Twice this week, I’ve received emails in my inbox addressed to me but meant for other people.
The first email was from the Bursar at Elon University, a private liberal arts university in Elon, North Carolina, and while the email address was mine, the person addressed in the message was Claire M. Dunham. I’ve never been known as Claire, nor do I know of one to whom I might be related. But I do know that Claire is enrolled for classes next semester at Elon…at least until I figure out her password, hack her account, and cancel her scholarship for listing my email address as hers.
The second email (with multiple emails in the thread) was one in which I was copied by a Carol Dunham. She apparently has a daughter (Michelle), who (ironically) also attends Elon University and is majoring in teaching Spanish. I have no idea why Carol copied me, nor do I have any job leads for her daughter (we already have a good Spanish teacher at The Academy – I’m looking at you, Abby Lorenc). But the most recent email in the thread had Carol thanking Louise (who apparently is the mother of Michelle’s boyfriend) for paying to fly Michelle to Hawaii. I’m guessing Michelle’s living it up on the Big Island, and for some reason, her mom felt the need to tell me about it.
We’ve all heard of identity theft; this is more identity threat.
Does LifeLock know about this? I want them to because it’s my email address! I was surprised by how affected I was by the idea that someone else was using (consciously or not) my email handle. It’s the same feeling one gets after Googling one’s name (not that I’ve ever done that) only to discover you’re not the only Craig Dunham in the world. In fact, there are other Craig Dunhams – some who make you proud to share the name, and others who make you wish your parents trademarked it upon signing the birth certificate. You’re – I’m – the original! Everyone else is but a poor imitation!
As I didn’t have Claire’s actual email address, I went ahead and replied to the Bursar, telling him/her (are Bursars usually male or female?) of the mistake and asking to have my email address removed from Elon’s list, which they did. And because Carol only copied me on her email, I didn’t feel a need to respond (though she is a fellow Dunham, God love her), but will see if she sends something else before inquiring as to what’s going on (and maybe how Michelle liked Hawaii, just to freak her out).
But regardless, I should probably think and pray more about my initial reaction of feeling so threatened by someone else using what I think of as belonging solely to me. Indeed, “a good name is to be chosen rather than great riches,” (Proverbs 22:1a), but ultimate identity in any name other than Christ’s can feel like one big and unending Google search.
Craig is Head of School at The Academy of Classical Christian Studies in Oklahoma City, where he lives with Megan, their four daughters, and anyone else who happens to call their house “home” at the time.