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Ask Slashdot: What To Do With Other People's Email?

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the care-of-general-delivery dept.

Communications 619

vrimj writes "I have a common enough first name / last name combination that I sometimes get other people's email at my firstname.lastname@gmail.com account. It isn't a big deal if it is a person; I let them know, they fix it. The big problem I am having is with companies and websites. These emails are often no-reply, which means I can't send back a quick note. I got someone's credit card bills for three months before I realized there was nothing for it but calling the company (I tried a couple of emails first). Recently I got a notice about someone's kid signing up for a website. I don't have any option but to hit the response button, and tell them that I first have to say I am that kid's parent or guardian. I didn't know where to go from there. Today I get an invoice from a cable company; it is for a different state. I can't reply. I go to the online support, they tell me my only choice is to call the sales office. I gave in for the bank, but I am not talking to someone else's cable company. Is there any way to make emails to an improperly formatted gmail address bounce or do something else obvious? Is there a technical solution I am overlooking. I doesn't happen that often but it is an increasing PITA with no-reply email addresses. I hate just setting up a filter because that cuts off these other people who made a typo or had someone not enter something correctly, but it is looking like the best choice. It isn't spam, but it isn't my meat."

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619 comments

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You're approaching it all wrong. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36376588)

This sounds like an opportunity to have a little fun. Request a few Miley Cyrus posters, or some KY his and hers samples. Send back a picture of your crotch. The possibilities are endless....

Re:You're approaching it all wrong. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36376610)

I have a gmail address like this too. I had fun with some in the beginning, but got bored of it after a while. Now I just mostly delete them.

I recently got CC info with address and SSN too. It can be quite dangerous in the wrong hands.

Re:You're approaching it all wrong. (3, Interesting)

Defenestrar (1773808) | more than 3 years ago | (#36376938)

If the emails of "please correct this address" don't work and if you get PII like this; you can probably turn the company in for violation of state or federal laws. Especially if it's ever medical related info (HIPAA). That'll get results fast.

Delete it (3, Informative)

kylegordon (159137) | more than 3 years ago | (#36376592)

It's not your meat...

Seconded, delete it. Don't look, fix, or help (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36376718)

I know it sucks, but in a sue-happy world that one nice thing you do for someone could be misconstrued as an invasion of privacy. Then being helpful turns into an angry back and forth from someone who doesn't understand it was their mistake to begin with. Worse yet they claim you looked at their incredibly-privileged-yet-somehow-goes-through-email messages that has now totally harmed them.

Just delete these emails. Create a filter, make sure you're not storing stuff anywhere, and leave it be.

-Matt

Re:Seconded, delete it. Don't look, fix, or help (2, Insightful)

PC and Sony Fanboy (1248258) | more than 3 years ago | (#36376772)

I know it sucks, but in a sue-happy world that one nice thing you do for someone could be misconstrued as an invasion of privacy

... wait, you mean a sue-happy country, right?

Re:Seconded, delete it. Don't look, fix, or help (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36377002)

... wait, you mean a sue-happy country, right?

Who do you think you're kidding? I hear plenty of stories about sue-happy brits, and sue-happy south africans, among others.

Re:Seconded, delete it. Don't look, fix, or help (4, Interesting)

arth1 (260657) | more than 3 years ago | (#36377050)

A sue-happy world.
About a decade ago, long before this became a common problem, I got an e-mail meant for someone at a .co.uk address, but they sent it to .com instead. I replied that they had the wrong address, and if they could please update it so I didn't get their e-mail, I would appreciate it.
The result was that I got a scathing reply back, implying that I was a criminal, and that this would be reported to the police.

The problem is that those who can't even be bothered to enter a correct e-mail address aren't going to bother reading the technical details, nor figuring out what or where the problem is, and will likely draw the conclusion that you somehow stole their e-mail.

I'm tempted to automatically put all e-mails to my domain that isn't for me on a web page, for public consumption. While most of them are obviously spam, some appear to be quite, um, interesting if you have odd kinks. As long as I announce this as a public service, would I be in my rights to do so?

