

Good idea, but I'd just add that you should bag the domain name first and then go looking for someone called Helen to get married to. If you do it the other way around there's a danger the domain name has gone by the time you get back from honeymoon. Then you've got to get a divorce and start the process all over again.
xtifr wrote:... and orthogon merely sounds undecided.

pixeldigger
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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby pixeldigger » Fri Oct 18, 2013 12:15 pm UTC

You mean people use their Real Names on the internet? May as well join Facebook or twitter if you are going to do that!

NoPepperGames
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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby NoPepperGames » Fri Oct 18, 2013 12:29 pm UTC

I have [firstname][lastname] at gmail com, but my last name is commonly misspelled. So [firstname][lastnome] and I have gotten to know each other over the years, and just send stuff back and forth. I trust that guy more than I trust most other people in my life. I've gotten his credit statements, job references, mortgage documents, etc, and he's gotten equally sensitive info intended for me. Hell - that guy knew I was getting married before most of my family did!

Cousj001
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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby Cousj001 » Fri Oct 18, 2013 12:38 pm UTC

For me, [initial][surname] is unique. I have an extremely rare surname, with currently five people with it in the world, and I am the only male heir. If I have no children, my surname will no longer exist. So I don't get any emails for random other people.
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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby Clix » Fri Oct 18, 2013 12:43 pm UTC

cellocgw wrote:I just assumed everyone over fifty is on AOL.


Hey hey hey.... I just cancelled my AOL so there, your assumption is a fallacy!


rhomboidal wrote:OK, on the "srsly" side of things: spend the lousy $20/year or so to get your own hosted domain name. Granted, johnsmith.com is probably taken, but johnandhelensmith.com probably isn't. Gotta be less likely to get reverse-thefted than anything@gmail.com .(


This was my solution also, that way I would have <myfirstname>@<mylastname>.net (.com was taken by a small company) Somewhere along the line somebody messed up their contacts by putting .net instead of .com and I started to get emails for what seems to be a very nice lady at the <@companynamesameasmylastname> to my address. She's very active in the church and other social groups and is always called on to help organize things. After responding about the error and asking people to update their contacts for a while I finally gave up and put a rule in to auto-respond that <nicelady@companynamesameasmylastname.com isn't here, you've made a mistake, please figure it out.... <auto-delete orginal>

The other fun part is when giving out my information for various reasons it amazes me that after spelling out my name I give them the email address and I get, "and how do you spell that?" Very rarely does anyone seem to catch on that it's the same as my name.

Oh well, my story
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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby Kit. » Fri Oct 18, 2013 12:44 pm UTC

cellocgw wrote:OK, on the "srsly" side of things: spend the lousy $20/year or so to get your own hosted domain name.

I can be even worse if your domain name happens to just slightly differ from a relatively big ISP's mail domain name.

That was the reason why I had turned off my "catchall" mailbox even before the era of the spambot networks.

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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby cellocgw » Fri Oct 18, 2013 12:50 pm UTC

Clix wrote:
cellocgw wrote:I just assumed everyone over fifty is on AOL.


Hey hey hey.... I just cancelled my AOL so there, your assumption is a fallacy!



Ummm-- that wasn't me -- either you quoted a piece of something I quoted, or there's already another cellocgw on this forum.

Or maybe you just forged the "quote" attribution :mrgreen:

And the other thing you attributed to rhomboidal actually was what I wrote. Oh, well .... alternate universe theory
Last edited by cellocgw on Fri Oct 18, 2013 12:51 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby Uzh » Fri Oct 18, 2013 12:50 pm UTC

That reminds me of a friend of mine, who owns several domains (amongst them mine...). One of the domains is very close to the one of quite a big grocery store chain. The last letter is an 'e' instead of an 'a'. He very frequently gets quite a lot of mail of varying sorts to the chain. Since he's got a catch-all-adress, he receives of course info@xxxxxx.de, but also human.resources@xxxxxx.de, [name.of.the.ceo]@xxxxxx.de and so on. He uses to semi-automatically answer with a correction. Sometimes he thanks for the offer or the application form or something like that and refuses the request due to financial reasons.

