Somebody seems to be using my email address in a weird, ongoing way that doesn’t seem to be benefiting them in any way. The fact that I can’t figure out why they’re doing it concerns me, because I have to suspect that there is some benefit to them, which I just haven’t been able to figure out. I’m worried that if it’s helping them, it’s probably hurting me, even if I don’t know it.
Therefore, I’m blogging what I know, in the hope that perhaps someone else will be able to look at the facts and point out something I missed about why this is going on.
A few days ago, I received an automated email message from the “Starwood Preferred Guest” program which began, “Thank you for contacting Starwood Preferred Guest.” Except I hadn’t.
I assumed that a spammer had sent spam with my return address to Starwood, so I just ignored it.
However, later that day, I received this message from Starwood:
Dear Jonathan Kamens,
Thank you for contacting Starwood Preferred Guest. I hope this email finds you well.
I must apologize but I am unable to determine exactly what your inquiry is regarding. If you would please reword your question or add more detail we would be pleased to assist you.
We are always available to assist you; feel free to chat with us online, have us call you, or if you prefer, simply reply to this email. Have a lovely evening.
Specialist, E-Communications Department
Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide
Original Message Follows:
SPG Number: *******24
Subject: Benefit Clarifications
Comments: In the moment two persons must give me money they are Ingrid Betancourt and Guy André-Kieffer these two persons must give me two milliards [sic] of dollars.
First Name: Diallo
Last Name: Mamadou Oury
Email Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Membership Level: E
Note that whoever wrote to Starwood (through a form on their Web site, I suspect) gave the name “Diallo Mamadou Oury”, but when Starwood wrote back to me, they used my real name! I thought at the time that they must have looked up my name from my email address, since I was at one point a member of the Starwood program, but I just called their customer server number and asked them to look up my account by name or email address, and they were unable to do so. I just sent them an email message asking where they got my name from; I will update this blog entry when I hear back from them about it.
Anyway, I wrote back to Starwood and told them that somebody was clearly just misusing my email address, and they should ignore it. I thought that was the end of it.
Now it gets crazy.
Earlier today, I got this from Google:
Congratulations on creating your brand new Gmail address,
Please keep this email for your records, as it contains an important verification code that you may need should you ever encounter problems or forget your password.
You can login to your account at http://mail.google.com/
The Gmail Team
Verification code: [elided]
If you didn’t create this Gmail address and don’t recognize this email, please visit: http://mail.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?answer=62400
WTF? What benefit would someone get from creating a Gmail account and using someone else’s email address as the recovery address?
Thinking fast, I immediately used the fact that this person listed my email address for recovery to change the account’s password and security question. So whatever he was intending to do with this account, which I honestly can’t imagine, he isn’t going to be able to.
Note that whoever created the Google account gave the name “Diallo Mamadou”, which matches what he gave to Starwood, but doesn’t match the email address he chose, where he instead used the name “Ibso Ndao Mamadou”.
So, does anybody have any ideas about what’s going on here?
Tags: email identity thief