1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

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Cynical Idealist
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1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby Cynical Idealist » Fri Oct 18, 2013 4:08 am UTC

Image
Title text: "I asked a few friends whether they'd had this happen, then looked up the popularity of their initials/names over time. Based on those numbers, it looks like there must be at least 750,000 people in the US alone who think 'Sure, that's probably my email address' on a regular basis."

I did this, once (before gmail was around). I didn't have an email address of my own, and needed to put one down, so I just guessed at what would be available and related to my name. I guessed incorrectly.
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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby rhomboidal » Fri Oct 18, 2013 4:10 am UTC

I just assumed everyone over fifty is on AOL.

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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby poxic » Fri Oct 18, 2013 4:16 am UTC

There are also the people who assume that "first+last@gmail.com" = always the person they're trying to reach.

Someone in Michigan has exactly my first+last name. (It's not a common combo in English-speaking places.) I get personal emails for her about once a month from her friends or family. I was ignoring them at first, but now I reply with "Sorry, not the right person, please update your address book."
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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby Plasma Mongoose » Fri Oct 18, 2013 4:29 am UTC

This is why I am so glad that I never had an email address based on the personal names concept.
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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby ahammel » Fri Oct 18, 2013 4:38 am UTC

First initial + last name + last two digits of birth year is unique enough for me, so far.
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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby mishka » Fri Oct 18, 2013 4:40 am UTC

My god, it happens to me too. Exactly like that.
The weird thing is my email address isn't even based on my name, it's completely made up. Somehow someone has the last name of yacko.

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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby cjmcjmcjmcjm » Fri Oct 18, 2013 4:53 am UTC

My mum and I have the same shortened form of name. Since she doesn't publicise her e-mail and has no social media presence, people searching for her send me things. Namely: both her high school's and university's alumni associations. They forget even after I respond with her proper address.
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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby cnaw » Fri Oct 18, 2013 5:01 am UTC

This is the story of email life for the past few years. I get their credit card bills (American Express encoded with only the last 4 digits of their SS# and then no way for a non customer to contact AE support), car payment info. Everything. They then get calmly written messages to please change their email address info (or the companies do). Plus anyone who sends stuff to random.myname at gmail. goes to me as well. :roll: :idea: And then I get messages back wondering why I have their email address. Or how I got their contact info etc etc.

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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby Pesto » Fri Oct 18, 2013 5:24 am UTC

Both my first and last names are somewhat uncommon. There are a couple celebrities with my first name, but I've only ever met one person in real life with my first name. I've never met anyone outside my family with my last name. I expect my full name is unique. Made it easy to get my gmail address and my .com domain name.

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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby Synthetica » Fri Oct 18, 2013 5:34 am UTC

I have [firstname][lastname][last 2 digits of my birthyear]@gmail.com, never had any problems with that, possibly because there's only one guy I know of with who I share my name

Arcorann
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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby Arcorann » Fri Oct 18, 2013 6:06 am UTC

Mine is [first initial][middle initials][last name] and I've never had any problems either. Of course, the combination is rather unique for me as well...

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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby Pfhorrest » Fri Oct 18, 2013 6:12 am UTC

I'm not sure I understand what's happening in this comic. Is it this?

An "I'm computer illiterate lol" old person, let's call him Old Person, told his phone company his email address was o.person@gmail.com.

Then another person, the cueball seen in the comic, let's call him Other Person, who is the actual owner of the email address o.person@gmail.com, got Old Person's electronic phone bill in his email.

Other then called Old to let him know he had given the phone company the wrong email address. Old insisted that since he is O. Person, o.person@gmail.com should be his address. Other explains that that would make sense, but is not in fact true. Old wants to know how Other got his phone number through all this, and Other explains he received Old's phone bill by email because of this confusion, and got his phone number from that.

Is that it?
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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby phlip » Fri Oct 18, 2013 6:20 am UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:Is that it?

That's the long and short of it, yes. Apparently this happens a lot, in real life.

Code: Select all

enum ಠ_ಠ {°□°╰=1, °Д°╰, ಠ益ಠ╰};
void ┻━┻︵​╰(ಠ_ಠ ⚠) {exit((int)⚠);}
[he/him/his]

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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby WilliamLehnsherr » Fri Oct 18, 2013 6:28 am UTC

I have never had this happen and never thought of it happening. I mean, I can imagine a scenario where someone types the wrong email address when filling out a form. I can't (or don't want to) see how anyone could be so stupid as to think they have an email address that they don't, just because it's they're name. I get that some people aren't good at anything related to computers, but surely they'd be aware that people share names? But I guess I'm just naive. As a result, it took me a while to understand what was going on in this comic.
Last edited by WilliamLehnsherr on Fri Oct 18, 2013 8:18 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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keithl
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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby keithl » Fri Oct 18, 2013 6:32 am UTC

rhomboidal wrote:I just assumed everyone over fifty is on AOL.
Nope. We have UUCP bang addresses, like the famous ...!mcvax!moscvax!kremvax!chernenko

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Crissa
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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby Crissa » Fri Oct 18, 2013 6:34 am UTC

My spouse didn't sign up for Facebook.

