My name is Zander, and my best friend is trying to ruin my life. It started out very small, but has quickly grown out of control.
I'm currently sitting inside a church, using their WiFi to post this story and taking advantage of their air conditioning. I’m posting this story in case… Well in case he finds me and kills me soon. It's only a matter of time now, and I want someone to know what happened before I die.
Two years ago, my friend David and I were sitting on the couch at my house thoroughly bored. It wasn’t a temporary boredom either. It was a resounding boredom with life. We both worked full time at the local movie theater making minimum wage and cleaning up after idiots who couldn’t keep popcorn and soda in their mouths. We had graduated high school two years prior and had no plans to attend college.
Life looked bleak for us. College didn’t sound appealing, work was annoying, and the little free time we had was blown on video games and YouTube. We both still lived with our parents too, which made dating somewhat embarrassing. Looking back, I’m sure we were suffering from mild depression on top of everything else.
These life circumstances blended together to create the perfect storm for what I now have to call my reality.
As we sat on the couch at my parent’s house, channel surfing the TV, David asked me if I was bored with life. I responded in the positive, and he sighed.
“High school was so easy because we knew our purpose and our goals were set for us. Outline the english essay. Finish the math homework. Get decent grades. Pass the driving exam. Be home by curfew. Find a girlfriend. Now that we’re out of high school, there’s no structure. Our lives have become meaningless and we are just floating through space with no aim or purpose.”
“Would you go back to high school then?” I asked. He shook his head.
“In the moment, high school was annoying. It’s only after looking back that I see how much better it was than I realized.”
“What’s the solution, then?” I asked.
“Either go somewhere that has structure and can deliver what high school gave us, or create our own structure,” David replied.
“Well I don’t want to go to college or the military,” I said. “And I can’t think of anywhere else that provides the same structure. Guess I have to make my own, but I have no idea where to start.”
“The thing about high school was that it required a minimum effort. If you didn’t give that minimum effort, you would face the consequences. The consequences were bad enough that you and I would put effort into school. When high school ended, that minimum effort level decreased. Now our minimum effort is not enough to improve ourselves. Whatever structure we build has to have those consequences built in and a minimum effort that forces us to improve constantly.”
David was, and is, a very intellectual person. He thinks about everything, if you can’t already tell. I was pretty dumb compared to him, but I stuck around because he always had interesting things to say. This conversation definitely counted as interesting.
I won’t bore you with the entire conversation that we had, but it lasted an hour where we discussed how to build structure into our lives.
I want to emphasize here that boredom is dangerous. Well, it’s not dangerous by itself, but it can quickly lead to dangerous things. Boredom can lead to pain, accidental children, technology that disrupts a monopoly, and even death.
Our boredom led to a dare.
“I dare you to try and ruin my life,” David said.
“What does that mean?” I asked.
“It’s a way to build structure into my life. If I know that you are always trying to ruin my life and actively trying to make me fail, then I am driven to fight back and act on initiative.”
“But how could I ruin your life?” I asked.
“You could ruin anyone’s life if you gave it enough thought, planning, and action,” David said with a smirk. “I’m not going to give you any ideas. I just want you to try and ruin my life.”
I remember sitting back and thinking about what he meant. The first thoughts that came to mind were about tripping him occasionally, or hiding his toothbrush every time I went to his house. My young mind didn’t fully understand how serious David was being. His mind was running three tracks above mine, so I didn’t know what I was getting into when I said, “okay, I’ll try to ruin your life. But I dare you to do try and ruin my life as well.”
He smiled with a newfound enthusiasm, and I smiled back. I had hoped it would be a great way to relieve my boredom with life. David stood up and punched me in the leg as hard as he could. I shouted at him, mostly out of surprise. He just laughed.
“The dare starts now,” he said, grabbing his shoes. “We are no longer friends, we are nemeses.” He opened my front door and looked over his shoulder. “Good luck,” he said. “I hope you’ll work half as hard as I will.”
Once he left, I just sat there rubbing my sore thigh. Okay, I thought, if he wants a war, he’ll get a war.
That night, I had laid awake trying to think of ways to make his life harder for him. My ideas were all so childish and useless compared to what he would later throw at me. I’m too embarrassed to list my ideas from back then.
I wish I could say I remembered the day David turned against me for real. But it was so subtle that I didn’t notice right away. To my face, David acted completely normal.
While we were at work, I would sprinkle popcorn over a section he had just cleaned and point it out to him. He would just laugh, and say, “is that supposed to ruin my life?” Then he would clean it up. I expected him to do the same to me, but he didn't. His lack of visible retaliation made me bored again so I stopped. Looking back, I suspect that behind my back he was sabotaging my image with our other co-workers and our boss.
Out of the blue, my boss called me into his office and told me that I was fired because I wasn’t doing a good enough job. David acted sorry i was leaving and we promised to hang out again soon.
I left, thinking I could make this something good and get a real job. That dream died, and I ended up at McDonald’s instead.
