Spinning Gears :: A Curious Case of Mistaken Identity

(image above from the fine folks at Penny Arcade, from this comic in 2004. Click to enlarge!)

Let me set the stage: a few months ago I got a semi-threatening e-mail claiming that someone – someone I didn’t know – knew my Web host’s security hardware and what’s installed on it, and that they knew how to exploit it. They implied they had already exploited it, and that it was my fault for not knowing or understanding “IT Security.” Now – I’ve worked in IT since I was an undergrad in college, so I know a thing or two – I’m no subject matter expert in security and intrusion prevention, but I know a thing or two. The e-mail came off a little ranty, and when they spammed all of my e-mail addresses with it, I just set up a mail rule to trash it before it hit my inbox and called it a day.

Then today, I got word from an anonymous tipper to my Gears and Widgets account (which isn’t really a secret, I’m phoenix@gearsandwidgets.com – drop me a line!) that someone was masquerading as me over at the ZDNet blogs, and that they just wanted to give me a heads up.

Sure enough, one Google search later, I found someone over there with the same name I was accused of having in that threatening e-mail (which my Web host, by the way, described as “pure fiction,”) and then someone else posting under my name, “Alan Henry,” with their own freshly registered account, where they were busily trolling other commenters. In their attempt to track down who the troll in their midst was, a few people there found my bio information at PC Mag, my LinkedIn profile, and deduced that their troll must be Alan Henry, the freelance writer, technology blogger, and author of sites like TechTV Forever, The Classy Geek, and of course, Gears and Widgets.

Sadly, they’re horribly mistaken, and in their fervor to take down their “Alan Henry,” made light at my experience, my blogs, my work, just about everything – so sure that I was who they hated. It hurt, a lot, and sure enough I both registered my own account to try and refute the claims and reclaim my identity, and submitted a ticket to ZDNet Support to take note of the issue and see what they could do.

Admittedly, I don’t have too much faith that they’ll be able to do anything although I hope they can. It’s difficult to try and moderate so closely any comments on the Internet, but it’s disheartening that this could happen. All I, the real Alan Henry, can do is sit back, hope it plays out, and hope that the issue doesn’t get worse or spread elsewhere.

Still, I make this post partially because I want to make it clear I’m not this person, but partially because I’m curious about other people’s opinions and experiences. This isn’t identity theft – nothing of tangible value is being taken from me – but it’s definitely annoying personally, and while professionally – as a writer – I don’t think it’s serious it does introduce some negative connotations of me on the Web that someone could find.

All I can do is wait for it to blow over, but what about you? Have you experienced anything like this – just having your name hijacked so someone can troll or comment on the Web either just because your name is convenient or because your name has some gravity behind it? How did you deal with it? Let me know what you think.

9 thoughts on “Spinning Gears :: A Curious Case of Mistaken Identity

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  2. David

    I saw the comments in question. I can’t imagine that there’s any more you can do, except remember to not feed the trolls.

    You’ve posted your explanation and submitted the ZDNet Support ticket. You next best action may be to starve the troll, in case it is a troll. Give him nothing, and he may lose interest.

  3. Not_the_real_Alan_Henry

    Dear Mr. Alan Henry.

    There was never any intent on hijacking “your” personal identity. Your request to stop has been honored and granted. Rest assure there will be NO more posting using “Alan Henry” on Zdnet.

    Sorry for all the confusion. It was never meant be an attack on you personally.

    I hope you can set thing straight with whomever that this stunt/prank has cause damage to.

    You seem to be a nice guy. And probably make a helluva friend too.

    One again, no harm was meant. Trust me as I say that.

    I hope this clear this up a bit.

    I can’t guarantee that it won’t happen by someone else (The Internet is full of anonymous posters). But, it won’t be the, aka fake “Alan Henry”.

    PS. You were a gentleman through this hole ordeal. So sorry it happen to such a nice guy.

    Happy holidays to you and yours.

  4. Alan Henry Post author

    You’re right – thanks for the reminder!

    In all of my furor, I’d been so upset about it that I went and started responding as frequently as possible to try and make the differentiation. It might very well be time to just let it go and see where ZDNet Support takes it. Thanks!

  5. The_fake_Alan_Henry_on_Zdnet

    Dear Mr. Alan Henry

    It all stem from the troll “Loverock Davidson”. Folks had mistaken your identity (profile) to fit him. No fault of yours.

    Again. Consider that case closed (trolling using your name). At least the use of the handle “Alan Henry” on Zdnet.

    There may still be some folks perpetrating the fraud. But I have no control on that.

    Take David’s advice.

    Have a good holiday

    Best regards

  6. Alan Henry Post author

    Wow! Thanks, Not_the_real_me. If you hold to that, it’s definitely, truly appreciated.

    I’m not surprised that this had to do with that “Loverock Davidson” person…judging by their comments, I can see they’re not well liked.

    Anyway – thank you very much, and happy holidays to you too!

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  9. Angela Standerfer

    A certain girl I worked with from May-August, I left my job due to harrassment & bullying on the job. I left due to that reason. Since I’ve left 8-9-13 fake Facebook, gmail accts, hacking into my present accts…..there are several online even youtube & I can’t control it anymore. I filed police report they did speak with her but since no threats for my safety or my family there’s not anything they can do. Is there anyway you might be able to help me?
    Thanks, Angie

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