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I Am a Wanted Man May 28, 2014

Posted by Peter Varhol in Uncategorized.
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In Montclair Township, New Jersey, earlier this month. I was last in New Jersey about eight years ago, at Newark Airport changing planes. I have last driven in New Jersey over 20 years ago.

I have apparently parked in a handicapped parking spot, somewhere, with my car, which at 16 years old has never been to New Jersey.

Okay, I got a summons to appear in Montclair Township Municipal Court. The court clerk was nice enough when I called, which was the only reason I knew that I had supposedly parked in a handicapped spot. Still, she wouldn’t tell me much else, although if I faxed my car registration and a letter attesting I was not there, she would show them to the presiding judge.

I had two thoughts here. First, that this was a shakedown by a cash-strapped local government that just wanted to see how many people would simply pay the fine. Second, that I was the victim of snail mail phishing, or worse, identity theft.

Now, I think it’s mostly an innocent mistake, a misread transcription of a license plate, or a bad database lookup.

I mention all of this as a downside to our data-driven lives. We love it when available data makes our lives easier or more convenient. But it doesn’t always work that way. And when it goes horribly wrong, we believe the data in front of us, even if it was obtained by error, rather than the person on the phone objecting to it.

I think this will work out. But we really need to consider the validity of our data, especially since this may require a trip to New Jersey to straighten out.

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