After I had been at McDonald’s for a month or so, my parents confronted me. They asked me if I had been stealing cash from their wallets. I had never stolen a cent from them, and told them so. They backed off, but only for a week until my mom’s debit card went missing.
They confronted me again, this time very angry. They accused me of withdrawing several hundred dollars using my mom’s debit card. I have no siblings, so it wouldn't have been anyone else in the house. It turned into a screaming match and they demanded that I move out as quickly as possible. With my small cache of savings, I found an apartment near the local community college that housed college students. The rent was affordable enough for me, so I moved out within the month.
I moved in and became instant friends with two of my roommates, Clark and Ivan. Our other roommate, Isaac, kept to himself and stayed in his room playing video games 24/7. Life got good again because I hung out with Clark and Ivan frequently.
David and I had stopped hanging out after I was fired from the movie theater. I hadn’t forgotten about him, but I had forgotten about the dare. Every once in a while, I would message him on Facebook or shoot him a text to ask if he wanted to hang out, but my messages were always ignored. Eventually I gave up.
Within six months, I had a great life going. I was dating a girl named Katie, I had been promoted to crew trainer at McDonald’s, which paid better, and my bank account was slowly growing.
I only recognize this as David’s doing when I look back, but an obscene amount of junk mail showed up with my name on it every single day. Magazines, credit card offers, vacation ads, and even physical letters from real people who claimed to be excited to be my new penpal. I sorted through them every day trying to find some pattern. Clark and Ivan thought it was hilarious. When I came home late from work, they would sometimes toss the junk mail in the air like confetti as I walked through the door, cheering that the Mail King was home.
One day, I remember feeling sick of getting all this junk mail and deciding to sit down, call every subscription to cancel. I recruited Clark and Ivan to help me, and we sat down with snacks one afternoon and started to crank through phone calls.
In a few days, the tide of junk mail subsided and we celebrated our efforts. That only lasted a week.
The next week, it started coming back in full force. There was twice as much as before, and even some pornorgraphic magazines in the mix. Not only did my physical junk mail increase, but my email became unnavigable through all the new spam messages. Google moved a lot of it to the spam filter, but there were still hundreds of emails that made it through. My email had been subscribed to websites I’d never even heard of.
Clark and Ivan were blown away by the new tide of junk mail. The event was dubbed “Return of the Junk” and became a great ice breaker for Clark and Ivan to introduce me to other people at parties.
One day I was browsing Facebook’s “People You May Know” section when I came across someone’s profile that had my picture, but a different name. The account was open for anyone to view and had a lot of porn posts, status updates full of swearing, and praises to Hitler. I frowned when I clicked on their pictures. Most of the pictures were the same ones from my Facebook account, but there were some pictures of me that weren’t on my account or anywhere else online. Keep in mind, I didn’t remember my dare to David, so I was feeling pretty creeped out.
I hit the report button and let Facebook know that the account was a fake and went on my way.
I think three months or so later is when more stuff started to happen. Katie and I are getting very serious and discuss moving in together. The junk mail still rolls in and I’ve started to just throw it away. Ivan has moved out to go to an actual university, so a new roommate Jackson has moved in. Clark and I attempted to befriend Jackson, but he’s similar to Isaac and locked himself in his room most of the time.
A new game became available for pre-order, so I submitted my email to reserve a copy. When I tried to log into my email to make sure the reserve code was there, I couldn’t log in. I hit “Forgot Password” and it asked if I wanted to use my phone number to reset the password. I pressed yes and waited for my phone to light up. It never did. I pressed the button three more times, but no text ever came. I tried old passwords I used to use, but none of them worked. I frowned, but eventually just walked away from my computer. I’d try again a different day.
I sat down on the couch and pulled up Facebook on my phone. A popup appeared. “You’ve been signed out,” it said. Then it jumped to the login screen. I thought I’d hit the logout button on accident, so I just typed in my email and password. It didn’t work. I tried again, but it still told me the password was incorrect.
My phone buzzed in my hand. Katie was calling me. I answered it and immediately became concerned. She was sobbing.
“Katie?” I said.
“You coward,” she spat. “You don’t get to just Facebook me that shit, no you have to talk to me and tell me with your voice.”
“Katie, what are you talking about?” I asked.
“Don’t play stupid, asshole. Say it.”
“You Facebook me and say we are through, but when I call, you deny everything? What the hell are you trying to pull, Zander?” Katie hissed.
“Katie, my Facebook got hacked! I was literally just trying to log in when you called. Are you at home? I’m coming over. We are not done, we are far from done, sweetheart.”
It took me some time to convince Katie that it hadn’t been me, but she relented when I showed her that I couldn’t log in. I googled how to get my Facebook account back and contacted their helpcenter. Thankfully, they were able to get me back into my account. Lots of links to porn sites had been posted all over my page by whoever jacked my account, so I spent time deleting all of those. I also spent time answering family members who asked about the “strange content” I had been posting. Awkward.