But someone with her name, did.

Anyhow, this is why I think it's silly for national companies to be giving out email addresses without a subdomain.

-Crissa

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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby Adonijah » Fri Oct 18, 2013 6:36 am UTC

I had this happen recently, when someone with my name was sent information he needed to start a new job he had just received. It had come from Hiring of the compny, so I replied telling them their mistake. They thanked me and I thought that was it until I got "Employee's Handbook.pdf" about a week later.

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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby Eebster the Great » Fri Oct 18, 2013 6:42 am UTC

My first name is rather common and my last is very uncommon. My high school hired a new HR director in my junior year who had the same first and last name. At least once a week for months I would get emails--some very sensitive--intended for him. Obviously I had to send them back to correct the mistake, but it kept happening anyway (twice from one teacher).

The format for staff and student names is different, so I assume they just had the wrong contact.

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da Doctah
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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby da Doctah » Fri Oct 18, 2013 6:59 am UTC

poxic wrote:There are also the people who assume that "first+last@gmail.com" = always the person they're trying to reach.

Someone in Michigan has exactly my first+last name. (It's not a common combo in English-speaking places.) I get personal emails for her about once a month from her friends or family. I was ignoring them at first, but now I reply with "Sorry, not the right person, please update your address book."


Then there's the case where the other person is right in the same company as you. Project lead I worked with had the same first initial and last name as some secretary in another department, so all the project updates that should have gone to gpatterson01@company.com was going to gpatterson@company.com who had no idea why she was in the loop. Every new person who came on the project led to a whole new round of "where's the message?"->"I sent it yesterday"->"what address did you use?"->"your name on the internal server"->"update your contacts".

Autocomplete in Lotus Notes was another source of fun. Usually about four or five letters of the surname was enough to make it unique and find the intended recipient, but sometimes you had to go further. One of my friends had an eight-letter surname, and his sister (with the same first initial) also worked for the company.

So, who wants to test the "common first name" + "common last name" = "common name" theory and send a message to mohammedlee@gmail.com?

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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby cisengineer » Fri Oct 18, 2013 7:09 am UTC

rmunroe@gmail.com I apologize for the interruption this evening... :twisted:

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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby mccdyl001 » Fri Oct 18, 2013 7:39 am UTC

I've had a situation where someone updated their online stockbroker account login details and changed it to my email. My guess is they used an initial between their names and forgot to put it in, but one morning i received an email from the stockbroker with all the login details (password and username). I shudder to think how easily I could have made that persons life a misery. Instead I spent twenty minutes on the phone getting hold of the stockbroker on the other side of the world and letting them know what had happened. They locked down the account instantly and (I hope) got hold of the rightful owner to correct his problem, but its scary that a simple typo gave me access to someone else's share portfolio.

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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby Wooloomooloo » Fri Oct 18, 2013 7:47 am UTC

WilliamLehnsherr wrote:I have never had this happened and never thought of it happening. I mean, I can imagine a scenario where someone types the wrong email address when filling out a form. I can't (or don't want to) see how anyone could be so stupid as to think they have an email address that they don't, just because it's they're name. I get that some people aren't good at anything related to computers, but surely they'd be aware that people share names? But I guess I'm just naive. As a result, it took me a while to understand what was going on in this comic.

This comic seriously threw me off - I had NO idea what it's supposed to be about, I have a similarly structured gmail address but never ever got a mail by this sort of accident. Get called about once a month by unknown people who apparently thought my number is what they wanted to dial, yes, stray email? Nope.

Old or not, I'm really struggling with the concept of someone spouting off an email address they never owned (and presumably never thought to use before) just because they need to enter one. It just boggles my mind - do these same people invent "12345678..." on the spot as their social security number too? Just because it sounds nice? Although to be honest, since I read about the old ha... erm, nice senior lady who went for a drive of a few dozen miles to pick up someone only to surface over a thousand miles and a few countries away a couple of days later, I find it hard to stay incredulous about just how demented some apparently normal-looking folks can be...

EDIT: although, to be fair, one does wonder how much the mentioned incident was or was not a "fugue state" - specifically a Breaking Bad-style one...
Last edited by Wooloomooloo on Fri Oct 18, 2013 8:50 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby TheoGB » Fri Oct 18, 2013 8:10 am UTC

Cynical Idealist wrote:I did this, once (before gmail was around). I didn't have an email address of my own, and needed to put one down, so I just guessed at what would be available and related to my name. I guessed incorrectly.