A better approach (2)

Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) | more than 3 years ago | (#36376822)

Write to your Congresspeople asking them to create a law requiring businesses to address the problem, sort of like a second anti-SPAM act. Write to the Consumer Protection Bureau (if it gets off the ground), the FTC, or whatever other jurisdiction the sender may fall under. Write articles to your local paper--if you write well, it's an interesting enough problem they may well publish it.

Re:Delete it (3, Insightful)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 3 years ago | (#36376882)

Agreed. They're not his e-mails, and he shouldn't be involved. Let them figure it out as to why their e-mails didn't get received. Recycle those bits.

Re:Delete it (1)

truthsearch (249536) | more than 3 years ago | (#36376886)

Must... resist... weiner... joke...

uh, change your email address? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36376598)

Occam's Razor and all that?

Re:uh, change your email address? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36376686)

The purpose of Occam's Razor is not to slit one's own throat. If you get junk mail to your house that you don't want, do you go and buy a new house? Someone at work put something for the wrong department in your mail slot - do you quit your job?

Re:uh, change your email address? (1)

kvvbassboy (2010962) | more than 3 years ago | (#36376780)

No. Simplicity on surface hiding underlying complexity (from having to notify 500 contacts about your email address change) is not Occam's Razor. Occam's razor would be to simply delete it, or mark them as spam.

I know it may sound insensitive (5, Insightful)

jawtheshark (198669) | more than 3 years ago | (#36376602)

Frankly... Filter them out. It is not your job to fix their problems, because in fact that's what you suggest doing. The companies got those email addresses from their client and if they didn't it is and it belongs in your junk folder. Getting on the phone with those companies costs you time and money, and that's where it ends.

I would not suggest filtering out all messages that contain "no-reply" or similar in their From field. I'd suggest that if you get such a misdirected message, you add a custom filter directly to trash (not Junk, that may screw the Bayesian filter). Try matching on the subject or so, for example, for the cable company it typically will have a subject "CableCo Bill of 06/2011", then filter on Subject: "CableCo Bill".

The example you gave with the kid was most likely on purpose done by the kid. I'm pretty sure a kid trying to activate an account would try with a phony email or something else, not realizing that in fact that won't bring them closer to activation. If it does, the activation of the website they applied for is broken. (Besides, really, a clever kid just makes his own "parent email account" and circumvents the system).

Re:I know it may sound insensitive (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36376710)

I agree, filter it to trash instead of dirtying the Junk Filter pool.

Re:I know it may sound insensitive (2)

Fwipp (1473271) | more than 3 years ago | (#36376960)

I don't have as common a name as the submitter apparently does, but just two weeks ago I got mail from a sheriff's office concerning a domestic dispute the intended recipient had been involved in. It was probably just clerical error, but I'm very glad I was able to correct the mistake.

Re:I know it may sound insensitive (1)

jawtheshark (198669) | more than 3 years ago | (#36377054)

Yes? You were nice enough to contact the Sheriff and notify them of their error. That's nice, but in no way your obligation. You may have been on a three week vacation and read it when it was too late. Still, setting up manual filters for every occurrence as I described in my post covers this situation, as the Sheriffs mail would have ended up in your Inbox and you would have read it. The decision on what to do would still be left to you. This falls into the category of "reply-able" emails which is not the actual problem the "Ask Slashdot" person described. His problem was mainly with the non-reply-able addresses. My comment covered those. Anyone with a normal email address can still be informed by a quick note. That doesn't take much time and doesn't cost much money. However, as it is not your obligation, it is down to your own ethics.

Re:I know it may sound insensitive (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36377014)

Frankly... Filter them out. It is not your job to fix their problems, because in fact that's what you suggest doing. The companies got those email addresses from their client and if they didn't it is and it belongs in your junk folder. Getting on the phone with those companies costs you time and money, and that's where it ends.

...

You hope that's where it ends. It's nice that you try to be a good Samaritan and help but you are likely exposing yourself to some liability, or perceived liability, in this lawsuit happy age.

Not your problem. (5, Insightful)

grub (11606) | more than 3 years ago | (#36376608)


Mark it as spam and delete it.

Most people will ask "Did u getz my e-Mailz?" the moment they see you. When the intended recipient replies in the negative, they will clear things up.
If it was a company sending it, it's still not your problem.

