Saturday 15 December 2018

My False Identity (thanks to O2)

I just bought a new iPhone. I logged onto O2 and ordered a sim (the card that gets me a phone number and mobile identity). Suddenly I am someone else. I have another person’s email address and login ID. Some other person has potentially a network of contacts who all have my mobile phone number. Sounds like a subplot from “Mr Robot”? Nope, it just happened to me.

I tried to register to O2’s web site. They asked for my phone number. Then “for security” (oh, the irony!) they texted my a code to my phone. I went back online and entered the code. This is what I saw (the email address has been blurred to preserve the anonymity of the – I hope – innocent party identified here).

Yup, I really now have someone else’s email address and their mobile phone number (or anyway, a number that O2 still has registered to them). What wickedness I might get up to! I mean with that combination of information, who could doubt that I am somebody who I am, in fact, not? I’m just hoping that other person knows less about me than I know about them.

I phoned O2. An operative calmly told me that this was standard practice and nothing to worry about. They just recycled another user’s phone number. So how come it is still registered to the other user? Oh, it could take up to six months to unregister. And I am supposed to use that phone number during that period? really? I asked to speak to his manager.

His manager proved to be much more concerned by this situation. She agreed with me that it was not only inconvenient but that the security implications were far from trivial. She advised me not to use the sim. I had already arrived at that conclusion myself.

I have to say that I remain gobsmacked. This has now been logged as a formal complaint and I am waiting for a response from the complaints department at O2.

In the meantime, anyone want to buy a fake identity?