Guest Editorial: Quit Stealing My Identity!
Column written by on Saturday, June 15, 2002
I thought I could beat the system. I thought I could outsmart Big Brother, Big Evil Corporations, and my relatives. I thought I could put an end to telemarketers, junk mail, spam, and privacy invasions.
Last year, I legally changed my name to John Doe, relocated to a small town in Ohio (zip code 44444) and moved into a house at 123 Fake Street. I figured that government, corporations, and other privacy-invading bad guys would automatically drop such a bogus-sounding name and address from their databases.
But it hasn't worked out like I planned.
I didn't count on the sheer number of people that supply fake personal information when registering online. I didn't anticipate that thousands of people would claim to be "John Doe" at "123 Fake Street" in "Newton Falls, OH 44444" when filling out forms at yet another dotcom company.
As a result, my name and address have been entered into every single database of personal information within the entire country. Every person that has ever claimed to be "John Doe" at "123 Fake Street" has inadvertantly stolen my identity.
I get 20 pounds of junk mail per day. Two weeks ago, the neighborhood postman requested a transfer to another city after he had thrown his back out five times delivering my mail. Meanwhile, I receive telemarketing "courtesy" calls approximately every 3.2 minutes at my phone number, 222-2222, although I now leave that phone off the hook and use another unlisted number for real calls (but even that line gets several unwanted calls per day).
Credit card companies have sent me enough "pre-approved" card offers during the past year that, if I accepted all of them, I would instantly have a credit limit of over 10 million dollars. You don't even want to know how much spam I get -- my last ISP nearly went out of business adding new bandwidth to handle my email volume.
I happen to know somebody who works at the New York Times. He once told me that 10,352 people had registered on their website under the name "John Doe", and 513 of them entered had also entered the address "123 Fake Street". That hurts. Unfortunately, these obviously bogus accounts have never been deleted from their database. One time I received 513 copies of the same junk mail letter advertising new subscription rates.
This insanity must end. Please -- for all four of you that will read this -- tell your friends to stop using my identity when registering online. If you must lie about yourself, be creative. Invent your own unique fake identity and leave people like me alone. All of the "John Does", "Bob Smiths", "Bill Johnsons", "Joe Williams", "Mike Browns", and "Anon E. Musses" of the world will thank you for it.