Why Is Redbox Helping Someone Steal My Identity?

I'm a movie fan, and a Netflix subscriber. In fact, I've been a subscriber for a long time, since the first year the service started mailing DVDs. It's my preferred method for getting new movies and watching them at home. Sometimes I'll rent from iTunes, usually if I can't get the wife to agree to watch one of the three movies I've received from Netflix, or one of the long list of films I have in my instant queue. I don't use Blockbuster anymore, and I certainly don't use Redbox. I've learned that I'm very lazy about returning movies, so I prefer the flexibility that Netflix and iTunes offers me.[Image credit: Matt Mendick]

So, you can imagine my surprise when I got a receipt from Redbox for a movie rental. It was a receipt for "Let Me In." That's a good movie. I saw it in the theater. I rented the original version from Netflix. I never rented the movie from Redbox. And I certainly never rented the movie from a Walmart in North Carolina. I live in Texas, near Dallas.

It was easy to figure out from the email what must have happened. The email receipt gives the last four digits of the renter's credit card, and they don't match any credit card of mine. I double-checked with my banks, and there are no charges on any account from Redbox. Nothing on my wife's account, either.

Furthermore, the email didn't come to my normal email address. It came to a private address I use only for testing phones. It's a fake name.

My assumption is that someone with a very similar name typed their email address incorrectly. Thus, I get their receipts. I called Redbox, and that was their first suggestion, as well. They told me this happens all the time.

I was still unnerved. Of course, when I get a fake receipt claiming to have charged my credit card, my first thought is always a phishing scam. I recently got an email claiming that I had made a rather hefty purchase from "Bobijou, Inc." I responded to that email, which was a mistake, but I didn't give them any more information. When I started getting more spam from them, I googled the name.

Bobijou, Inc. is an email used in a common scam. They send you a fake receipt, claiming to have billed your card. When you reply, they get more contact information from you. At worst, they try to get you to send your credit card number, presumably so they can 'verify' the transaction. Then they start racking up charges.

Having recently received the Bobijou, Inc. email, I was skeptical about the Redbox issue, but when I called they promised to remove my email address. I wouldn't get any more receipts. Or so they said.

I got more receipts. I've gotten about 6 or 7 so far. I deleted the first few, but now I'm keeping them. It is possible that Redbox deleted my email address as promised, but then the person reentered it again. Now I'm getting more suspicious.

When I got the email from Redbox marked "Important: Confirm your email address and get a free rental," I was more than suspicious. I was furious. Instead of confirming my email address and giving the moron using my fake name to rent movies a free rental, I sent Redbox an email explaining the problem again. I told them I wanted the emails to stop, and I now consider them spam. I threatened to sue under the CAN-SPAM act.

I got an email back from Redbox the next day. They assured me that I was not charged for the rental, and none of my personal information has been compromised. Well, except for the email address, of course. But I figured that would be the end of it. Once again I was wrong.

I received another receipt. Was someone entering my email incorrectly every single time? This seems like too much a coincidence. I called Redbox and asked them to shut down the account. They refused. They claimed I couldn't ask to shut down another user's account.

"But if someone has signed up using my email address, it's my account. I want my account deactivated."

They still refused. So I escalated to a supervisor.

The supervisor, Rasheeda, wouldn't budge. I offered a suggestion. Do they have a phone number? A postal address? Can they get in touch with this person any other way to let them know they are entering the wrong address? No.

They have a credit card, though, and it isn't under my fake name. I asked if the name on the credit card matched my email address. I asked if it was even close. If it's off by one letter, or if it's similar, then I could possibly understand the mistake.

But it wasn't. It was a completely different name. She wouldn't tell me the name, but she said it was totally different.

This is not a mistake. This is fraud. Maybe this person doesn't have an email address. Maybe they just don't want to get the spam that I'm getting. In any case, someone is using my email address to rent movies. Sure, they aren't charging my credit card, but it's still wrong, and I wanted it stopped.

Rasheeda still wouldn't budge. Redbox is content to let their customers commit fraud. They don't mind if you use someone else's email address, as long as they get paid. They suggested I contact my email provider. I use Gmail.

"But this has nothing to do with Google," I protested. "Google didn't give out my email address. Google isn't letting someone use my address. Whether this is a mistake or a fraud, I want it fixed."

There is an easy fix. Turn off the account. The next time this person tries to rent a movie, they will have to enter a new address. Redbox should bar them from using my email again. Create a new account for me, and tie my address to it. That way when someone tries to register my address, it's already in use.

Rasheeda wouldn't budge. The only thing she would do is turn off my subscription to the emails. So, someone can still fraudulently use my address, I just won't be notified when they do. How is this a solution, exactly?

It isn't. Redbox is complicit in this customer's fraud. I told them as much, and demanded that it stop. But they wouldn't budge. If they had just signed me up for an account and locked my email address to me, I might have started using the service. But their service is shady, their managers are unreasonable, and I will never use a service that helps its members commit fraud.