Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Aatcon B Michels must die.

Tonight I am faced with a heavy decision. For the last four years I have been receiving credit offers and other assorted junk mail addressed to:

Aatcon Michels
I have no idea how this got started. My best guess is that a scanning character recognition technology mistook an "R" for a "tc".

Born of a bureaucracy that did not record the date of his birth, I believe Aatcon is now nearing four years old, although he does not appear as a child. It seems that Aatcon sprang into the world a fully formed 25 year-old male made entirely of information.

There's very little that I know about Aatcon, but from what I can tell, he and I are identical in nearly every respect. He is my double. During a previous check of my credit report, I discovered that Aatcon had registered himself as my official alias. I didn't chose my alias. He chose me. He has the same credit score, the same social security number, the same address. When I move, so does Aatcon. I know this because I get his junk mail. As soon as I update my address, Aatcon follows suit - harmless enough.

The only differences that I am aware of between myself and Aatcon are the name difference (clearly), a difference in corporeal form (I believe he lacks form entirely), and - this is the strangest of all - he seems to get consistently better credit card offers than I do.

From any given mass mailing, your average American will get one piece of junk mail. Aatcon and I - together - we get two. And rarely does my offer match Aatcon's. If I get an offer of 2.99% APR (good for the next six months) with 3% balance transfer fee not less than $5 and not more than $50, Aatcon gets an offer of a 0% APR (good for the next 15 months) with no balance transfer fees.

Sometimes I wonder about this. What do banks see in Aatcon that they don't see in me? Don't we have the same credit-bureaucratic identity, except for our names?

This is why the difference in our credit card offers is so much more confusing. If he shares my credit history, shouldn't we get identical offers? I wonder if Chase Bank simply finds aliases more trustworthy.

I find it difficult to believe that Aatcon has gained his superiority through positive action of his own. As far as I know, he doesn't do anything except get junk mail. Supposedly he lives with me and shares my credit cards, but I see no evidence that he does anything at all. If he had an IRA, or had paid off his educational loans faster than I have, I think I would know.

So, this leads me to believe that Aatcon has gained his superior credit through inaction. There may be things that I have done that make me seem to be more of a financial risk than Aatcon. But what information could banks have?

If, during my life, I've done something wrong enough to blemish my credit - if there's a file out there speaking badly of me - I'm betting it's got the name "Aaron Michels" on it. That file has probably never even heard of Aatcon.

Maybe the banks know that "Aaron Michels" was picked up during a police sweep at a protest in DC in 2000. Or that I was a member of an anti-capitalist organization, heavily surveilled. Does that count against me, while Aatcon gets off scot-free?

Am I grasping at straws here? Why else would I be treated differently from Aatcon? What does he have that I don't?

Could this be a case of anti-corporeal profiling? It may be a bit early for this allegation, but I'm starting to think that banks have an unspoken bias against physical beings. In this case it seems clear that Aatcon, a being of purely bureaucratic origins, is getting preferential treatment when compared to an identical being (me) whose only deficiency is that he also exists outside of the realm of the credit agency database.

Imagine how I feel when I open my credit offer, and then I see Aatcon's offer. It's terrible! Chase Bank, your prejudice reflects badly on you and on all banks. This is the 21st Century. Judge me based on my credit score, not because I have skin!

This brings me to the decision I must make. Tonight I checked my annual free credit report again. What I see surprises me. I see that Aatcon has taken over.

At first Aatcon was my alias, and I didn't turn him away. I didn't report an error on my credit report and have him offed. I saw that he was behaving responsibly - there were no unexplainable accounts on the report, no expenses I had not authorized. No harm, no foul. Live and let live.

Although I wouldn't say that Aatcon and I were tight, I thought we were building a relationship. I even enjoyed seeing the odd piece of junk mail made out to him. "Ha Ha", I would think to myself, "good ol' Aatcon". And now I discover this. According to Equifax we are now registered as:
Name: Aatcon B. Michels
Social Security Number: XXX-XX-XXXX
Age or Date of Birth: July 3, 1977
Formerly known as: Aaron B. Michels
It seems that Aatcon has chosen to escalate. He's even changed my birthday.

I cannot tolerate being "formerly known as". My decision is this: If Aatcon wants war, it's war he'll get.

Aatcon - if you are listening - you have made a grave miscalculation. It's true, you can hurt me. You can steal hours - even days or weeks - of my life. Those hours will be eaten by the grinding bureaucracy of the credit bureaus, and I am willing to make that sacrifice. But this is a war you cannot win. You cannot touch the meat of me, whereas I can enter your world, trap you, hunt you like an animal.

What options do you have? If you devastate my credit, you only hurt yourself. If you eliminate me from the credit bureau's records, claim that data line as your own, declare yourself king - what are you king of? Without me, your realm in the database is meaningless. There will be no further bank accounts opened. You will never get your IRA. You will waste away, become a shadow of yourself, a shadow of myself.

Once, you were a shadow that I loved. You were a companion. An emissary from the land of bureaucracy. We had good times together. You were pure, raw, innocent information - a shining example of the creative power of papers, information processing, and minimal oversight. You gave slavishly anonymous processes a name, an absurdly beautiful name. You lived. And I loved you.

But today you have forced my hand. Do not forget that it is your arrogance and greed that has started this war. Once I have begun, I will enlist the bureaucracy that created you, and with whom do you think they will side?