(Germans might now guess his adress with the hints I've given. He uses to love xkcd, so give him all my best regards)

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Story
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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby Story » Fri Oct 18, 2013 12:58 pm UTC

I once got an email intended for someone with the same last name as me. My email address was just [lastname] while theirs was completely different, so presumably the sender had just guessed the email address.

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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby JamesLucas » Fri Oct 18, 2013 1:15 pm UTC

James Lucas Jr. of North Carolina frequently uses my Gmail address in place of his own. I just about had a heart attack when TurboTax informed me that "my" 2102 tax return had been rejected by the IRS, coincidentally just a day after I submitted my Q3 estimate. (And apparently TurboTax's system doesn't permit the address to be changed by anyone but the customer. After an hour on the phone with various agents, the best they could do is minimize the emails to one every three months or so.)

The more common nuisance, however, is when James Lucas Jr. uses my email to make hotel reservations, because the presence of the email in my Gmail account will become Google Now's sole obsession. My Android phone will spend whole weekends frantically generating transit directions from Manhattan to wherever my quasi-namesake is staying.
Last edited by JamesLucas on Fri Oct 18, 2013 1:30 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

Incarnal
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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby Incarnal » Fri Oct 18, 2013 1:20 pm UTC

This never happens to me, probably because I'm the only person in the world with my name. It's hell in the age of Google... You find me and there's just 20 pages of my entire life history, none of it hidden by obscurity.

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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby Clix » Fri Oct 18, 2013 1:30 pm UTC

cellocgw wrote:
Clix wrote:
cellocgw wrote:I just assumed everyone over fifty is on AOL.


Hey hey hey.... I just cancelled my AOL so there, your assumption is a fallacy!



Ummm-- that wasn't me -- either you quoted a piece of something I quoted, or there's already another cellocgw on this forum.

Or maybe you just forged the "quote" attribution :mrgreen:

And the other thing you attributed to rhomboidal actually was what I wrote. Oh, well .... alternate universe theory



Clix, Inc: Creating alternative universes via ineptitude since Timeline 5, 70034

Apologies, what is it called when you create a forgery by screwing up the cut and past to break up the quotes to respond to each in turn?
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xidaer
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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby xidaer » Fri Oct 18, 2013 1:40 pm UTC

I made my gmail account about 8 years ago, and used [first initial][last name]at... And there are plenty of people who match that so I get emails from a whole slew of people. Most of the time I reply back, sometimes a phone call is definitely in order.

An incomplete listing of the craziness:
- Dude-bros saying how last night was epic
- Soccer moms organizing a tournament
- Mining operation plans
- a car dealership about my purchase and follow up maintenance
- another car dealership for the same
- hotel reservations
- Come pick up your photos from Walgreens
- Wedding planner emailing the groom
- reservations from a bouncy castle, twice! a year apart from each other!
- ladies discussing how wonderful their trip to NY was
- ladies who lunch, planning out their next lunch

And the biggies that needed phone calls-
- Online Payroll
-----(was never able to get this one settled despite over an hour on the phone)
- emails intended for a Realtor with a house contract
-----(The realtor turned out to be really nice guy- with the same name as the groom from above, although they're different people. His email is [first initial][last name].[realtor]at... seriously those other realtors just can't get it right.)
- Tax Returns
-----(this one got fixed really quick, and I just deleted the email at that point.)

I'm sure I'll have many more as time wears on.

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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby Steve the Pocket » Fri Oct 18, 2013 1:40 pm UTC

orthogon wrote:Also: I don't want to be accused of gerbil swallowing, but did anyone think this one was a bit ageist? I can see how it happened, but Randall wouldn't dream of making a similar generalisation about women, say; and has made wonderful comics specifically countering such generalisations. And I feel like the joke would have worked just as well without it.

