It all started with an email about puppies. I realise that sounds like it was probably spam, but something about it made me open it. Some gushing woman said how she read my forum post and was dying to adopt one of the cute puppies, please contact her as soon as possible. Now, spam often looks a bit like that, but usually gives an email address, not a phone number. And then, another similar one came in. Both were addressed to someone with a similar name to me, so it was clear they had the address wrong.
This had happened many times before. I started getting emails about viewing houses, invites to parties, order confirmations from furniture companies, all from the same location in America. Usually I just contacted the sender (if I was sure it was not spam, for example if there was a conversation thread going between several people or I had checked out the company), but this time I wasn't sure I could do that. If the senders were responding to an advert, they would have no way of knowing the real address of the puppy-owner. This possibly meant that the fate of a litter of puppies was in my hands, not to mention that if my address had been posted on a forum I was due for hundreds of these emails. This time I had to act.
It took a while to pin her down. I won't go through the details, but it involved more browsing of dog-owner forums than a sane person should ever do. Eventually though, I found her and the correct (but very similar) address, and emailed her to tell her about the mistake. She seemed really grateful, and did her best to correct the problem, and I forwarded on any other puppy-messages. In fact I've sent her a few incorrectly-addressed emails since then. Because I've emailed her, she now also shows up on my google-talk when she's online. It's odd, but it seemed nice to have this link with another similarly-named person. Who knows, we may even be very distantly related.
That's not the scary bit though. The scary bit came when I got another email addressed to a different similarly-named person, this time confirming a book order. I wasn't sure if it was spam or not so I ignored it at first, but then another similar one came from the same company. I googled the company, and they seemed real. I was about to send them an email asking them to check their records or phone the person for the real address, when it struck me that I may be able to find it online myself. I searched around, and quite quickly came across someone in the right state, working in the same field as the book subjects. I could only find the name and the company they worked for, but the company's website listed a web designer with the same surname. I clicked on the link for the web company, and under the contact details I could see the home address listed, which was the same as the address in the order, confirming my thought that they might be husband and wife. So, I prepared to send an email to the webmaster, asking him to tell his wife to change her account details with this book company.
And that's when it hit me, what I was about to send. "Hi, you don't know me, but I've been searching for personal details about your wife and I've found your home address and place of work online, please could you tell her that I currently have access to your credit card details and telephone number? And hey, we might be related!"
...when did the internet turn me into such a crazy stalker??? :-S