2008.02.28 Following dollar bills easier than tracking people

Written by David Green.

By RICH FOLEY

How tough is it to find someone these days with all the tools available through the internet? I would think the quantum leap in available information would make it much easier to find a missing person, but judging by the people bothering me lately who really are looking for someone else, that must not be the case.

Last month, on a windy, icy Saturday night, I was surprised by a knock at my apartment. Wondering who would be crazy enough to be out on such a night, I discovered my caller was an auto recovery specialist, or, to be brief, a “repo man.”

It turns out he was looking for a unpaid-for Pontiac Sunbird said to be at my address. He never did say if he had a name for the culprit, but was amazed that this was the first I was hearing of the matter. He said that several other repo outfits had previously had the contract to retrieve the car and was surprised none of them had ever knocked on my door.

He added that as soon as I offered to let him come in out of the weather he knew I wasn’t the person he wanted, so after a few questions he was on his way. You’d think he could have known that without a late night visit during a winter storm.

A couple of weeks later, I got a letter from an electric company I’ve never heard of asking me to pay a balance due for my account at “Hurd Mcllroy Road.” The company was in Marysville, Ohio, which I had to look up on a map. Hard telling where the road was.

I called the company and told the person I was routed to that I’d never heard of them or the address. I was informed that the address was “in Raymond, in Union County” in a tone that made me think she wanted to add, “everyone knows that!”

Consulting my map again, I found that Union County was far to the south, near Fayette County. That was why the mix-up probably happened. The company must have checked one of those people finder websites, saw someone with the name they wanted in Fayette, and assumed it was in nearby Fayette County instead of halfway across the state.

Now they’ll have to pick out someone else with my name and try again. You’d think there would be an easier way to find someone.

It doesn’t help when there are quite a few people sharing my name. That’s why those high school reunion websites annoy me. I made the mistake of signing up on one and now I’m inundated with offers to sell me information I don’t want. I’m constantly getting emails claiming that someone is looking for me and for only $29.95, they’ll tell me who it is.

Occasionally, they’ll give me a hint, telling me how old the searcher is and where they live. The person is always much older or younger than me and they usually live far away. It’s obvious that the person is looking for someone else with my name. And I’m supposed to pay the website to find out they’ve got the wrong person? What a great business model. The poorer job that you do finding the right person, the more people you can try to charge for worthless information.

Heck, it might be easier to track down a dollar bill than a person. Almost four years ago, I received one of those “Where’s George?” marked dollar bills in change in Adrian.

For those not familiar with the concept, the website registers dollar bills by serial number and tracks their travels on the site as people log in and report when and where they obtained one of the marked bills. You can also see where and when the bill was first registered and read any tracking updates and comments. That would be quite interesting if more people registered their finds, but in my experience, that’s not the case

I found one back in the summer of 2004 in my change from a fast food purchase in Adrian. I logged on the site and discovered that the bill had been registered 117 days earlier in Kalamazoo. I reported my find, spent the bill, and waited for its next appearance.

After awhile, I forgot about it, until I got an e-mail last week. The bill had turned up in Chilton, Wisconsin, a mere three years and 152 days after I returned it to circulation. Now, all I have are questions.

Where has it been? What was it spent on? How did it get to Wisconsin?  Why is it easier to track a dollar bill than a person with my name or someone who used to live at my address? And whatever happened to that unpaid-for Pontiac Sunbird?

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