The link between a router and identity theft

by Francois Joseph de Kermadec

Last Saturday should have been the perfect winter week-end evening : a hot cup of cocoa ( no, not carbon ;), a few posts on the Apple Discussions to help fellow Mac users and a spin on the O'Reilly network...

Unfortunately, to my great surprise, my DSL modem died after only six months of use... The black box made the saddest little noise, the green LEDs went berzerk and here I was, with my hot cocoa and no internet access...

Grabbing my coat, I headed to the nearest computer shop to find a (hopefully better) replacement to the modem I was using and got back home in a matter of minutes an hour in fact but good anecdotes are supposed to be short ;-)

I then proceeded to unpack the new beast and to connect it to my trusty iMac to set it up ignoring the user manual who told me to plug it directly into my phone line to enjoy instant connectivity ...

To my great surprise, I noticed that the modem appeared to be already set up... Indeed, it was ! In the very router I had just bought were sitting somebody else's login and password, along with this person's address and provider dialing information.... A closer look at the settings revealed that I had everything in my possession to start browsing the web under this person's name, billing everything on his account (his provider has an online shop that bills users without the need to enter a credit card number, by using the login provided to the server by the modem I know it because I rely on their services too).

So I headed back to the computer shop and quizzed the salesperson who told me that they were in the habit of repackaging the articles that were returned, without always checking that they did not contain information from the previous owner... For the buyer, there is no way to distinguish between really new and used but sold as new items since boxes and placement in the shop are identical...

A quick run on many discussions on the web convinced me that I was not alone and that many customers are sold used products, carefully put in a new manufacturer box and sold full-price, without being initialized first.

The real problem is that, as a buyer, we are given something that we are not supposed to have... And, after all, if I had followed the instructions in the manual, this thing would have automatically logged into the ISP network with the other person's authentication information something that new users may overlook and that could lead them to think that they can resume surfing immediately...

In some countries, especially in Europe where identity theft laws are tightening quickly, this is serious ! Indeed, we can be held responsible for stealing somebody's information when clearly, the reseller is at fault !

This time, I had to get a new modem in a matter of hours, so I couldn't do what I usually do : Indeed, I usually buy all my Macs and computer-related products from the Apple Store and never have the slightest issue. There are refurbs but they are clearly labeled as such and sold at a lower price. If I have a question, Apple answers it in a matter of minutes.

Don't get me wrong ! I am sure most of the resellers out there are serious and don't do that but, clearly, this happens frequently enough to become quite an issue for the buyer !

Until next time, dear Mac users, enjoy thinking different ! ;-)

Has this ever happened to you ? (No reseller names, please ;-)


2004-01-15 08:54:41
Another problem you failed to address is the Fraud perpatrated by reselling something that is used as new. Here in the US, that is illegal. All used items can only be resold as either "used" or "refurbished". I can't believe you didn't demand a discount for purchasing a "used" dsl modem. I certainly would have.
2004-01-15 08:58:31
Thanks ! Unfortunately...
Hi !

Thanks for your feedback !

In the country where I live, re-packaging is seen as an acceptable commercial practice... Unfortunately :-)

What isn't acceptable, though, was that the used modem was labeled as new !

However, my over-the-internet research indicated that this can happen in many, many countries !

Thanks again,