Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Strange experience

Today we had the strangest experience.

It occurred to us this morning that we never got around the changing the address on our FedEx account, an account we've had for probably 25 years. We haven't used it much over the last year, which is why we forgot to change from our old to our new address.

So I decided to call and change our address. After a peppy and extensive artificial intelligence phone tree, I finally got connected to a nice young customer service representative and explained the situation. Naturally he needed some information to verify our account.

After the usual questions (account number, prior address, etc.), he said he would need to ask us some multiple-choice questions about our history to verify we are legitimately who we say we are. Okay, whatever.

For the first question, he asked which of the following addresses we had previously lived at. He listed four addresses – one of which was ours, but from 31 years ago! Seriously, it was the address of a rental house Don and I lived in for a few months immediately after we were married. That was in 1990.

For the second question, he asked which business name was associated with us. He gave several options, one of which was our dba ("doing business as") name, so that was easy peasy.

For the third question, he asked about a previous town in which [First Name] Lewis lived.

Huh? Who is [First Name] Lewis?

Don happened to walk into the house at this juncture, and since I had the phone on speaker, he heard the name. "That was my stepmother," he said, puzzled.

I should explain Don's parents divorced when he was in high school. Just before he entered the Navy in 1975, his father remarried a woman named [First Name], who then took on her new husband's last name (Lewis). Don's father passed away while Don was in the Navy, so he hardly knew his stepmother. Certainly they weren't close enough to stay in touch after his dad died. In short, Don hadn't been in contact with this woman for something like 45 years. How on earth was he supposed to know where she'd lived during the last four decades?

The FedEx representative said he couldn't "move on" to change our address until we answered the question about Mrs. Lewis's address; and no, there was no alternate question he could ask us.

We told him we would have to hang up and see if we could find information about Don's stepmother's whereabouts, and the rep said that was fine.

We hung up the phone, and Don immediately started some frantic online research, trying to find out which of the 80-odd women in the State of California who shared the same name as his stepmother from 45 years ago was the right person. This was assuming she hadn't remarried and assumed a new name. This was also assuming she wasn't deceased. After all, she would be well into her 90s by now.

I thought the whole thing was stupid beyond belief. What – if we couldn't find out what town this [First Name] Lewis had lived in at some point since 1977 or so, we would never be able to change our account address? On what planet?

The whole thing took on a surreal and frankly creepy quality. How on earth could FedEx pull an address out of their files we haven't lived at for 31 years, long before we got an account with them? And creepier still, how on earth did they fish up the name of a woman with only the most tangential association with Don dating back to the 1970s?

Unsurprisingly, Don wasn't able to locate any information about his long-gone stepmother. I decided to call FedEx once again and try changing our address. After I'd waded through their extensive phone trees, I was connected to another customer service representative, a charming woman who recorded our new address without any problem, then wished us a "blessed day" at the end of our call. Easy peasy.

So what was up with these weird multiple-choice questions from our distant past, just to change an address? I have no idea. It was bizarre.


  1. Strange! I think I would call back and ask.

  2. Those are the same kind of questions they ask on the state sights for claiming missing money, sound like a hacker intercepted the call

  3. To update the database that FedEx uses to identify people most likely. Also, most likely part of using the database is they use FedEx to update their files.

    Like when you look for someone online and you get all these possible relatives and possible cities you have lived in. When you call FedEx and then they relay the information, the database is theoretically more correct.

    kathy in MS

  4. There is a freaky weird identity confirmation system used by some companies some of the time that pulls information from your past, usually but not always from your credit report.
    I've had the IRS, the Post Office, and a couple of private companies use it.
    I wanted to refuse to answer questions they have no need to know, but they were situations were i had no option.

  5. I recently had to answer similar questions to verify my identity in order to change an address on some online accounts. I started with my 19 year old son’s account (with his permission, of course) and “passed” no problem. Then I went to do my own and the questions were for things so long ago… an old phone number, a license plate from years ago, etc… that I failed to pass my own! So ridiculous!

  6. I had to answer similar questions asking for information going back more than 20 years in order to access some forms online for a tax accountant I started using *this year*.

  7. Totally unreasonable and irritating. That said, is another terrific place to look for that kind of obscure information if have to find it

  8. There is so much identity theft their probably covering all their bases to ensure your packages get to you & not someone who SAYS their you.

  9. They are stealing your be sold probably.

  10. They are stealing your be sold probably.

    Mama J

  11. Patrice, the amount of information readily available on anyone now is rather disturbing. Without paying a dime, I can find out people likely related to me, my political party affiliation, my religious preference, and at least the towns I have lived in - were I to pay money, I could get precise addresses and phone numbers (it is all a matter of public record).

    I was having a conversation last night with a friend about a job he is applying for. When he expressed his difficulty in finding out about the position, I suggested he start researching his potential coworkers on LinkedIn (a business and career oriented social media site). "You can find a lot out about a person there and the job they are currently at" I told him.

    It is a very good lesson about the fact that if one customer service rep causes a roadblock, just try calling again. Especially at larger companies, the chances you will get the same rep are small.

    And yes, phone trees are of the Devil.

  12. Sometimes you get the customer service from Heaven, and other times you get the customer service from Hell, because Earth is where the two overlap.

  13. That's totally legitimate. They pull very old information for you--it's not anyone stealing information. I've gotten questions about a town I lived in in 1991, and so on. Pretty standard ID confirmation these days.

    Though of course I'm sure the conspiracy nuts are soiling themselves.

  14. Yep, standard questions they pull from a data base. I've had to answer similar questions when changing an address on a credit card account and opening up a new savings account online. Annoying for sure, especially, when the questions relate to something decades old.

  15. Try getting a top secret clearance. Not only did I have to provide detailed information of my entire life but names of people I barely knew. They even interviewed my childhood druggist, teachers, friends employers and neighbors.

  16. If you can access your FedEx account online, you need to see if you can change those types of security questions that way, and fast, before something like that happens again. Sometimes companies add security features without your input, grabbing what info they think is correct, and that may have happened. But you really need to look into it pronto, before it causes a problem. Supply chains are getting bent outa shape and you may find yourself needing to fix it, without the ability to.

  17. Things seem to be getting more and more intrusive. I went to deposit a refund check from a nationally well known business, and they issued the check thru their corporate office. My bank questioned me about the check and why was it an out of state check before accepting the deposit to which they then placed their normal out of state hold on. It was intrusive and a hassle, all for $30. I left feeling like the cashier thought I was a criminal for depositing the check. I've never been questioned like that before.