I think people are misinterpreting this. It's not that the old person put in an email address he thought he had; he put in an email address he knew he didn't have because he's an old person who still hasn't bothered to get email, without considering that the address might be taken. So in this case, it makes perfect sense because what non-old people still don't have email? If they do exist, they're probably doing it out of protest and are more likely to put something snarky like ilaugh@yoursillytechnology.ptui.

cellocgw wrote:OK, on the "srsly" side of things: spend the lousy $20/year or so to get your own hosted domain name. Granted, johnsmith.com is probably taken, but johnandhelensmith.com probably isn't.

I'd go for johnandhelensmith.name, since (A) that's literally what it's there for, and (B) nobody uses .name, ever, and so it's even less likely to be taken or ever wanted by anyone else in the future.
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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby Jex » Fri Oct 18, 2013 1:42 pm UTC

I have an exceptionally common name. Enough that there is a woman that was born in the same state as me, on the same day, with the same first and last name. I get heath insurance EOBs for her sometimes, and her Medicaid account has caused much confusion with my HMO. This is also a huge problem when I need a credit or health history check. "Seriously, please use my social security number or at least my middle initial" goes unheeded much of the time. I use my middle initial when registering for anything I want to be found on.

My shortfirstname.lastname@gmail address has gotten on a Manhattan high-end realtor's list, registered up to get updates for an elementary school child in Georgia, works for a rap/dj promoter, is very active in her local Jewish women's league, and applied for graduate school in Bioengineering at Stanford. Some of these I tried to contact (that kid's parents weren't going to get emergency messages!) and some I gave up on after trying to contact them by guessing their email (seriously, you mistype your own email applying for grad school?) My work email regularly gets sensitive messages for someone in another department, and meeting invites for a woman in another division.

On the other hand, I regularly dare people to google me. You can't unless you know quite a bit of personal information to add to my name. It's pretty freeing.

John Smith would not assume his email address was jsmith@anything.com, he'd be used to not getting to his name first.

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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby Klear » Fri Oct 18, 2013 1:46 pm UTC

Steve the Pocket wrote:
orthogon wrote:Also: I don't want to be accused of gerbil swallowing, but did anyone think this one was a bit ageist? I can see how it happened, but Randall wouldn't dream of making a similar generalisation about women, say; and has made wonderful comics specifically countering such generalisations. And I feel like the joke would have worked just as well without it.

I think people are misinterpreting this. It's not that the old person put in an email address he thought he had; he put in an email address he knew he didn't have because he's an old person who still hasn't bothered to get email, without considering that the address might be taken. So in this case, it makes perfect sense because what non-old people still don't have email? If they do exist, they're probably doing it out of protest and are more likely to put something snarky like ilaugh@yoursillytechnology.ptui.


You have just perfectly illustrated the attitude orthogon is complaining about.

LeiraHoward
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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby LeiraHoward » Fri Oct 18, 2013 1:50 pm UTC

In the early days of the internet, I set up [FirstName][LastName] @ various places, including gmail when it first came out. It was a "more professional" email for use on resumés, etc. Unlike the screen name you see here, (which has NO problems) my real last name (before marriage) was quite UNcommon, though my first name is common. So I thought I was good. Nope. I have since "met" THREE people with the same first and last names... one, scarily, looked like a clone of me with a different shade of hair. Same habits, interests, number of siblings, relative ages, major in college, similar job history, etc. SCARY! I then married and got a more common last name, and set up a few new addresses. I still have [FirstName][LastName]@[MyAlmaMater].edu, but now have [FirstName][MiddleInitial][LastName]@gmail as well. So far, no problems with that. My Alma mater is relatively small (under 2000 enrolled), and the only other people with my maiden name to enroll have been my siblings, so hopefully I won't ever have problems there. :)

But on the others, I recently got a set of emails from a dealership where someone with my maiden name bought a new car somewhere in California. A quick search turned up her former address and court dates.... so I didn't try to contact her directly, just replied to the auto place saying that they had the wrong address.

