About a month ago, Andrew Yang, a dollmaker based in Los Angeles, got an unusual request through his Venmo account. “I was like, ‘Holy shit, someone wants $1,000 from me,'” Yang says. “‘I must have messed up my budget this month.'”
But Yang, who is 35, quickly realized that the notification was part of a pattern: since early this year, he’s been regularly receiving messages from people mistaking him for Andrew Yang, the 2020 Democratic presidential candidate. And they often ask him for money.
Yang has made universal basic income a cornerstone of his campaign. His proposed Freedom Dividend would guarantee $1,000 a month to all US citizens over the age of 18, or as Yang put it on Twitter in November, “I’m literally trying to give everybody money.”
Yang, the dollmaker, has made no such promise, but he gets messages once or twice a month–or as many as six after a debate–from people hoping he’ll come through. The requests come mostly via email, and sometimes they’re gruff: “Hey, where’s my $1,000?” Others send him business proposals, asking who they believe to be the Venture for America founder to consider investing.
“They kind of latch on to it and say, ‘Oh my God, this could be a thing that really happens?'” says Yang. “I have two or three emails from senior citizens or people with medical bills who wrote in and said, ‘That would make a huge difference in my life right now.'” Yang’s campaign did not respond to Washingtonian‘s requests for comment.
I’m literally trying to give everybody money.
— Andrew Yang🧢 (@AndrewYang) November 16, 2019
And in some cases, the sender has clearly been joking. A 25-year-old product designer in New York named Andrew Yang, who also received a Venmo request for $1,000, noticed the requester had the word “comedy” in their username. He nearly took a screenshot of it to share, but changed his mind. “I was like, ‘I’m not gonna give him the satisfaction,'” he says, laughing.
While US citizenship is a prerequisite for would-be beneficiaries of the Freedom Dividend, a Canadian man named Andrew Yang, a marketing architect based in Toronto, has also received lots of messages about it.
About once a week since April, he’s received Facebook messages or been tagged in posts by users aiming to reach the Andrew Yang of #YangGang fame. His professional Facebook page, which he set up to promote his freelance work, has jumped from 45 likes to more than 1,100. But the man they’ve been reaching is not the one running for president in the States—he can’t even vote in the election.
“I’m just a skinny Asian guy trying to make it in Toronto,” says Yang, who is 30. “So, for me to get this influx of messages of people who are confusing me [for him], initially, I was just really confused about what the hell was going on. I didn’t even know there was a guy named Andrew Yang running for US President.”
Many of the messages have been straightforward asks for cash or voters pledging their support, while others have been angry and critical. Yang has written about the experience on Facebook and LinkedIn in an effort to clear things up and dissuade people looking for payouts. It hasn’t made much of a difference, but he’s been able to find the humor in the situation.
“When you have the same name and handsome looks as your doppelgänger,” he says, “you have got to take the bad with the good and positive messages around you.”