You what? I mean I love that there are replies in this thread of people going "I didn't think this could happen" when the OP admitted to doing it.

It's utterly crazy. But that's what we get for adopting SMTP over X400. The latter would be more like an address:
C (Country name)
ADMD (Administration Management Domain), usually a public mail service provider
PRMD (Private Management Domain)
O (Organization name)
OU (Organizational Unit Names)
G (Given name)
I (Initials)
S (Surname)

Sort of in the form: c=GB;P=example.co.uk;O=London;S=surname;I=initials;G=given_name

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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby Rodion Raskolnikov » Fri Oct 18, 2013 8:32 am UTC

ahammel wrote:First initial + last name + last two digits of birth year is unique enough for me, so far.


Same for me. Although I only put the last two digits of my birth year in because [first initial] + [surname] was already taken. Even though I have a fairly uncommon surname.

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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby Eleuthera » Fri Oct 18, 2013 9:03 am UTC

There's only about 130 people worldwide with my last name, and so far none of them seem to share my first name (not quite as rare but not very common either).

Which, in 15 years of internet, has resulted in my claiming pretty much every combination of the two on most popular mail-providers. I think I'm safe for now.

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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby Djehutynakht » Fri Oct 18, 2013 9:28 am UTC

cisengineer wrote:rmunroe@gmail.com I apologize for the interruption this evening... :twisted:


You better have done this.

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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby compscillb » Fri Oct 18, 2013 9:38 am UTC

I thoroughly relate to this comic - and I'd post more detail but the forum seems to think it's spam...

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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby tjunction » Fri Oct 18, 2013 9:46 am UTC

Yes. I am <initial><initial><surname>@gmail.com and I live in the UK.

I get emails for people who are not me on a more-or-less weekly basis. I think partly they are the result of typos. They have included circulars from fraternity groups at US universities, scout groups, bible reading groups, people thinking I am their mother or daughter, friends trying to arrange vacations, the odd person sending me what should be fairly private business-related info (power point presentations and so on), mailing lists from services that people have signed up to, and once, a picture of somebody's nether regions which was none-too-pleasant.

A lot of the "service" type mails have no way to unsubscribe - you click the unsubscribe link and it says "enter your password". You click the forgotten password link and it asks for some info I don't know. I end up just filtering these messages as spam.

Ekaros
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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby Ekaros » Fri Oct 18, 2013 9:52 am UTC

Locally my name is sufficiently unique. But then there is people in other places...


I should just start using my own domain so I can have both initial@lastname.** and firstname@lastname.**

Hmm if I had the money could go even with initial@lastname though own top-level domain is bit costly...

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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby Flumble » Fri Oct 18, 2013 10:13 am UTC

I always assumed my name was unique, since my last name is only used by a handful of people in a small region in the Netherlands and Germany. (so worldwide I presume it's limited to a hundred or so people)
But some time ago I started receiving mail about the weekly work schedules of a restaurant not far away and it turned out there is indeed one (at most, I hope) person with the exact same name as mine.

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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby christ0r » Fri Oct 18, 2013 10:18 am UTC

Oh me yarm. This happened to me. Except instead of being an older person, it's some guy who signs up for dating websites and final fantasy forums.

I also got emails from various work colleagues, so I assume he put his details onto some sort of corporate database.

I am ashamed to say that after a while, I started replying to those emails...

And not long after that, I stopped getting the emails.

Still odd though.

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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby compscillb » Fri Oct 18, 2013 10:21 am UTC

I can strongly relate to this comic as my address is of the same format. I've received lots of misdirected emails from other people, but also lots of email where people have put my address in as theirs.

I get someone's Macy's statement (no contact options for Macy's to try to report this and get it corrected but she does seem to pay it on time because I get those confirmation emails as well and haven't had any arrears messages). I have had my email listed against a hairdresser's in the Australian Yellow Pages (that took several emails and several years to get sorted out). One time I got a couple of potentially compromising photos from someone's Vegas trip (if s/he was in a relationship). And lots of other stuff (mechanics, travel reservations, etc).

Most of the time if it's a human I'll just say "hi looks like you've got the wrong email address" - but I have had people try to insist that I'm the person they're trying to contact - even when I'm clearly not their brother!

This discussion was definitely made more difficult by the forum rules - I think there's a block on including the term about reversing the process of subscription (which those of us who get signed up to innumerable mailing lists might have much to say about).

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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby thevicente » Fri Oct 18, 2013 10:27 am UTC

Once I received a message from gmail informing me "I" had created a new account successfuly. That account wasn't exactly my name, but similar. The other person had, upon registering, entered my account name as alternate address.

In theory, I could click in "forgot password" and "send to alternate address", then set a new password and lock her out of her email. I did that.