One thing that may lead to confusion is that it seems that gmail treats emails the same with or without a dot. For instance, First.Last@gmail.com goes to the same inbox as FirstLast@gmail.com. But, I think that First_Last@gmail.com is treated as a different address. So, an underscore might look like a dot and be typed in incorrectly, leading to confusion.

Retsam
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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby Retsam » Fri Oct 18, 2013 1:53 pm UTC

Incarnal wrote:This never happens to me, probably because I'm the only person in the world with my name. It's hell in the age of Google... You find me and there's just 20 pages of my entire life history, none of it hidden by obscurity.


I'm in the exact opposite situation. My name is pretty common; most notably I share it with a US Senator; which gives me great internet protection; but makes picking identifiers based on my name quite difficult. I don't normally use emails based on my name; but picking my facebook username was a major pain.

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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby Klear » Fri Oct 18, 2013 1:57 pm UTC

I'm currently using an email with my nick, which makes it all the more funny when some spammer claims to have found that I, Mr. Klear, am definitely the only living relative of a millionaire who just died.

Epod
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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby Epod » Fri Oct 18, 2013 2:07 pm UTC

I get a surprisingly large volume of mail intended for other people.

In retrospect, when I was invited to be a beta tester for Google's Gmail app, I should not have chosen the address "SMTP(at)Google(dot)com"

lnboz
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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby lnboz » Fri Oct 18, 2013 2:14 pm UTC

This comic is the story of my life. I get so much email for other people my re-telling of these crazy accounts on Facebook prompted my friends to tell me to start a blog about it. Hence: emailidiots at Tumblr

It is definitely NOT just older people, however. It's a combination of the following:
1) people who just use a "throwaway" email address to sign up for crap online, not realizing that it's actually someone else's email.
2) people who mistype or misspell or people misinterpret what their actual email address is
3) people who are just that stupid.

I am the alum of so many different universities, I got the FAFSA info for some chick in Indiana for a long while. I have Nationwide insurance and an AT&T cell phone (both of which need to be paid, btw). I got signed up for some online pet food delivery service (I could have done great evil with that one, she had her credit card info saved in her account). I've gotten job interview requests. I was on some idiot lawyer's fantasy football league list this past fall, despite multiple requests for him to take my email off his list. (He finally did so when I publicly shamed him with a lovely Reply-All...) *sigh* It's gotten to the point where I just have to laugh about it. It's not just one person, it's multiple people, all thinking my gmail address is theirs...

RobFreundlich
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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby RobFreundlich » Fri Oct 18, 2013 2:21 pm UTC

cellocgw wrote:OK, on the "srsly" side of things: spend the lousy $20/year or so to get your own hosted domain name. Granted, johnsmith.com is probably taken, but johnandhelensmith.com probably isn't. Gotta be less likely to get reverse-thefted than anything@gmail.com .


About 15 years ago, I got sick of my cable provider changing its name (and therefore my email address's domain) every few months as they got purchased and re-purchased, and so I decided to set up my own domain. I tried to get freundlich.com, but it turned to be owned by a domain squatter. I sent email to postmaster@ asking what they wanted for it, and got back a lovely offer to sell it to me for $10,000.

After I picked myself up off the floor from my laughing fit, I set up freundlichs.com, and have used it ever since.

Clix wrote:The other fun part is when giving out my information for various reasons it amazes me that after spelling out my name I give them the email address and I get, "and how do you spell that?" Very rarely does anyone seem to catch on that it's the same as my name.


I run into the same thing. I love that little moment when, after I've spelled out the domain, emphasized the "s" on the end, and said "so my name, with an 's', dot com", they get that amazed look on their face, like it's some miraculous coincidence.

pscottdv
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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby pscottdv » Fri Oct 18, 2013 2:30 pm UTC

Shouldn't this comic be titled, "Identity Donation"?