Why not just ignore it? (4, Insightful)

Doctor O (549663) | more than 3 years ago | (#36376616)

Really, why not just ignore it and throw it all away? If people sign up with the wrong addresses, they might as well notice it themselves...

Simple solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36376618)

Stop trying to deal with other people's typos, it's not your problem, it's the problem of the person who is signing up for these services and the companies they do business with. When one of these misdirected e-mails comes it, mark it as junk and move on. There is no point in wasting your time.

Filter (4, Insightful)

pluther (647209) | more than 3 years ago | (#36376642)

Direct the email into the trash.

If the person who was supposed to get it cares, they'll call the company and ask why they're not getting it, and fix the address then.

If they don't care, then it doesn't matter.

We all get email we don't want or care about. Dump it.

"It isn't spam, but it isn't my meat." (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36376648)

Ah, sounds like Anthony Weiner just made a simple typo.

Tell the person (2)

TwiztidK (1723954) | more than 3 years ago | (#36376652)

Let the person these emails are supposed to be going to know that it happens a lot so they can correct it, assuming you can find their email address .

Re:Tell the person (2)

jawtheshark (198669) | more than 3 years ago | (#36376726)

Oh, come on... That' s pretty much next to impossible. He says he has a common name, let's assume "John Smith" who is subscribed to CableCo in State ST. That's it. If he really has a very common name/surname combo I can assure you there will be hundreds of "John Smith" in State ST. Finding them, with the limited information you have, is even more time consuming and expensive than calling CableCo.

If the address of said "John Smith" is in the bill, you have a better chance, but still, it will cost time and money. Don't do it. It's their problem.

Re:Tell the person (1)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 3 years ago | (#36376976)

Tangent here, but I wonder if there is some improvement in modern times as to parents naming their kids incredibly common names. Just personally, if my last name was "Smith" and I had a kid "Joe", "John", "Sue", "Sally", etc would all be off the table immediately. It would have to be Plaxico Smith or something like that.

Re:Tell the person (1)

sonnejw0 (1114901) | more than 3 years ago | (#36376752)

I also have received a few mistyped emails, where my email address contains no period between my names, someone else's is the same but does contain a period. I have not received important information, just friends of this other person typing in the wrong address. I've simply responded letting them know and I have not gotten them in a long time, but if you're getting important stuff like bank data, then email the person they are supposed to be going to to let them know. I RECOMMEND NOT FORWARDING THE EMAILS, i.e. the emails with bank account information, because that will probably upset someone possibly into suing you for hacking or something dumb like that. People are paranoid these days.

In addition, I have filled out my online profiles to include state of residence and a photo picture just in case anyone is searching for a person they know they can verify very quickly that I am not that person. It helps.

Re:Tell the person (1)

MrOctogon (865301) | more than 3 years ago | (#36376920)

I'm pretty sure gmail accounts are unique regardless of periods. You can use no periods, or periods between every letter in my gmail address, and it will still get to me.

Re:Tell the person (1)

belphegore (66832) | more than 3 years ago | (#36376982)

This is exactly what I do. I have 3 people who commonly misuse my gmail address, and all share my name. One is a retired Air Force colonel in Virginia, one is a real estate agent in Texas whose wife uses his email address for her clothing design business a lot, and the most recent is an Australian whose daughter has recently gone off to college and uses her dad's email address for some reason. I enjoy vicariously living part of these 3 folks lives. I have found all 3 of their real email addresses, fairly easily, and I forward their mail to them. Generally this encourages them to be more careful about not mis-entering their email addresses on web forms, etc. and in insisting on the correct spelling when giving their addresses to others, thereby reducing the future burden on me. I think all 3 of them greatly appreciate it when I do forward the mis-directed mail to them, and generally I don't twice get misdirected mail from the same source: they do fix the sender's problems for me. If the 3 of them weren't so geographically spread it might be harder -- but there are almost always clues in the email as to whether the intended recipient is in Texas, Virginia, or Australia -- or whether a teen girl, retired AF colonel, or realtor/clothing designer.

