Why Does UPS Know Everything About Me (But Can’t Say When My Package Is Being Delivered)?

The questions that came up when I tried to register with MyUPS.

The questions that came up when I tried to register with MyUPS.

Anyone who has tried to get day-of-delivery tracking from UPS knows that the typical response from a company rep is “It’s on the truck for delivery and will come sometime today.” But while UPS seems to know very little about where exactly your parcels are, it has access to a surprising amount of information about where you’ve lived, who you’re related to and other personal data.

L.A. Times columnist David Lazarus learned this after a reader expressed her alarm at the verification questions she’d been asked while trying to register online for MyUPS.

The questions were the kind you’re more accustomed to seeing on credit applications and mortgage pre-approvals — Which of these addresses have you lived at? When was your child born? Which of these people is closely related to you? — but not the sort of thing you’d expect when signing up for a stupid package-tracking service that really doesn’t do much unless you ante up for the $40 premium version.

I tried it (see above) and was surprised to see my sister’s married name on the list of people I might be related to, but I only faced the above three questions. Granted, those were odd enough to be asked by UPS, but Lazarus says his attempt at registering with MyUPS was almost Orwellian.

Yeah, there was the question about where he’d lived before, and the one about which street he didn’t live on, but then it said it needed more information to verify his identity:

“I provided my birth date and was presented with a trio of much more specific questions. The first asked the month that my wife was born, and it included both the correct month and her full name.”

All this just to sign up for a service that gives you text alerts and “approximate delivery times”? It also allows you to have packages left with neighbors, but many UPS drivers have been doing that for long before there was ever a MyUPS.

Even UPS admits that customers find the questions invasive.

A rep for the company admits to Lazarus that some customers abort the sign-up process after being creeped out by the security questions, but maintains that “We need to make sure that we’re sending packages to the right people… We’re doing this to prevent fraud.”

UPS does not pull this information from its own database of customer information, but uses an unnamed third-party business that cobbles these questions together from public records.

The question is, are you actually getting anything for the hassle of answering these personal security questions? After all, you probably didn’t need to answer all these questions when you bought that $2,000 computer that’s sitting in the back of the UPS truck. Why does it need to verify that you are who you are just to get a text message that the truck is somewhere nearby?

Even the premium version of MyChoice still only gives you a 2-hour delivery window — and that’s for a fee on top of your $40 membership. This version does include a “deliver to another address” option at no extra cost, but since you presumably used a credit or debit card to pay for the membership, UPS should be able to track down anyone who tries to abuse this by redirecting someone else’s parcels.

UPS program delivers unnerving surprise [L.A. Times]