For about the last month or so, I’ve been getting receipts and pickup notifications from Western Union e-mailed to my beloved Yahoo! address that I’ve had since 1998 (I think). And for all intents and purposes, it is just my junk e-mail address that I use for subscriptions, newsletters, people I don’t like, etc. But I still check it with regularity.
The thing about this is that, first of all, I have no Western Union account. That alone should tell you something goofy is going on.
Secondly, I have no relatives – that I know of, at least – in Mexico that I would willingly send money to. Granted, being Hispanic and all, I shouldn’t entirely discount the notion that I don’t have any relatives still living somewhere in Xtchulpatlicioungotilapmaòicañu’iu, Mexico because chances are I just might. And someday, they might just show up at my door. Shit’s been known to happen. But I wouldn’t have the foggiest idea as to where I would send these idiots any kind of money should I even had the extra pesos to send them.
So yeah, back to this stuff. What I’ve been getting hasn’t been one of those YOU HAVE WON 1 MILLION USD DOLLARS scams that are so not convincing to those that know better. What I have been getting is a complete receipt with the sender’s personal information, where they are sending their money to, to whom the are sending the money, the amount of the transaction, the transaction number, Money Transfer Control Number (MTCN), current exchange rate, etc. In fact, here is how they look (with information redacted here; click to enlarge):
Yes, I do share the same last name as the sender but I can assure you that I have no idea who it is and that we do not share an e-mail address.
With online security being such an issue these days with the Epsilon breach and Playstation Network being hacked all to shit, I thought that it might be a good idea to call Western Union to voice my concern over my indirect involvement in this person’s business. Seriously, this is all the information a criminal needs to do some very nasty stuff but as you all know, I’m a nice, normal dude.
So the other day I looked up their Customer Service number and gave it a call. It went a little something like this, after pressing the 1 key several times to get someone who spoke English but, as you will see, was obviously not a master in it:
CS Rep (speaks with thick Indian accent): Thank you for calling Western Union Customer Service, how may I help you?
Dave: Yeah, um, I’ve been getting e-mails sent to me regarding transactions that aren’t mine. Someone is using my e-mail address as the return address on the form and I am getting all of the details sent to me. I have no idea who these people are and I am not the one sending the money.
CS Rep (long pause): Sir, you don’t have to provide your e-mail address when you send money. We offer that as an additional free service.
Dave (already frustrated): See, here’s the thing. I’m not sending the money. Let me tell you again: someone else is using my e-mail address and I would like to have it removed from your database.
CS Rep (long pause): Sir, I would be happy to help you. Can I please have your account number?
Dave (getting pissed, grunts): Did you hear a single word I just said? I AM NOT THE ONE SENDING MONEY and therefore, I DON’T HAVE AN ACCOUNT.
CS Rep (longest pause so far): Sir, you don’t have to provide your e-mail address when you send money. We offer that as an additional free service. (You eyes are not deceiving you; she did repeat that verbatim).
Dave: Okay, you know what? Forget it. You have not clue what I’m talking about and are completely useless to me regarding this situation.
I hung up the phone and decided to let the thing go.
Now you’re probably thinking a few things, including:
- Can’t you just mark those e-mails as spam and be done with them?
- The sender obviously made a mistake with the e-mail so it’s not Western Union’s fault
Well, yes, I could just mark them spam but that’s not the point. The issue I have is that I have the sender’s personal information being sent to me and that shit’s not right.
I did indeed let this go but then as you could probably imagine, I got yet another receipt and pickup confirmation sent to me. Knowing what I was getting into, I chose to call them back again.
I won’t get into every detail of the conversations but I was handed to three different departments and was on hold for about 30 minutes total while Tech Support decided what the Hell they needed to do in order to help me.
Long story short, I was given two e-mail address – firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com – to send my information and explain what exactly is going on. I even forwarded the original receipts and pickup confirmations so that they had everything they needed to remove my e-mail address and, for all intents and purposes, deactivate the account.
Wait, deactivate the account? I thought I had made it clear that this wasn’t my account; I just wanted my e-mail address no longer associated with it.
Hours later, I get responses to all of my e-mails. The first few were the generic “Thank you for contacting us” e-mails that included an incident number. But the rest of them pretty much told me that my e-mails were either blank, they didn’t contain enough information, etc.
At this point I threw up my hands in frustration and figured that if they couldn’t understand my request despite how clearly I put it, then there’s no point in taking it any further. There is a severe language barrier between us and I doubt that I’m the one who isn’t making much sense.
And with that, I can safely say that Western Union doesn’t give a shit about your privacy or anybody else’s for that matter.
So to Jose J. Moreno of Yoakum, Texas, if you don’t want your personal information being sent to me, either remove my e-mail address from your account or YOU give Western Union a call and explain what’s going on. They obviously don’t understand me or care about your privacy enough to take further action.