Tuesday, September 04, 2007

"Can I talk to Jerry?"

As I moved to Sweden, I went out and got myself a handsome little phone with a telia account. They asked me what number I'd like, and I got one that was not too far from my Norwegian one, something I could learn quickly. So I had a phone, I had a number, I had a fully charged card, and I was ready to take calls.

"Hello, is Jerry there?"

"Wrong number," I said politely. "Isn't this xxx-xxx-xx?" "Yes, that's correct." "Then I'd like to talk to Jerry." "I am sorry, my name is Torill Mortensen, this is my phone, recently bought, and I can't help you." "Are you absolutely certain you can't get hold of Jerry?" "Yes. There is no Jerry here, and there never was a Jerry here. He must have terminated his account and by accident, I happened to get the same number. I can't help you, I am sorry."

Over the next week or so, I got used to telling people that there was no Jerry at this number any more. That's when I started to get a new kind of calls.

"Detta är om erans annons, vi skulla vilja..."

"Excuse me, but what ad?"
"The ad about moving, and needing help with your apartment. I'd like to talk to Anders." "EEeeehh, I have no ad anywhere, and there is no Anders here." "But you are asking for help to clean out the apartment." "No, that must be a mistake." "You see, you have this ad at xxxxxx, and it says you are moving to xxxx, now I'd like to help you with the cleaning..." "I am really sorry, but there must be a mistake." "Isn't this number xxx-xxx-xxx?" "Yes, and that is my number, I am Torill Mortensen, I am not moving anywhere, I don't have an apartment in that part of Sweden and I don't have an ad. Somebody must have put the wrong number in."

After several days of fielding those calls, I just had to check. So I googled my phone number, and yes, there it was. Some Anders had an ad, and he had my number in it. Somebody with the same last name as him had a company, and this company used my number. I had not just inherited a mysterious Jerry with a lot of english-speaking friends, I had also inherited an Swedish company.

That's when my struggle to have those numbers removed started. I have been writing ad-companies and search services all over Sweden, begging to have the ad removed. After three days it is finally gone. The company was a bigger problem. Here I had to resort to a slight case of identity theft. I went in and registered as the owner of the company, and changed the number to something which was obviously not useable. I felt justified, as it wasn't really identity theft, it was a release of identity. I am not that company, and I shouldn't be able to claim I was. By making sure nothing in that ad for the company had anything to do with me, I removed my own ability to, for instance, order 500 chairs, all in purple leather, to be sent to his office.

The last two days, all phonecalls to my phone have been for me. I almost miss Jerry.

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