The journalist formerly known as ...

I'm not who you think I am. Well, that's not quite true. I know some of you don't like to think about me at all, or if you do it's accompanied by a quick spit on the ground.

I'm not who you think I am.

Well, that's not quite true. I know some of you don't like to think about me at all, or if you do it's accompanied by a quick spit on the ground. However, there are those out there who think they know me and believe I'm a reporter working for

Computerworld in New Zealand.

Apparently this is not true. Let me explain.

I received a phone call from a chap in Bangkok the other day. He was very polite and chatty and wanted to know whether I was the only Paul Brislen in New Zealand. I have checked around online and as far as I'm aware there may be one other Paul B in the UK (hi there), who is probably a cousin, but other than that there's not one who's made a noise on the web. It's not a common surname, though I did discover a small European town called Brislen.

So I said as far as I'm aware I'm the only one. Interesting, he said. Because I've been approached to invest in a company that is backed by a Mr Paul Brislen from New Zealand. They make ceramics, apparently.

After a lengthy discussion we decided that, yes, it was probably a scam and, no, he wouldn't be investing his money. He'd been given two email addresses (paul.brislen@yahoo.com and brislen@justice.com) but decided to use Google to check me out as well. Lucky for both of us really.

I contacted Yahoo about this, and it must happen quite frequently because I received an automated reply asking me to send them a fax with my photo ID on it and they would close the account. There's not really much I can do about the other address as it's kind of vague and there are other legitimate Brislens out there.

While this whole saga is kind of creepy and not a little strange, it made me think. What would happen if this guy was sending out the next version of the Nigerian spam email in my name? Would I find my name added to the world's supply of spam filters? Possibly. Or terrorist-related stuff? What would it do to both my credibility and my ability to do my job?

There are screeds of free web-based email services there are out there (as a start, check out

www.emailaddresses.com/email_web.htm), and I would almost recommend going to these sites and registering every version of your own name you can think of (full stops, underscores, initials, numbers and so on) just to be on the safe side. If you spend a lot of time on the web -- as I do -- you need to protect your online identity. And for the record, no I don't have any business interests in south east Asia or any place else for that matter. Do let me know if you hear otherwise, won't you?

Brislen is Computerworld Online 's reporter. Or at least he thinks he is. Send letters for publication in Computerworld to Computerworld Letters.

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