This week, we here in the U.S. are gearing up for some fireworks, barbecues, and a lil healthy reflection on this dystopian state that our nation’s independence has wrought. So it seems sorta fitting that this week’s advice submission comes from someone trying very hard to get out of the shadow of their ex-boyfriend’s influence, despite some questionably shady shit occurring. And that, friends, is the kind of independence I’d light a sparkler for (and then wave in that asshole’s face)!
[Reminder: Got questions about your partners, your ex-partners, or the controlling behavior of your nation’s exes? Send them to [email protected] and we’ll weigh in!]
So apologies in advance if this is a weird or silly question, but Google is giving me nothing and my folks don’t seem to have an explanation either.
So about three weeks ago I received a piece of junk mail (an insurance advert) with an ex-boyfriend’s surname in place of my own. I was immediately taken aback as we never lived together, shared any bills, were never legally attached, nor did he ever live at my address. Our relationship ended over seven years ago and we have not spoken since. After the initial shock/confusion faded I checked my credit to see if anything foul was afoot, but thankfully everything appeared normal. My folks agreed it was weird and while it still bothered me, I decided to let it go for my sanity’s sake in these horrible, very bad times.
Today I got another insurance advert with his surname in place of my own. I’m not sure if it’s from the same company as I foolishly shredded the last one. I have no idea what I should do here. Is something foul afoot? Should I be more anxious than I already am? I’d really rather not contact him directly if I can, he was emotionally abusive and it took me a long time to recover. I do know that he moved out-of-state after the break-up. These two letters in the span of one month out of the blue after seven years are really freaking me out.
That’s Not My Name
Oh dear. I can see why this mystery would be so unsettling, but luckily I think there are a few things you can do to protect yourself. I’m guessing your ex-boyfriend’s last name wasn’t something common or easily mistakable, like “Smith,” otherwise you wouldn’t be so suspicious of the circumstances of these mailers. If you’re suddenly getting mail addressed to “Jane Doe von TrapperKeeperstein” and the only other von TrapperKeeperstein you’ve ever met is your ex, then — yeah, that’s fishy as fuck.
But there are levels of fishiness possible, from “it’s a coincidence” to “psychological fuckery” to “this dickbag’s trying to ruin you financially,” and it’s impossible to tell from the information you’ve given us just what is going on. So here are some initial thoughts:
Since you’ve only got one advert handy, call the company that sent it and ask how they got your address — and request to be removed while you’re at it (without providing your real last name, mind you). As one Overlord with experience dealing with mass mailings put it, “People should be able to account for how you got on their mailing list.” That might be the easiest, most direct way to put your mind at ease (or verify if someone is targeting you). But the flip side is that it’s really not difficult to sign someone up for junk mail, even under a made-up name, and it might be no more nefarious than a random fluke or a particularly cruel prank. Trust me, my friends used to do this shit to each other all the time. Just be glad you’re not getting “Scientology Today” magazines delivered to your doorstep…
That said, it’s weird enough that he would suddenly start pranking you after seven years of radio silence, so it’s wise that you’re on the lookout for something more serious going on with this. First things first: Think back over what sensitive information he may know about you, to assess how at-risk you might be for identity theft or something along those lines. Even though he never lived with you, are you still at the same address you were at when you were dating him, or would he know your current address somehow? Does he know your birthday, or your mother’s maiden name, or the name of your first pet, or any of the answers to any common security questions? Did he ever have access to any passwords or accounts of yours, even if it was just your Netflix log-in? Even without knowing your social security number (DOES HE KNOW YOUR SSN?!), there is a lot that someone with a few key pieces of seemingly harmless information can do — and if you’re at all worried about identity theft, here’s the government’s handy prevention page for reference, as well as a useful article from NerdWallet.
The big tip the Overlords agreed on for your peace of mind is signing up for credit and ID monitoring services, which can alert you to changes in your status without you having to check your credit all the time. Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion (the big three credit bureaus) all have services available, and it’s worth signing up if you can afford it. The big benefit to those is not only the monitoring, which will alert you to activities involving your SSN as well as if your email address is compromised, but also the ability to “lock” your credit report, preventing anyone from requesting it. This means if someone is trying to use your identity to take out a loan or a credit card or anything where a company would want to run your credit report, that would be blocked and the thief would be shit out of luck. Though, fair warning: If YOU decide you need to take out a loan or something, you’ll have to remember to log-in and unlock that shit for your own purposes, and then remember to re-lock it when you’re done. I say this from experience, and from a very awkward situation at a used car dealership…
You can also check to see if your credit card companies or banks provide similar ID monitoring services, or sign up for a separate outside services as well. I’m pushing the monitoring hard because of the alerts they provide: you will get an email when they pick up something fishy. Or any change, really! Most of the time the alerts will be for shit you did yourself, but it’s also nice to know when your log-in for a particular site might have been hacked and sold on the dark web or something.
And just to be safe: Change your passwords. Just… change them, and don’t reuse them from one account to the next. Make them random, or at least as random and unaffiliated to you as you can make them while still remembering them. And don’t just write them down in a Word doc that you save on your desktop, or on a series of post-it notes around your monitor (*she says, eyeing her own post-its in shame*).
If you can take some steps to secure your identity and information now, it can help prevent whatever this weird shit is that’s going on with your mail from developing into something more nefarious. I can’t say for sure that your ex isn’t actively trying to fuck with your mind, but if he’s testing the waters to try and fuck with your finances or anything else — THAT you can safeguard yourself from. And taking proactive steps like this to protect yourself may help you deal with the emotional upheaval of seeing his last name dropped in your mailbox.
Then to top things off, take Jodi’s advice: “Watch Practical Magic and burn the mail using one of their rituals. That part is just for funsies.”
I concur. Lighting shit on fire really does help (and so do those Midnight Margaritas) — especially around Independence Day!