OzymandiasX
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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby OzymandiasX » Fri Oct 18, 2013 2:41 pm UTC

My last name is unique to my family, as when my grandparents immigrated to the US it was mangled in translation. Only one of my cousins shares a first initial with me, and he is smart enough to know when firstinitial.lastname isn't his. lol

I did happen to get in on Gmail early (when gmail invites were selling for several hundred on ebay) due to a personal connection, so I was able to make several account names that are pretty nifty and don't have appended numbers or what have you. I am quite surprised at the number of times people use these email addresses in association with various accounts they create. Probably 1-2 times a week I get notifications of people trying to create an account for various websites using my email addresses. Maybe 1-2 times a month I get someone who signs up for something IMPORTANT using one of my addresses.

This includes stuff like: (Many of these accounts I could easily take over, since I have the username and the email that forgot-your-password is sent to.)
  • 2 monthly Visa statements that aren't for me.
  • 2 XBox Live accounts that use my addresses.
  • 1 Starbucks loyalty reward club that sends 'me' monthly vouchers based on the amount I spent last month
  • Tons of online for-pay game and other system account registrations, including payment confirmations so I know when there is time/money on an account

And this doesn't even count the people who are trying to email their friend/family member who apparently doesn't know their own email address. I get several of these each month, too.

Afakaz
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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby Afakaz » Fri Oct 18, 2013 3:08 pm UTC

Joining the crowd as someone who was completely lost on this and had to read the thread to follow what was going on. I have a completely unique name, only something like 30 people in this country have the same last name as me and none share a first name, but I've never used my name as a personal e-mail address anyway

detherk
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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby detherk » Fri Oct 18, 2013 3:19 pm UTC

I get a close variation of this email problem. I didn't realize this until I started getting other people's emails, but google strips ALL punctuation from its email accounts.

So firstlast@gmail.com is routed to the same account as first.last@gmail.com, or f.i.r.s.t.l.a.s.t@gmail.com, or fir_st.la_st@gmail.com, etc. The biggest problem with all of this is that NO ONE ELSE DOES THIS. So I get multiple eBay emails, most of which arent meant for me, and eBay account security is tight enough that I can't even cancel my "other" account. (Aside: I find it odd that cancelling an account requires much more authentication than signing up in the first place).

One way this problem can be dealt with is to use email filters. All of the offenders sign up for sites using "firstlast@gmail.com". So I give out my email address as "first.last@gmail.com". Any incoming mail that doesn't have that dot is trashed.

drakar2007
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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby drakar2007 » Fri Oct 18, 2013 3:30 pm UTC

I finally registered here to say this is *exactly* what I experience on a regular basis now. I was an early gmail signup (which I'm guessing many people around here might be) so got [first].[last]@gmail - which the previous post correctly pointed out is functionally identical to [first][last]@gmail.

What I find most often is that (presumably) a 3rd party typed in the e-mail address of the other person, but was too lazy to include a number at the end, or a middle initial. Of those I've been able to track down, this is almost always the case. So far I haven't been able to nail anybody for intentionally giving my e-mail address as a "fake" one, though I still suspect it happens in many of the cases where I just have to chuck the message into my "misdirected" bin.

LordHorst
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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby LordHorst » Fri Oct 18, 2013 3:36 pm UTC

I recieve eMails that where supposed to reach a different reciepent on a regular basis. It's not even a "firstname.lastname" adress. It's a made up name. But every year I recieve at least one "happy new year" mail from a complete stranger. I always reply with something like: "Thanks, but I don't know you...". Most of the time the person sending the eMail forgot to add a number to the name.

Once I got an invitation to an apartment viewing. Once someone tried to sell a bicycle on the internet (not eBay) and I recieved the activation link for the auction. I also have an ogame account that I never created, as well as some account on an "amateur porn" site that I (HONESTLY! ;) ) didn't create. But i constantly recieve a "you have a new message" mail from that site. I really should look for a way to cancle that account, the site isn't that interesting anyway.

