When real life security isn’t good enough

I debated whether or not I should tell this story, but I decided that I would since I haven't done anything wrong.

Recently, I had to change the mailbox key of a condo that I rent out.  The only problem is that I don't have the key for it, so I had to call a locksmith down to open it up.  They told me on the phone that they would have to drill into it and that there would be a charge for that.

I decided to go down there and wait for the locksmith.  But while I was hanging around, some lady saw me and thought I was acting suspiciously (I was standing by my car, waiting, feeling rather bored).  So, she called the police on me.  The police came by and asked me what I was doing.  I said I was the owner of the property and I was waiting for a locksmith to come down to replace the locks so that I could give a key to my tenant.  And, that's exactly what I was doing. 

The police believed my story.  They asked me if I lived there, I said no; I was the owner but not the occupier.  They said "So, there's no one who can vouch for you that you live here?" I replied in the negative.  I couldn't prove it... though I did have my ownership papers at home and I sure have poured a whole pile of money into the place in the past year (worst investment decision ever).  They answered "Well, you can appreciate how weird this looks but we believe you."  And it all went clear sailing from there.  They radioed it in, took my information and then told me to have a nice day.  They then left. 

I breathed a sigh of relief... even though I didn't do anything wrong.  But consider this:

  • I showed no proof that I owned the condo unit.  They took my word for it.

  • I couldn't prove that I owned the unit, even if I wanted to at the time.
  • I had a credible story and seemed like a normal guy.  I wasn't nervous in front of the police and I wasn't displaying any signs of deception (touching my neck, sweating, shifting from side to side, tense body, etc).

The whole point of this is that theoretically, I could have done this to anybody's mailbox so long as I had a credible story rehearsed.  The very fact that I wasn't asked to prove anything makes me kind of nervous.  If I could do this, couldn't anyone?  There were security measures in place to stop this kind of thing (people thinking I was suspicious, police coming down to investigate) but I had gotten around them.

I could simply say "I'm a real estate owner, my tenant just moved in, and I need to replace the locks."  Or, why couldn't I go a couple of steps further?  Why not get a copy of an electric bill, change the address and photocopy it or scan it with a color scanner and printer, and then print off a copy?  I could then go up to anyone's home, call a locksmith and say "Hey, I'm locked out after getting the mail.  Could you help me out?"  I could then produce proof of residence, so long as I had a credible story.

I realize that people are trusting, and I didn't have that nefarious look in my eye.  But if I ever switched to the dark side, it probably wouldn't be that difficult.  No wonder phishers are so successful.

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