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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby Klear » Fri Oct 18, 2013 10:34 am UTC

My last name isn't very frequent, and at least some time ago there were only 4 people/families with that name living in Prague. One of those (completely unrelated to us) lives across the street, so we sometimes get their mail and vice versa...

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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby orthogon » Fri Oct 18, 2013 10:36 am UTC

I always though my firstname/lastname combo was globally unique. My last name is very rare and my first name was fairly unusual for my cohort. However, when I tried to create a unique Facebook id, I found that I did have a namesake after all. He's a lot younger than me, and our first name has become dramatically more popular in recent years; and family-name-wise, I guess we are probably distantly related. I was so surprised that I set up a FB group for "The <firstname> <lastname> society", open to all people who share our name. Sadly, the group only has one member: my namesake has so far declined to join it. :(

Also: I don't want to be accused of gerbil swallowing, but did anyone think this one was a bit ageist? I can see how it happened, but Randall wouldn't dream of making a similar generalisation about women, say; and has made wonderful comics specifically countering such generalisations. And I feel like the joke would have worked just as well without it.
xtifr wrote:... and orthogon merely sounds undecided.

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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby shadow4798 » Fri Oct 18, 2013 10:43 am UTC

This exact thing has happened to me. In one case I was getting regular family updates from someone who lives halfway around the globe. At first I ignored it because I thought it was some weird spam attempt, but then things got way too personal and it got to the stage where I felt awkward emailing them to tell them I wasn't who they thought I was (although eventually I did).
The 2nd case was much more serious. Someone had signed up their amazon account to my email address, and I kept getting emails from amazon with order confirmations for this other person. I contacted amazon to tell them that I was not the correct person and that they'd been given the wrong email, but whoever I contacted at amazon denied any problem existed at all. So I went to the amazon home page and requested a password reset, and got full control of this woman's amazon account. She had all her credit card details saved to the account, so I could have ordered anything I wanted. I'm startled that she was allowed to set up an account with my email, without them even trying to confirm that the email was valid, and then further baffled that when I pointed out the error to amazon they just ignored it.

Anyway, tl;dr: People are genuinely stupid about what they think their email addresses are.

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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby pepsiman » Fri Oct 18, 2013 10:51 am UTC

I use firstname dot lastname at gmail dot com, and have received email for several other people with my name.

One of them had the email address firstname lastname at ymail dot com.
I'm not sure if his handwriting made a y look like a g, or if the companies he gave his address to assumed he'd made a mistake.

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Klear
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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby Klear » Fri Oct 18, 2013 10:57 am UTC

orthogon wrote:Also: I don't want to be accused of gerbil swallowing, but did anyone think this one was a bit ageist? I can see how it happened, but Randall wouldn't dream of making a similar generalisation about women, say; and has made wonderful comics specifically countering such generalisations. And I feel like the joke would have worked just as well without it.


I actually thought that too. It even confused me a little at first, since it seems to me that gradually the people who confuse the address must be getting younger than you (as you are getting older).

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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby mojacardave » Fri Oct 18, 2013 11:11 am UTC

WilliamLehnsherr wrote:I have never had this happen and never thought of it happening. I mean, I can imagine a scenario where someone types the wrong email address when filling out a form. I can't (or don't want to) see how anyone could be so stupid as to think they have an email address that they don't, just because it's they're name. I get that some people aren't good at anything related to computers, but surely they'd be aware that people share names? But I guess I'm just naive. As a result, it took me a while to understand what was going on in this comic.


I don't think it's a case of thinking they have an email that they don't. People aren't just assuming that they have jsmith@gmail.com because John Smith is their name so they must get that address by default. They're assuming they have jsmith@gmail.com because they actually ended up with something like jsmith_3@gmail.com and they aren't the sort of people who use their address often enough to remember it. They just remember what they originally tried to get.

Also, I think that if you're not technologically savvy, maybe getting one or two characters wrong in an email address doesn't necessarily seem like such a big deal. People are more likely to think of it like an address, where a minor typo wouldn't make a difference, than a phone number, where a minor typo would probably result in a dead line or a connection to the wrong person.
Last edited by mojacardave on Fri Oct 18, 2013 11:16 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.

djscoumoune
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Re: 1279: "Reverse Identity Theft"

Postby djscoumoune » Fri Oct 18, 2013 11:15 am UTC

This has happened to me 3 times but it's more about having a simple email rather than your name. The previous 2 times were with an email without my name in it. Usually they buy things.

But 2 weeks ago it's happened with my full name email account and someone with the same first name and familiy name as me (not that common) ordered a plane ticket. In the email I had his phone number and address so I was able to contact him back and tranfert the ticket. People are a bit careless with their emails but that's why they make you type it twice I guess. I would have been able to take his place in the plane since I have the same name.

The awkward thing is I looked for his (=my) name in his town in the yellow pages and it showed me the adress of a company with the name of my father and my mother. Pretty wierd.


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