Ignore it (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36376656)

I have a bunch of common throw away web mail accounts similar to fake@yahoo.com, nobody@hotmail.com etc..

It is funny how many people sign up for accounts and use those addresses for confirmation. I have about 10 myspace, facebook, photobucket, photo sharing sites etc accounts at my disposal.

Just ignore them. If a company is sending a bill to first.last@here.com and that it is coming to you, either the real first.last is an idiot and gave them the wrong address or you are getting spam.

Careful (4, Insightful)

Anrego (830717) | more than 3 years ago | (#36376658)

It isn't spam, but it isn't my meat.

It sounds like this isn’t the case, but I’d point out that “accidently” sending email to the wrong person is getting more traction as a spam and phishing technique. I’ve seen stuff recently (I have a fairly common email too) that goes way beyond the classic and obvious “hey man, here’s the projections you wanted. You were right, you should invest in SomeShitStock right away!”. Again, the stuff you talk about sounds legit and you probably already know this, but just incase, be-careful!

As to the actual post. I do much as you do. If it’s an actual person, quick reply sorts it out. If it’s automated and there is an _obvious_ support or admin email link (most businesses seem to have a “if you have received this in error” link now) I’ll do. But as you said, there is a point though where you have to draw the line at how long you’ll play phone tag for someone else’s benefit. I always figure stuff like that eventually works itself out anyway. I don’t want people going through billing nightmares, but unreasonable is unreasonable.

On that note I’d point out that any company _billing people_ over email should have one of those activation link via email dealies. Most web forums have that, you’d think a cable company could manage to confirm an email before sending out personal info (in fact, here in Canada I think they legally have to).

Same problem here (2)

falloutboy (150069) | more than 3 years ago | (#36376660)

I too have a very common firstnamelastname@gmail.com. For personal emails, I just reply and let them know they've got the wrong falloutboy. One guy, a screenwriter in LA, gave my address to a lot of his family, so I had to have kind of an awkward exchange with his mother and one of his aunts who CONTINUES to send me photos of her young son. This is weird stuff I don't want in my inbox.

For the DirecTV emails, I submitted like 15 messages to their general customer service inquiry form. That took like four months to get completely cleared up.

Once I got looped in on an email thread where the other three people were high school kids using Facebook, so my only method for actually communicating was that I had to add as a friend a high school girl. I'm a 30 year old man. My wife was less than thrilled.

Re:Same problem here (5, Funny)

EQ (28372) | more than 3 years ago | (#36376716)

I got looped in on an email thread where the other three people were high school kids using Facebook, so my only method for actually communicating was that I had to add as a friend a high school girl. I'm a 30 year old man. My wife was less than thrilled.

Congressman Weiner, is that you?

Re:Same problem here (1)

gnapster (1401889) | more than 3 years ago | (#36376836)

anthonyweiner@gmail.com doesn't sound so common, to me.

Re:Same problem here (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36377088)

ZOMG! ROFL!

Re:Same problem here (1)

PC and Sony Fanboy (1248258) | more than 3 years ago | (#36376748)

. I'm a 30 year old man.

On the internet, you can be ANYONE.

Re:Same problem here (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36376756)

I had to have kind of an awkward exchange with his mother and one of his aunts who CONTINUES to send me photos of her young son.

So have a little fun. Send her a picture of goatse and your problem will vanish immediately! Bonus points if you get the guy in trouble.

Re:Same problem here (1)

ferongr (1929434) | more than 3 years ago | (#36376788)

You missed an event flag.

Re:Same problem here (5, Funny)

arth1 (260657) | more than 3 years ago | (#36376850)

The solution is simple enough: Change your name to "Vorokrytin P. Winterbuttocks", and I can guarantee you that it won't be a problem in the future.

Re:Same problem here (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36376864)

That's why you have a second fake Facebook account... You'll readily find a few "friends" so it looks real. Really, it's not that hard. Posted AC as I'm a 35 year old married man :-)

Not your problem (1)

kitserve (1607129) | more than 3 years ago | (#36376662)

Delete it. If it keeps coming through from an individual source, set up a rule to automatically delete it. It's the only solution that isn't going to take up more and more of your time (apart from abandoning the email address).

