The mystery of the sewing machine: How someone nearly stole my identity


A few weeks ago, I received a surprise: a brand new sewing machine showed up at my front door.

It was a surprise because I didn’t order it. I’ve never owned a sewing machine, and I have no overwhelming desire to own one. I’m not even sure what one does, exactly, with such a machine.

singer stylist 7258 sewing machine, box packaging
surprise package

And yet, there was a UPS label on the front of this box, and it was very clearly addressed to me; it had my name and my address. Everything was spelled correctly and appeared to be in order. I was unambiguously the intended recipient.

So I assumed, logically enough, that this must either one of two things: (1) a gift from some friend or family member, currently anonymous but soon to surely reveal themselves as the generous benefactor, or (2) a mistaken shipment.

Let me also quickly point out that this was also no ordinary sewing machine. It came in packaging directly from the manufacturer, where the return label said SVP Machines. A quick Google search revealed this to be the parent organization of Singer Sewing Company. This was a Singer Stylist 7258, and a quick glance at the Singer website revealed this machine’s retail price to be about $300. The Rolls Royce of sewing equipment!

singer stylist 7258 sewing machine
sewing machine with hieroglyphics

Given that these seemed to be the only two possibilities, I left it in the box and waited for someone to contact me. Surely either a friend who was trying to surprise me would coyly ask me if I’ve received a package recently, or (less likely but still possible) the manufacturer would contact me and say they somehow accidentally sent me their product, and would likely ask me to ship it back (hopefully at their own cost).

But days went by, and then a week, and then two. I heard nothing from anyone. This sewing machine was a real mystery. Where did it come from? Was it truly a mistaken shipment from SVP Machines (i.e., Singer) who didn’t even realize anything was wrong?


After about two weeks, I happened to be checking my recent credit card transactions online. I do this periodically, usually once a month when I receive my statement and I grow outraged and indignant that my bill could be so high. I’ll glance through the transactions looking for something amiss, only to sheepishly realize that one after another is justifiable and I simply spent more than I realized.

But this time, something was different. I saw a charge from May 20 from “SVP Machines” for $826.

That can’t be right.

I’ve never heard of SVP Machines before receiving the sewing machine package a few weeks before this, so I immediately connected the two. This was clearly a charge from Singer Sewing Co. for the machine I received.

I stared at this charge and tried to mentally re-calibrate the likelihood of my previous two possibilities. This was definitely not a friend or family member offering me a generous gift (though the chances of that had already faded more with every day that had passed). My credit card was being charged. That’s not typically how a gift works. That only left the manufacturer making a grievous error, somehow incorrectly charging me and shipping me their product.

But the dollar amount didn’t add up, either. I checked the Singer website one more time to be sure I was looking at the right machine. The Singer Stylist 7258 was still going for $300. So even if this was somehow a mistake, where was the $826 charge coming from? Was I missing something?


At this point, I decided I should investigate a bit further. I looked more closely at the UPS label on the package and yes, my name and address were correct. But among all the bar codes, tracking numbers, and other information on the label, I noticed in the upper corner that it said “2 of 3.” Did this mean there were two other packages in the shipment? That might explain the $826 charge for what appeared to be a $300 product.

I checked the UPS website and entered the tracking number from the label. Sure enough, this was one of 3 packages in the shipment. In the tracking details, it showed that there was a request from the shipper the day after the order was placed (while the packages were still in transit) to re-route them to another city in Washington state that is approximately a 4 hour drive from the Seattle area, in the central part of the state. The other two packages were successfully delivered the day after mine to that address. UPS confirmed they were left at the front door.

This certainly seemed like credit card fraud, although it is still baffling that someone is committing this crime and going to these extreme lengths solely to purchase sewing machines. And even then, why did one of the machines get delivered to me at all?

But I noticed two other things that chilled my blood and removed any doubt that this was fraud, and part of a bigger scheme. My credit card transactions indicated a brand new charge as of June 8: the United States Postal Service (USPS) was charging me $1 for “change of address.” And my credit card account stated that I ordered a replacement card, and the card was on the way.

I never attempted to change my address with USPS, and I never ordered a replacement card.


At this point, I was certain it was fraud and some sort of identity theft scheme, and I started taking action to correct everything with all the parties involved. I spent the better part of a day making phone calls, alternating between navigating automated menus and speaking to real people.

I disputed these unauthorized charges with the credit card company and explained I never ordered a replacement card (someone else must have done so), and so they cancelled the card and issued me a new one. I made sure USPS was aware that I am not changing my address and someone else fraudulently attempted to change it on my behalf, so that my mail would get routed to them.

I spoke to folks at both UPS and Singer, trying to get a name or the exact street address for the location that the other two packages were sent to, but both refused to tell me. All I know is the city. They did say that they can tell law enforcement, and so I also filed a report with the local police, who should get this information and track down the perpetrator.

While I have a new replacement card, and USPS is aware that my address didn’t change, there are still some deep unanswered questions here.

  • Who was responsible for this unwarranted attack on my person?
  • Once they obtained my credit card information and decided to make unauthorized purchases, why did they start (and end) with sewing machines?
  • Why did one of these machines arrive at my door, when the other two were rerouted to the perpetrator?
  • What are the relative advantages and disadvantages of chainstitch, lockstitch, overlock, and coverstitch?

These are questions that may never be answered, and we may need to leave them to the philosophers. But this concludes the saga of the sewing machine and thwarted attempt at identity theft.

Let me know in the comments if you have any thoughts about this strange occurrence, or if you’ve ever experienced something similar.

Seattle, the coronavirus capital of the US

You can’t go anywhere without hearing people talk about the coronavirus (COVID-19) lately. I mean, anywhere. Go for a jog or walk outside, and as you pass other people who are talking, more often than not their conversation is about coronavirus. Same with fellow diners in a restaurant, or co-workers in the office – if you’re still going into the office, that is, and not yet working remotely.


Airlines are reassuring passengers that they are taking appropriate safety measures to ensure that travelers are safe. The stock market is tanking, in part because of the economic harm caused by the virus (or by concern or panic about the virus).

I live in the Seattle area, and closer to home, the situation is a bit surreal. I read a recent New York Times article that prompted me to write something about this. Sure, this is generally a blog about building and launching rockets, but even that is impacted by the coronavirus epidemic and news coverage.

Amazon Spheres, downtown Seattle
Amazon Spheres, downtown Seattle

As the New York Times article notes, Seattle is something like the epicenter for this virus in the United States. The first death from COVID-19 in the US was in Washington state, in King County (which is Seattle and some neighboring areas). As of today – March 10 – the Washington Department of Health is reporting a total of 267 COVID-19 cases and 25 deaths across the state. Alaska Airlines, based out of Seattle, is one of many airlines offering no change or cancellation fees for flights scheduled through certain dates. Amazon and Microsoft, whose headquarters are in the Seattle area, have recommended their employees in the area work from home. Facebook (which has a large Seattle office) has said the same thing.

State and local governments in Washington have also advised people to avoid large public crowded spaces or events. In fact, the governor of Washington has declared a state of emergency, as have several other states across the country, and is banning crowds of 250 or more people.

With respect to rocketry and related activities, some local rocketry clubs have either cancelled launches or warned that people not attend. Similarly, the Lake Washington Ham Radio Club, where I got my amateur license a couple months ago, cancelled its monthly meeting due to the outbreak.

What can be done in this situation except escape Seattle for the remote beaches of Hawaii? That’s exactly what we did last week, and in another post I’ll share just a quick overview of what we did (and, of course, some pictures)!