So, a few weeks ago I remembered I owned an email address that is a combination of my initials and name. It’s a fairly “vanilla” combo that the only way I came about having it was because I signed up for it back in like, 2003, when email addresses on popular platforms were still easy to get if you get in early enough.
Turns out I had linked that email to my other, day-to-day email account as a recovery email, and after successfully guessing what likely old-ass password from 2003 it would have been (now since changed to a randomly generated one in 1password!) and clicking a confirmation link in my other email address, I was back in!
It was VERY weird looking into an email account I had not logged into since 2004 that was a combination of initials and names that many other people share with me, because BOY OH BOY was there some stuff in here that should not have been! Medical records, travel confirmations, angry ex girlfriends calling out their partners for leaving them for their best friend… the list goes on and on. The fact SO MANY people can not know what their own email address is, is mind boggling!
I quickly deleted most things, especially the stuff that was sensitive personal information. I cleaned up the spam rules, and nuked about 25,000 (not kidding) MAGA supporter emails. I also unsubscribed from a lot of Petco and Home Depot, Target, Lowes, Wal*mart and god knows what else shopper program lists people had signed up for accounts with using my email, many moons ago when email verification links were not yet a standard practice.
But one thing keeps coming in to this inbox over the last few weeks: A fellow name “Joe” (not his real name, just to be nice) in Forney, Texas, has an Amazon account… and SOMEHOW he has my email as his contact email/login for this account. I don’t know how, since he has no way to have confirmed the email, so it must have been created a LONG time ago or through some weird sideways means, but, well, I get every order confirmation, every shipping notification, every delivery notification, etc.
Now here is where it gets stupid. I don’t want these emails, and I’m sure he doesn’t want me getting them either. Except these confirmation emails are thin on PII (Personally Identifiable Information) by design. I know his first name (and can sure as hell guess his last name!) his email (mine thank you very much!) and his city and state… but that’s it. (Oh and the order numbers of each order, lol). So I can’t do much to contact him to fix this… but I can contact Amazon, assuming they wish to help me. (Spoiler alert: they kinda don’t!)
I’ve tried calling Amazon support, and the first time I got an agent who was VERY confused what I was trying to tell her. For the obvious (and understandable) reason, someone having my email address on their account without my involvement should not at all be possible. I kept giving her my email, and telling her I wanted it removed from this other person’s account. She kept telling me she can’t access the account if I don’t verify for her the correct mailing address. I keep telling her I don’t know the accounts mailing address, because it’s not me, but the email address is mine and I want it off the account. I even offered to validate my ownership of the email if she sent me one of their customer support generated 2fa emails (which I know they can do, I’ve had it done before) and she declined. Eventually she said she was passing me on to a manager, but actually put me back into the queue for another person. This next person, long story short, hung up on me when trying to put me on hold to find someone else to help me.
So then I took matters into my own hands, and tried to create a new Amazon account using this email address. When I signed up with the email I got a screen that said “You indicated you are a new customer, but an account already exists with this email address”.
I then clicked the “Create a new account with this email address” link below that, which prompted me with “the old account will have this email address removed and deactivated, and a new account will be created with this email, once we verify your ownership of this address. Please click here to send a verification email to your account.” SCORE! That’s exactly what I want to happen!
I clicked confirm, got an email, clicked the link and was presented with a confirmation that the previous account using my email no longer is valid and a new one was made for me, and prompted to set a password, which I did.
So, I thought, this should be the end of things, yeah?
A few days later, it seems my alter ego in Texas ordered some more stuff.
So I called Amazon back, I’ll cut to the chase but let’s just say the first two people I spoke to were no help and just rushed to get me off the phone. Person number 3 was equally lost, but was dedicated to getting me in touch with a specialist who might know more, and she did.
Enter Ed. Ed was a great dude. I explained the entire situation from start to where I was now, and he actually got it! He totally was confused how this was possible, but he completely understood every step I explained from above and never got lost… this was, sadly, a first.
Ed began to look up my email address, and was immediately confused. If he searches their system by my email address I gave him, he got Mr. Texas’s account, but was unable to open it further because their CS tools hide all the account info unless they type in the valid mailing address, which I could not give him. However, he DID verify my email, and knew that I indeed had access to that email address. After he validated my email, on his tools, following that breadcrumb, he stumbled upon my fresh new secondary amazon account I had created under that email. He could see it and access it using my mailing address linked to it, but once he left that screen was unable to get back to it, all efforts to search by my email took him back to Mr. Texas again.
He put me on hold, looking for someone a bit more specialized, and came back to me saying he spoke to others and some elevated access folks in their account security team were the only ones to help me, but they can’t be accessed by phone. I have to fill out a form, and they will follow up. He told me this was the only way to get my situation under their noses, but between my form and his notes they should be able to sort me out.
He sent me a signup link to the email address in question, and I clicked it. Problem is, the form was… not the best for my problem. It is for reporting unauthorized account activity. He swore this was a byproduct of the roundabout way they were backdooring me into this team at their instructions, but I was dubious. To me this screamed “falling through the cracks again” but he insisted the team asked we get my account to them this way.
I filled out the far, FAR too short text box of 200 characters, and hit submit. Ed constantly reassured me the whole time he was flooding my account with notes about this in detail, and that they would all be linked together for this team who had been apprised of my situation and looking forward to this form. He said a correction should take ~24 hours. (Submitting the form also promptly signed me out of my account and forced me to change my password.. yay…)
Fast forward 5 hours and I get the following email:
After reviewing your Amazon account, we did not find any unauthorized activity. As a result, we did not make any changes to your account.
Often, what may have appeared to be an unauthorized activity could have been:
— An automatically renewed subscription.
— An activity by people who share your account.
— An accidental 1-click purchase.
— A charge for an order you had placed previously that has just been shipped.
If you think that we missed something, visit again the online form at the following link and use the comment box to describe the activity you would like us to investigate more closely:
Naturally.. this is not the response I wanted. So what did I do? I clicked the link, and re-submitted as suggested with fresh notes. Guess what happened this time?
I GOT THE SAME RESPONSE IN ABOUT 90 SECONDS.
Okay Amazon… you seem committed to sending me the order confirmations and shipping notices for someone who is not me, whom I do not know, and have no connection with. You seem to not care this is happening, so at this point the only options I have left seem to be to hunt this guy down in person, which is a bit freaking creepy if you ask me, and make it his problem. I don’t like this idea, but you’ve left me little other options.