Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The Sharks Are Always Circling


As most people who would be reading this know, I have recently donated a large amount of jewelry for auctions to benefit the Hurricane Katrina relief effort. It was something that I wanted very much to do. I felt really good about doing it.

I had seen the warnings on television about scams. Isn't that awful, I thought. Lucky me, I did it the smart and safe way.

Hah.

Yesterday my 12 year old neice got a phone call at her house asking for me. They had my name close, but wrong, and told her it was about my auctions for charity on ebay. It's a very, very good thing all the children in my family are extremely smart. The guy (Carlos) asked for my cell phone number. Smarty-kid took his number down, cool as a cucumber.

Now... the ONLY way this joker could have gotten her home number was dialing 411 and asking for listings with my last name in my home town. Every person in my home town with the same last name is a relative. I have three married brothers with two kids each. We live within a few miles of one another.

I deliver the brilliant child to her Nana's house, where another message from our buddy Carlos is waiting.

After a day of contacting Mission Fish (the charity organization), eBAY, the FTC, the FCC, the cybercrimes unit of the FBI, my attorney general, and Carlos himself, I discovered not only what laws were broken (several) but by whom.

Carlos, who didn't know my first name (and still doesn't), but knew my last name, did a search online. He got my website, saw the charity announcement, and figured he could definitely get me on the phone by mentioning it. Turns out he works for one of those annoying credit agencies and gets paid more money for each contract he finalizes.

Though I see no shame in owing money, I would also like to note that I don't owe Carlos or his employers any. The agency had my name from a magazine subscription that was accidentally renewed, then cancelled. My attorney general assures me I owe them no money. Because they sent it to a collection agency BEFORE they were informed of this, however, my lack of debt got lost in the shuffle. The bill was, if I remember correctly, $17.98.

Moral of the story? IF YOU HAVE AUCTIONS ON EBAY AND YOUR NAME IS PUBLICLY SHOWN BE VERY CAREFUL!

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