Friday, January 08, 2016

Privacy Alert: Avoid @Kmart and @Sears online

I am so frustrated right now. There's two people who think my email is their email address. One guy in L.A. has one that's mine + one extra character. I don't know if people type it wrong or if he's sloppy, but I get emails intended for him often, including employment contracts from TV studios and people who want to be on one of the reality shows he produces. Most recently I've been getting emails from Hilton confirming trips he's taking. Hilton was quick to get my email address removed, thankfully.

Now there's another guy(?) in New York who keeps using my email address when he buys stuff. He did it at Nordstroms - it took a quick online chat to get my email address removed from the account. He did it at Wal*Mart - again a quick online chat got my email address removed, unfortunately, canceling his order in the process. He did it at KMart and here's where our story is today. He's not making fraudulent purchases, he's just apparently unaware of what his own email address and not at all puzzled about why he's not receiving confirmations when he places online orders.

First, that got me on the mailing lists for Kmart and Sears and unsubscribing did not work. I finally had to tweet to them and their ESP (Epsilon) before I was able to convince Sears to work directly with me to stop the marketing emails (that's the promise - they say it'll take 7-10 business days before we'll know for sure).

Second, I keep getting confirmations for orders this person is placing. I've tried to remove my email address online, but to no avail. I've tried to delete the account, but to no avail. I even changed the name on the account in the hopes that it would get someone's attention, but that hasn't helped.

So today I tried again to remove my email address from Kmart's system. There's no online chat and you have to call a 1-800 number. There's no option to talk to customer service. I pressed zero a bunch but it just kept repeating the same options. I eventually went with "cancel my order" for a lack of anything better.

So I got this person with a heavy accent who had trouble understanding what I was trying to do. Trying to be helpful, she shared details about the order and the last four digits of the credit card that was used. This was before I had even given her the order number. All I had provided was an email address.

Eventually I had to ask to be transferred to a supervisor. Again, the supervisor wanted to talk about the order and address me as the person in New York and give me additional details about the person in New York - I think she was closing to giving me their address, even though I'd explained that I was not the person in New York, I've never met the person in New York and this email address is mine, not theirs.

She reiterated that an email address cannot be removed from an order. Best she could do was submit a request to IT to do... (something)?

Apparently, the bottom line is that if KMart gets your email address, they own it, not you. You can't get out of their system without extraordinary measures (if at all - we'll seE) and they're not going to make it easy for you.

But, they will give out all kinds of personal details if you call 800-735-6292 and provide an email address.

So, I would recommend avoiding shopping at KMart and Sears - at least online - because I don't have a high confidence in their ability to keep my (or your) data safe. (and if you shop in a store, for goodness sakes, don't give them your email address.)

I don't know what's next... Better Business Bureau? Federal Trade Commission? I hope it doesn't come to that but I will go there if I need to because this has to stop. I can't go around signing up at every retailer in the world in the hopes of preemptively keeping this guy from New York from signing up.

Update 1: My wife's Google skills outshine mine today. She found the person's Facebook page (all I could find was their property tax payments). So I've emailed them and asked them to stop using my email address. Sears sent me an email that links to the dev instance of an internal tracking dashboard. I don't think that was supposed to come to me. At the very bottom it humorously says "This message, including any attachments, is the property of Sears Holdings Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. It is confidential and may contain proprietary or legally privileged information. If you are not the intended recipient, please delete it without reading the contents. Thank you." (How are you supposed to know not to read it if you don't read the disclaimer?)
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