Help, someone is pretending to be me

January 10 2015 by Ellen Roseman

When I get complaints about large companies, I send them to my corporate contacts to resolve. I deal with these people regularly and they get to know me.

A large appliance company contact recently alerted to something fishy. They had received an email, supposedly from me, but the email address looked suspicious. Was it a request I had sent through?

It was definitely not my email address, eroseman@thestar.ca. It was a Gmail address that had my name and a reference to the Toronto Star (tstar). And the writing style was not mine, either.

“I’m working on an article that prints next Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2015, in Canada’s largest newspaper. I’m giving you an opportunity to provide a quote on the following case that was handled by your customer service department on Dec. 30,” the fake Ellen Roseman wrote.

The person had a dishwasher, just over two years old, that was giving him low water sensor messages. He reported the problem twice during the warranty period and had it fixed. A third repair was done out of warranty as a good will gesture.

But when the same thing happened a fourth time, he was given the phone number of a local appliance repair service.

“As three previous repairs have been unsuccessful, we are seeking a credit voucher for replacement of the dishwasher with a different model,” my impersonator said.” If this is not possible, we are asking that you repair the machine with a promise that any work be guaranteed for one year (not just 90 days).”

The so-called Ellen Roseman said she would proceed with a story to appear in the Star’s business section on Jan. 7 if she didn’t receive a response by Jan. 5.

Threats are a tactic I rarely use, especially with a date attached. Anyway, I was on holiday at the time, not writing any columns at all.

This was my first case of professional identity theft (using details cut and pasted from my website). I wanted to follow up with the perpetrator.

Luckily, the dishwasher owner’s name, address and phone number appeared in the email. It was easy to track him down.

The appliance company called him to discuss his complaint. He was informed that I had seen the email and I had denied writing it.

The Star’s business editor, Doug Cudmore, also called and emailed, asking him to stop pretending to be me. After a few days, he responded.

“The voicemail was sheepish. He apologized several times, profusely, promised never to do it again and said we could call him back if we wanted to speak to him,” Doug said.

Surprisingly, he had never approached me directly and asked me to advocate on his behalf. I would have tried to help. Instead, he’d tried another — unorthodox, if not illegal — route.

If you have a consumer complaint about a large brand-name company, feel free to contact me by email. Please stick to policy issues, not personal issues, and try to be concise. I will forward it to my corporate contacts.

My new course: I’ll be talking about how to value companies and pick the right stocks at University of Toronto continuing studies on Monday nights, 7 to 9 p.m., starting Jan. 12. The cost is $250. You can find a link to register on my home page.