Also, once I recieved parts of a conversation between a mom and her daughter. Looks like the mom send eMails to her daughter using MY eMail adress as the sender. How is that even possible??

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Klear
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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby Klear » Fri Oct 18, 2013 3:44 pm UTC

detherk wrote:So firstlast@gmail.com is routed to the same account as first.last@gmail.com, or f.i.r.s.t.l.a.s.t@gmail.com, or fir_st.la_st@gmail.com, etc. The biggest problem with all of this is that NO ONE ELSE DOES THIS


I find this to be a very useful feature. First of all, when I register somewhere I know I won't ever want them to bug me, I put a dot in the email to be able to filter their email away.

Additionally, it allows you to make two (or more) accounts anywhere using basically the same email address. Most registrations won't allow you to sign up with an address which has already been used, but if you stick a dot there somewhere, it works.

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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby O-Deka-K » Fri Oct 18, 2013 3:52 pm UTC

Experiment idea:
  • Obtain [firstname][lastname].com. e.g. johnsmith.com
  • Set your e-mail alias to gmail. e.g. gmail@johnsmith.com
  • See if anyone ever gets your e-mail right (besides robots).
detherk wrote:One way this problem can be dealt with is to use email filters. All of the offenders sign up for sites using "firstlast@gmail.com"". So I give out my email address as "first.last@gmail.com". Any incoming mail that doesn't have that dot is trashed.

Gmail also has a neat trick where you can add a plus sign and anything after it. For instance, you can sign up to other sites using firstlast+xkcd@gmail.com or firstlast+news@gmail.com or firstlast+junkmail@gmail.com. All of these will be routed to firstlast@gmail.com. You can then set filters appropriately.
Last edited by O-Deka-K on Fri Oct 18, 2013 4:00 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby Aperfectring » Fri Oct 18, 2013 3:55 pm UTC

My last name is relatively uncommon in the English speaking world. Unfortunately, it is *not* rare at all in the Polish speaking world. And with a first initial of "j", that means that once every couple of weeks I get a personal letter to someone else written entirely in Polish. (Google translate is your friend)

Selected list of things I have gotten:
Notification of pregnancy. Apparently I'm the father despite never having been to Poland (at the time). They are rather insistent about this.
Invitations to weddings
Invitations to family meetups
Thank you notes for donations to various charitable organizations
General "how are things" messages
Notifications of funeral services

I also get Polish language spam. Though I can't confirm it (not speaking Polish myself), I like to think that it is written in broken Polish.

I haven't gotten a bill for anything, but I suspect that is because not many Polish people are both paying for things online, and not careful about what e-mail address they are using.
Odds are I did well on my probability exam.

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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby Monika » Fri Oct 18, 2013 4:03 pm UTC

I was going to post this amazing story that happened to me with my monika.lastname@gmail.com address, but shadow4798 beat me to it:
shadow4798 wrote:Someone had signed up their amazon account to my email address, and I kept getting emails from amazon with order confirmations for this other person. I contacted amazon to tell them that I was not the correct person and that they'd been given the wrong email, but whoever I contacted at amazon denied any problem existed at all. So I went to the amazon home page and requested a password reset, and got full control of this woman's amazon account. She had all her credit card details saved to the account, so I could have ordered anything I wanted. I'm startled that she was allowed to set up an account with my email, without them even trying to confirm that the email was valid, and then further baffled that when I pointed out the error to amazon they just ignored it.

Just the same happened to me. I have monika.lastname@gmail.com. Some other person (apparently in fact older, not that it matters) has monika.lastname07@gmail.com.