Katie also found out through her feeds that my Twitter and Instagram had been hacked. The accounts were posting hundreds of crude messages and pictures. Those two sites took a little more effort, but eventually I regained control over those too. Fixing my email took a couple of days, but I got access again.
Not wanting to repeat the experience, I made my passwords into really long strings of numbers, letters and symbols. Each account had a different password. For anyone who has done this, you know how impossible it would be to memorize your passwords. I wrote them down on a sheet of paper and put it in my dresser drawer. I didn’t intend to get hacked again.
I'm telling you where I put the paper so you'll know how freaked out I was when Facebook signed me out again the next week. I checked my other accounts. Locked out again. I shot Katie a text to warn her and then called the Facebook help center again. They gave me access to Facebook and gave me the same warning about making a long password.
When I told them the type of precautions I had taken last time, they suggested checking my computer for viruses in case there was a keyloggers collecting all the information I typed.
I called a computer repair center and asked what I needed to do to get my computer scanned. They asked me to bring it down and they'd check it out.
I had a desktop, so ‘bringing it down’ required a lot of unplugging. When I got down behind the computer to unplug everything, I found a tiny USB stick that I'd never seen before. I frowned and tried to locate its contents on the computer. The computer said no USB was attached.
The computer repair guy confirmed that the USB drive was a keylogger. He asked if my computer had ever been anywhere that anyone could walk up and use it. I told him no and he said he had no idea how it could have gotten there.
He didn't charge me anything, just warned me to keep an eye on my computer.
I changed all my passwords again, going through the motions to get my accounts back.
A few days later, I received three, yes THREE credit card bills in the mail. I still had the habit of skimming through the junk mail in case there ever was anything super important. I'm glad I did, because I might never have found out about the credit cards that were registered in my name.
I called the credit card companies to inform them that they were mistaken. I had never signed up for a credit card. My parents had warned me about them so often that I'd been deterred from ever getting one. Before you comment and tell me I need them to build my credit, yes I know that now.
A quick google search told me what to do next. I called Equifax, which is a company that calculates your credit score and tells creditors that it's okay for you to open a credit account. I placed a 90-day fraud alert on my credit. They said they would call me if anyone tried to open a credit account in my name.
The dude at Equifax was kind enough to tell me what I needed to do next. He asked me to go online and view my credit report. If I saw any accounts I didn't recognize, I was to write them down and fill out a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) explaining the situation. Once I had that submitted, I was to file a copy of it with the police and create a police report. Then I had to take those two reports and call each of the credit companies that had issued credit to my identity and start the dispute process. I instantly felt very discouraged at the amount of effort this would require. It felt utterly insane to be required to follow all these steps just because I was the victim of identity theft. God damn.
Clark was horrified at what had happened and looked at his credit score. He was relieved when it came back clean. I made Katie check hers too just in case. Also clean.
I'll take a minute to tell everyone reading that you are entitled by law to one free credit report per year from each of the three credit score companies. That means you can and should check your credit three times a year. Clark and I set reminders on our phones to check the scores again in 4 months. I asked Katie to do the same.
When I first found out about the accounts, I had called my parents to ask if they had opened any accounts in my name. If they had, I'd at least know who the culprit was. They told me they hadn't opened any accounts, and I warned them about my problems. They promised to check their credit score.
Two weeks after I had called them, my dad called. They found fifteen fraudulent accounts between the two of them. What the hell? I told him the steps he needed to take, and he was grateful for my help and warning.
I know this is boring to read, but I want you to realize how insanely painful it was to fix all of this shit. Seriously, watch your credit reports and nip identity theft in the bud before it happens to you.
I had requested detailed bills from the credit card companies that had issued the fraudulent accounts, and they mailed them to me. The bills were full of online purchases. The accounts had been opened almost a year ago, and in that time they thief had spent $62,000 between all the fraudulent accounts. I was pretty upset that in a full year, I had only just found any credit card bills in the mail. I must have been tossing them with the mountains of junk mail. Now I know that the masses of junk mail were deliberate and calculated so the bills would blend in and hopefully get thrown away
The first few transactions were from stores like Target, Walmart, etc. But the further down I went, the less I recognized. One word stuck out to me: bitcoin. I had learned a little about it from my Facebook feed as I had some friends from high school who touted it as the next real currency. According to the credit card statements, several thousand dollars had been exchanged into bitcoin.
I started really researching bitcoin and trying to figure out what it was and why an identity thief would want it. To make the explanation short, bitcoin allowed my thief to make completely anonymous purchases online. It was as if he'd gone to an ATM and drained all the credit cards into cash. I didn't foresee the credit card companies ever getting their money back.
David now had a hell of alot of cash he could use to ruin my life. I didn't know it was him at the time, obviously, but now I do.
Guys, identity theft is a serious crime and is very damaging to everyone in the economy. And while the theft had been bad, my life was about to get a whole lot worse.
That’s all I have time to write for now. I have to go and get some serious shit taken care of. I'll write again as soon as I can.
My name is Zander, and my best friend is trying to ruin my life.
Credited to Zandsand90