Tuesday, July 8, 2003

Stealing my name on Amazon

I finally got acknowledgement from Amazon about a bizarre identity theft that someone seems to have pulled on me. A couple of months ago, I checked to see whether my 1989 book, HoopStats: The Basketball Abstract, was still out of print. Sadly, it was. But when I clicked my name, I got quite a surprise. It seems that I’ve actually written two books! The second one, “Betting to Win on Sports: Wayne Root on Risk,” had absolutely nothing to do with me, but I was listed as an author. The hell was this??

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This could’ve happened in more than one way. The simplest solution is that the books were printed by the same publisher within a month of each other, have similar ISBNs (0553347691 vs. 0553347896), and my name somehow got mixed up on the list. The second reason, which I prefer to believe because it’s more nefarious, is that I was the victim of reverse identity theft.

Here’s how I imagine it works. The author of the book, Wayne Root, runs a sports gambling site. My book was about sports statistics (no gambling involved). At some point, Mr. Root decided to improve the flow of visitors to his book, and maybe to his gambling site, by rigging the search on Amazon. The thousands of daily visitors looking for HoopStats would see a second book, click on it, and eventually search for his Web site and end up on it. Even if it weren’t thousands of people, two or three would be enough to pay for the free listing. He also listed his name with two spellings, just to make sure that people could find it.

So I complained to Amazon a couple of months ago. They did nothing. I checked back the other day, and my name was still up there promoting a sports gambling book. I realized that the only mail Amazon reads is the reviews that people post, because they’re making sure no one mentions a competitive Web site or problems with Amazon. So I posted a review:

SUMMARY:Why am I listed as coauthor?
REVIEW:I ran across this on Amazon, and for some reason I'm listed as a coauthor.
I most certainly did not have anything to do with this book. (If I did, I want my royalties!) The nearest I can figure, the author wanted to drive people to his seminar series by catching the few people who looked at my sports stats book and followed my author listing. My name has been domain hijacked!

I've contacted Amazon about taking my name off this, but of course they haven't done anything about it. Thanks, guys.

That worked. Within a couple of days, I received a response from Amazon.

-----Original Message-----
From: book-dept@amazon.com [mailto:book-dept@amazon.com]
Sent: Tuesday, July 08, 2003 2:59 PM
To: Joshua Trupin
Subject: Your Amazon.com Inquiry

Thanks for writing to us at Amazon.com. Your message was referred to the Book Catalog for attention.

We have entered in the changes and are pleased to report that the author correction will appear online within the next 3-4 business days.

Thanks again for taking the time to send us this information. Please let us know if we can be of further assistance -- we appreciate hearing from you!

Best regards,
Sara Jarolimek
Book Catalog Department
Amazon.com, Inc.

The moral of the story? If you want to communicate with Amazon, leave it as a comment on a book.

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