Side note: Monika is a fairly common, but not overly common name in Germany, and so is my last name. In 2000, a Yahoo search (no, not Google, yet, even though it existed) showed up around 10-20 people with the same first and last name as me. (While many Germans, especially Christians, have a "second first name" (second given name ... we don't think of them as middle names) the use of "middle initials" is extremely uncommon; I am not baptized and don't have a second given name.) There was even one in the town of 40,000 I lived in at that time! And even very close, like 5 or 10 minutes by foot. I wrote her a letter. She turned out to be an old lady, between 80 and 90. She wrote back only half a year later because her husband had just died :( . Similarly, my step father's first name (whose last name I had until I got married) is fairly common ... my general physician in the town I live now has the same first and last name (my step father also has a doctor title and we just say Dr not MD or PhD) and his practice is in the same street as I live in now, about 10 houses down ... he already got mail intended for my, by my grandparents, and he confused it with mail for him as a doctor colleague who sends him stuff has the same last name as my grandparents. He also told me everything about the third family in the town with the same last name :D .

Anyway, that other person somehow managed to sign up to Amazon with *my* gmail address. This shouldn't be possible. Amazon normally sends a verification mail with a link. I checked, there was none. Instead there were several purchase confirmations and mails suggesting other stuff to buy. (I only check my gmail about once a month or more rarely.) At first I was afraid I had at some point in the past created another Amazon account for some reason and forgot about it and now someone had hacked it and ordered stuff that I would have to pay for. So I did a password reset and looked around the account. It was clearly not mine, there was a different address and phone number. I tried to call the person, but nobody answered. I tried to contact Amazon by phone, but it's super hard. Basically you have to click through tons of stuff and then you can leave your phone number and they call you back. Eventually they did call back. I told them the problem. They told me it's impossible - or the mail provider made a mistake (yeah right, gmail not sorting its mails right, sure). They said they couldn't do anything. They asked for *my* Amazon account, which I refused to give them - I didn't want it to end up locked or merged or anything. They said they would call back later. In the meantime I called the person again ... the phone number maintained was her daughter at her workplace. I told her the problem. Asked her for her mother's real e-mail address (hence I know that it's mine +07). I said I would try to change it and she would have to do the password retrieval. When I got off the phone Amazon called me back and told me they locked the account so I wouldn't be able to log in anymore (that's sensible!). But so I couldn't change the e-mail anymore. Also, at some point later I accidentally logged in with it in the browser where I had done the log in and the password or cookie was saved. It was still locked. They never managed to get it back. (Sorry other Monika Lastname + daughter!) By the way it's not possible to steal stuff this way, when you use a different postal address for the first time Amazon will ask for a confirmation of the credit card or bank data.

So, who wants to try to sign up to Amazon with a wrong address and figure out exactly which path you have to take for this to be possible? We have two occurrences, there must be a bug in the process somewhere.
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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby aharrison » Fri Oct 18, 2013 4:25 pm UTC

This happens to me every day. A couple years ago, I created an "Idiots" label and started filing messages related to this problem there. Last count, the label had almost 900 messages in there.

Sometimes I reply, if it's very obvious it's a genuine mistake, I'll give a standard "wrong email address." If it's legit and is one of my repeat offenders I'll add on to that and ask that if they do get in touch with the correct aharrison, they ask them to stop using my email address.

And for companies sending me people's ridiculously personal and private information, I have a boilerplate nastygram that I reply with and point them to my guide "The Complete Idiots Guide to Correctly Validating Your Customer's Email Addresses". (You'll have to google for that title, I assume new accounts can't post links.)

However, the sexting messages aren't bad sometimes. :wink:

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Monika
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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby Monika » Fri Oct 18, 2013 4:40 pm UTC

Wooloomooloo wrote:do these same people invent "12345678..." on the spot as their social security number too? Just because it sounds nice?

Not quite, but similar: They copy social security numbers from examples. There were wallets sold with some sample paper credit cards and a sample paper social security card (which was not the right size or color for social security cards) ... the wallet maker had used the social security number of his secretary (genius). They eventually had to get the truthful owner of the SSN a new number because people were giving it so much as their own ... many apparently believing that it really was! Also people copy the number of the sample SSN printed on the front of a leaflet about how social security works as supposedly being their own (and also some of them actually believing it is), but the makers of the leaflet were smarter than those of the wallet, they used a SSN that is not valid and can never become valid.

orthogon wrote:Also: I don't want to be accused of gerbil swallowing, but did anyone think this one was a bit ageist? I can see how it happened, but Randall wouldn't dream of making a similar generalisation about women, say; and has made wonderful comics specifically countering such generalisations. And I feel like the joke would have worked just as well without it.

