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I don’t have COVID-19. At least as far as I know. The disease is asymptomatic, so the virus could be raging through my body without me even being aware, which is one of the many insidious aspects of this particular virus.

But as far as I know, I don’t have COVID-19.

I say this because I awoke this morning with an email in my inbox informing me that I have tested positive for COVID-19.

My immediate thoughts, in the order that they appeared, were thus:

  • What?
  • I didn’t take a COVID-19 test.
  • Did I take a COVID-19 test and forget?
  • Don’t be stupid.
  • This is a different Matthew Dicks, dummy.
  • This is what happens when you register your name and every possible derivation of your name when Gmail launched in 2009. So many variations of my name at point to me.
  • This is most definitely a HIPAA violation.
  • This might be the biggest HIPAA violation in the world.
  • Wait a minute. Could spammers are using fake COVID-19 test emails to convince me to click on something?
  • Damn. What a horrible way to take advantage of a deadly pandemic.
  • Florida is so criminally stupid. They gave permission to the Miami Dolphins to open their stadium to full capacity. Thankfully, the Dolphins owner said, “No, thank you, you asinine political monsters.”
  • There’s nothing to click in this email. Just text.
  • Not a spammer.
  • Unless the spammers are looking for me to reply to collect my email address, which is also entirely possible.
  • But this looks very real.
  • I know a spammer would want it to make it look real, but spammer emails only look real to aging boomers.
  • If I received this email, I would be very worried.
  • I did receive this email, but you know what you mean, dummy.
  • What should I do about this email? Reply? Ignore?

All of this happened before I even turned on the light in my closet.

As I got dressed, I thought about next steps. For my own safety, I should probably just ignore the email. Delete and forget. Except if it’s real, someone is waiting for a COVID-19 test, and if so, they are positive, which means they could be infecting other people right now. Ignoring it could be disastrous to the intended recipient and anyone in contact with him.

But replying might be exactly what a spammer wants me to do.

Stupid spammers. Get a real job. Stop making my life so hard.

Then I found a solution. I think.

I’ll get a temporary email address. Those services exist online, in case you weren’t aware. Very useful in moments like this. Then I’ll compose a message from that temporary account that informs the initial sender that they have mistakenly sent me a positive COVID-19 test result today and should notify the correct patient immediately. I’ll cut and paste the information in the email I received into this new email and send.

Then I’ll mark the original email as spam and delete.

That should obfuscate things enough to protect me and still do the right thing. There is still a chance that the spammer will read the email and track the information back to my own email address, but spammers operate on volume. Millions of emails sent at a time. They are looking for replies. They are not in the business of digital forensics. I can’t see them checking every reply to ensure that it came from the original address to which it was sent.

I hope.

All of this happened while standing in my closet before 5:00 AM.

I feel like I’ve already had a full day.

Also, the digital world is a complicated place. No wonder so many people get scammed.

In fact, even as I write this, there still might be an angle that I’m not considering. A means by which I am exposing myself to spammers, hackers or worse. The pandemic is bad enough. Keeping myself and my family safe is a full time job,

I really don’t need this added layer of threat and uncertainty in my life right now.