27 January 2009

Forced Identity Theft?

I think a postal mishap is affecting my credit. If this turns out to be true, it will forever damage my perception of the USPS as one of the most effective government agencies.

I received a call (on my cell phone) Friday afternoon from a Bank of America representative. She said she was calling about collection on the account belonging to the late "Someone Else." This "Someone Else" has my same last name and first initial. More than that, "Someone Else" and I shared an apartment complex back in Las Vegas. Still, I didn't ever know "Someone Else" existed, until I moved to San Francisco.

Jesse and I forwarded our mail before we left Vegas. A month later (maybe less), we started getting mail for "Someone Else." The bills and magazines had forwarding stickers on them, which I removed. That's how I learned we shared an apartment complex. I put the mail (without the sticker) back in the outgoing mail. Eventually, it all came back with new forwarding stickers.

I figured the bar codes printed on the bottom were to blame. I blacked them out, took off the stickers, and put the letters back in the mail. And I went to Vegas.

One thing had nothing to do with the other. I was in Vegas for Halloween, and to run some errands. But those errands brought to a post office, where I asked about "Someone Else's" mail. The man behind the counter told me to just keep sending it back. Back in San Francisco, "Someone Else's" mail was coming back for the third time. Some of it was starting to look abused. And the USPS stepped up efforts to thwart my mail return operation.

The Post Office took a few of the abused magazines, put forwarding stickers on them, and wrapped them in plastic. It also put bar code stickers on top of my crossed-out bar codes, and added more forwarding stickers. It got to the point where I was throwing some things away, about which I felt really guilty. So I consulted Brenden (America's Hottest Husband) and he recommended I talk to my mail carrier. I bundled what I had, wrote a note and never saw another piece of forwarded mail for "Someone Else." But it was too late,

The USPS tells certain groups when their mail is forwarded. By the time I stopped the forwarded mail, addresses had been changed. Mail was addressed to "Someone Else" in our apartment. I found no way around that, and three months after we moved in, we moved again.

I don't know when "Someone Else" died. I don't know how long it took for the bill collectors to link my cell phone number to his Las Vegas address. But it has been done. And so far at least Bank of America believes I have some connection to his debt. "Someone Else" also has the same last name and first initial as my brother (Derek), to whose debt I actually am connected. This could really confusing.