Yeah, it seemed a bit ageist.
I wonder what you wrote that the forum filters turned into gerbil swallowing. It's not political_correctness, that turns into Basic Human Decency.

djscoumoune wrote:The awkward thing is I looked for his (=my) name in his town in the yellow pages and it showed me the adress of a company with the name of my father and my mother. Pretty wierd.

Maybe there is something your parents aren't telling you :D . (Your whole family are clones.)

cellocgw wrote:There's a related problem: making sure one's online 'handle' doesn't get snitched. I've made sure to register accounts at gmail, yahoo mail, wordpress, twitter (which I would otherwise never go within 35 router hops of), slashdot, etc etc just to avoid the possibility that someone else might become "me" at a so-called social media site.

There is a website that lets you check like 40 or so mail, blog, social media and what have you pages at once whether your nick is still free. I don't remember the URL though.

JamesLucas wrote:The more common nuisance, however, is when James Lucas Jr. uses my email to make hotel reservations, because the presence of the email in my Gmail account will become Google Now's sole obsession. My Android phone will spend whole weekends frantically generating transit directions from Manhattan to wherever my quasi-namesake is staying.

That's it, we're in the post-singularity future.

LeiraHoward wrote:One thing that may lead to confusion is that it seems that gmail treats emails the same with or without a dot. For instance, First.Last@gmail.com goes to the same inbox as FirstLast@gmail.com. But, I think that First_Last@gmail.com is treated as a different address. So, an underscore might look like a dot and be typed in incorrectly, leading to confusion.

True for the dot, but not for the underscore. Gmail doesn't support it. Neither can you sign up for addresses containing an underscore, nor will it automatically be stripped, mails to Firstname_Lastname@gmail.com return as undeliverable (mail box doesn't exist).

LordHorst wrote:Also, once I recieved parts of a conversation between a mom and her daughter. Looks like the mom send eMails to her daughter using MY eMail adress as the sender. How is that even possible??

Misconfigured e-mail program (at the sender, not yours). Tell your e-mail program to show you the full header, somewhere it will show the true sender.

compscillb wrote:This discussion was definitely made more difficult by the forum rules - I think there's a block on including the term about reversing the process of subscription (which those of us who get signed up to innumerable mailing lists might have much to say about).

Huh, unsubscribe, unsubscribing, unsubscription, cancel, cancelling, opt out, remove ... nothing gets filtered. What word are you thinking of?
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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby ManaUser » Fri Oct 18, 2013 4:48 pm UTC

I can confirm that as of fairly recently Amazon did NOT verify your email address when you sign up. At least they didn't mine. Plus you can create an account and order something all in one session. This makes it surprisingly easy to have an active order in an account you can't access again.

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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby ricketybridge » Fri Oct 18, 2013 4:51 pm UTC

cnaw wrote:This is the story of email life for the past few years. I get their credit card bills (American Express encoded with only the last 4 digits of their SS# and then no way for a non customer to contact AE support), car payment info. Everything. They then get calmly written messages to please change their email address info (or the companies do). Plus anyone who sends stuff to random.myname at gmail. goes to me as well. :roll: :idea: And then I get messages back wondering why I have their email address. Or how I got their contact info etc etc.


lol wow I totally thought Randall just made this up. I guess having an unusual name makes me immune to this.

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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby Thradok » Fri Oct 18, 2013 4:56 pm UTC

Guess I'm safe, near as I can tell I'm the only person with my name (first+last combo) in the world :P

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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby Klear » Fri Oct 18, 2013 5:03 pm UTC

Hmm... firstinitial.lastname@gmail.com is already taken. Worth a shot though. Let's all send that guy an email!


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