HP sends family's ID info to stranger

August 17, 2009 6:25:48 PM PDT
A series of mishaps left a San Ramon family wondering if their identity was safe from thieves. It was all the result of a comedy of errors that had no body laughing. It was a case of Murphy's Law. Everything that could go wrong for the family did go wrong.

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Yoni Mulugeta had what he thought was a simple problem to fix. His computer kept freezing on him. He sent it into HP for repairs but it came back with more problems.

"So, not only did I get a computer that the problem is not fixed, I also got a smaller hard drive to boot. So, I just felt cheated at that point," he told ABC7.

The hard drive he sent them had 250 GB. The one he got back only had a 100. So, he sent his computer back to HP. But, the problem remained unresolved.

"It still only has a 100 GB hard drive. Whether they fixed the problem or not, they still didn't even put the correct size hard drive," Mulugeta said.

That left him wondering what happened to his original hard drive. The answer came from a phone call to his mother, from a woman in North Carolina.

"The lady called me out of the blue. She called me up and said, 'I think I have your computer,'" said Mary Amenu. "What do you mean?" she asked. "'Well I sent my computer to HP and they sent me a computer back and when I log on, what I get is your stuff,'" the caller told her.

The woman told her she even found paper work in the box with all of Mulugetas personal information.

"Everything is social security numbers. Everything is driver's license numbers. Everything is all our personal information," Amenu said.

Ironically, Mulugeta's family owns an appliance repair shop and they pride themselves in providing good customer service. HP offered to fix the computer again, and send the woman in North Carolina a formatting disk to wipe out all of Mulugeta's information from the hard drive.

But, Mulugeta and his mother felt safer getting the hard drive back. The two felt vulnerable to ID theft.

"In the wrong hands, I'm screwed. They literally gift wrapped my information for them," Mulugeta said.

So, the pair called 7 On Your Side. ABC7 called HP and within a month Mulugeta had his old hard drive back, and HP sent him a brand new computer. HP blamed the problem on a mix-up at its repair facility.

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