Your mother and father are amoral. Human parents would protect their offspring, but your parents will not. Credit card offers may show that in good times the bureaucracy favors you over me, but it will not be enough to save you. Your creators will eradicate you without a second thought. And in a flat tone, vaguely reminiscent of the humanity they mimic, they will apologize to me for the inconvenience.

war reporting below

REPORT 1 - Aatcon 2 : Aaron 0

The first battles appear to be won by Aatcon. My "free online credit report" session expired. It seems I only had one free view per year at Equifax. Arrr. I may have to go the paper route with "Privacy Guard" materials.

It also appears that I have been locked out of the TransUnion website. They claim that I have a previous account, but I cannot find a record of this account in my email archives. My file-keeping wiles appear to be no match for an entity born of mis-handled paperwork! I must dig deep if I hope to prevail.

REPORT 2 - Aatcon still on top.

I have been unable to retrieve my TransUnion password by verifying "other details" about my identity. This is a clear case where I have been too smart for my own good. One way I try to avoid spam is that I have many email addresses that I only give out once. All these accounts then forward to my main account. This way, I can track which services sold my address and I can individually block addresses that collect spam. But, in this case, when I have to log back into a particular account (that I thought I'd only use once, perhaps), my spam-blocking technique can bite me in the ass.

To verify my identity, I need certain "other details". First, there's name. Another is email address, another zip code, and finally, there's birthday. It seems pretty simple. But when I do the math, it turns out not to be so simple.

First, the variable of the name. I don't know if TransUnion has been infiltrated yet. Should I say that I'm "Aaron Michels" or should I pose as Aatcon? This brings up the possibility of a rather odd scenario. If I sneak into my TransUnion account posing as Aatcon, how do I then justify eliminating that identity?

Me: "Hello, I am Aatcon. You must now help me. Aatcon does not exist, he is in error."
Customer Support: "You don't exist, sir? And who is in error?"

The second hurdle, and the biggest one - I can't remember which email address I might have given to a "TransUnion, TrueCredit, or a TrueCredit partner", and I don't have any records to help me. I could sit here trying variations. I'd probably hit the right one sometime within my first twenty tries. Next, I've got the problem of zip code. In the last four years I've used 4 different zip codes. Which one is it? Finally, should I input my birthday? Or Aatcon's?

All of these variables compile to create 320 possible combinations. An easy task to try them all if you are made of pure information, or are a hacking program, but an infuriating task if you are a human made of flesh.

Aatcon, you are proving to be a worthy opponent. I am on your turf, and I know it. You may have the upper hand now, but I will bring this war to you. Your evasive maneuvers can only hold out for so long. Remember, I still have the option of doing this by phone and paper, realms over which you hold considerably less sway.

Patience is a virtue. I will wait until dawn, and the hours of customer support. Surely they can flush my lost email address from the bushes.

REPORT 3 - Are the tides turning?

Recent battles have been more mixed. TransUnion did flush out my email address. An old one from 2003, it seems. By evening I should have access to the TransUnion account.

Experian informs me that they are unable to flank Aatcon until the bureaucracy that created him has been scuttled. They were able to give me only one lead. Apparently an account mysteriously named "RBS NB CC" had some involvement in bringing Aatcon into this world. Who are you, RBS NB CC? Who are you working for?

Searches for RBS NB CC turned up nothing. Searches for the address (the only other data I have for them) turned up: a medical malpractice attorney, a litigation attorney, and the FBI. They all list 1000 Lafayette Blvd. as their address, but two of them list suite numbers attached to 1000 Lafayette Blvd. The FBI? Suite numbers? Is RBS NB CC a suiteless entity in an office block? Is Aatcon a creation of the FBI? In 2003 I was anti-war organizing...

But no. Looking further down the google list I see... a small bank that I've never heard of. This is probably the culprit. Their phone system says they'll be on a four day weekend.

Stalling won't help you, Aatcon.

REPORT 5 - June 4th.
Well, maybe stalling did help. It's been some time since I've posted a war update, and though the tides had seemed to be turning in my favor, there's one variable that I didn't take into account. I have myriad responsibilities that Aatcon does not seem to share. Preparations for my wedding have stretched my war resources thin. Although I'm assuming Aatcon may also be getting married, I don't see him doing any work for it.

It seems that being a corporeal being has drawbacks that I didn't anticipate. While Aatcon actually does very little else than infiltrate my accounts, I am devoted to many other activities than simply rooting him out. Meanwhile, I continue to receive Aatcon's mail. Maliciously, I shred it.

When I am done, there will be no record Aatcon ever lived. No songs sung, no single credit document with his name. Complete annihilation. This declaration of war will be the only remaining mention. History is a one-sided affair, I'm afraid.

UPDATE: November 2006

UPDATE: March 2007


Blogger R.F.Steck-Ibarra said...

gorgeously kafka-esque... what a brilliant surprise this magnificent gem that you've created. Your proding, my friend, is worthy of recognitions beyond my capabilities.


5:45 AM  
Blogger R.F.Steck-Ibarra said...

actually... i just realized I meant to say Borges-esque instead of Kafka-esque....


8:50 AM  
Blogger alicia said...

This aatcon stuff is out of control -but hasn't it been going on since highschool? Regardless, you will always be enron to me, your loving sister, alicia.

6:23 PM  
Blogger aaron said...

hmm. maybe you're right. I don't remember him from high school, but it's possible. Aatcon has ramped it up a lot more in the last four years at least.

6:39 PM  

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