Ignore it. (1)

snarfies (115214) | more than 3 years ago | (#36376666)

I ignore it. It isn't my responsibility to route somebody else's email. And if I'm stuck on somebody else's email address, I set up an filtering to 1) discard all email from that address, and 2) send an autoreply to unsubscribe, which may or may not annoy somebody at the sender's origin.

ignore them (1)

stewartjm (608296) | more than 3 years ago | (#36376668)

It's been happening to me for ages. I just ignore any emails that are obviously intended for someone else. It's not my job to fix it.

I also get a chuckle when I receive emails with a disclaimer which claims I MUST destroy the email if I'm not the intended recipient. It's such an incredible display of arrogance.

"Report spam" to keep them out of your inbox (1)

CmdrPorno (115048) | more than 3 years ago | (#36376672)

Beyond that, if they're personal e-mails, I usually reply and tell them they have the wrong address. If someone sets up online billing, it's their responsibility to ensure that they're receiving the e-mails. It's no different than if you failed to get a bank statement or credit card bill via snail mail--you know you owe the money, and need to call in to find out how much.

New email address? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36376674)

I'm guessing that's "not an option" for you. Too bad, because not only is it the cleanest solution, it is the only solution that won't turn out half-assed.

Write a letter (1)

Fnordulicious (85996) | more than 3 years ago | (#36376676)

My solution to the problem was to look for the person’s name and address in the billing information being sent to me. Obviously writing them an email is impossible. So I wrote one person a nice letter warning them about the issues of fraud and identity theft, asked them to fix their email address records with various companies, and encouraged them to be more careful with their personal information. It worked, all the stuff from one lady no longer appears in my inbox. Unfortunately *someone else* has started to do the same thing, so I’ll need to dust off that letter soon.

"bounce" in Mail.app (2)

j-beda (85386) | more than 3 years ago | (#36376680)

For Apple's Mail.app there is a "bounce message" which returns something pretty much like a "no such address" type of response. There are probably plug-ins for Thunderbird that do the same, but where I looked for them I mostly found plugins that "redirect" mail to addresses of your choice keeping the headers intact - so there may be an issue with terminology that might complicate your search for a solution.

Just click delete (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36376688)

Stop trying to be a nice guy.

Same thing here! (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36376696)

I have an uncommon first.last name combo, but still end up getting signed up for weirdest things... there appears to be a kid in Croatia with the same name, and of course, there's no way to reach out to him and inform him of the mistake he repeatedly makes.

As a last ditch effort, when he finally signed up to facebook [with my email], I reset the password, logged in and messaged a few of his new friends that this is "not the John Smith you are looking for", politely explained the situation, and asked them to kindly inform their friend to change his password. Due to age more than anything, they totally freaked out [thinking I haxxored into their account to steal all their info... or something:], as the wall posts of "OH MY GAAAWD!!!" quickly followed... but the dude does seem to be more careful since :)

UNSUBSCRIBE (1)

DoomHamster (1918204) | more than 3 years ago | (#36376714)

  1. 1. Click Reply All.
  2. 2. Subject "UNSUBSCRIBE"
  3. 3. ???
  4. 4. Profit

Dumbass (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36376722)

Are you really this stupid? Why is it your problem and what is wrong with deleting them, filtering them, or a host of other things that are a lot easier than the amount of time you've put into this? Finally, you type a wall of text about it to slashdot. Herp derp my email duh.

common enough and.. (1)

tirnacopu (732831) | more than 3 years ago | (#36376728)

The big problem I am having is with companies and websites.

Is your name Billing? Sony Billing?

Change your email (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36376738)

firstname.lastname@gmail.com is a recipe for spam email. Try to get firstname.mi.lastname@gmail.com at minimum if you name is really common.
Or purchase a custom domain and forward those emails to a gmail account.

lastname@yourdomain.com -> forward to -> nickname@gmail.com

So you dont want to filter it... (2)

djsmiley (752149) | more than 3 years ago | (#36376744)

but you also don't want to bother fixing it....

Fix: Get a different email address.

Have Fun with It (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36376758)

I got email meant for Joe Lieberman and his wife for a long while back around 2002. Imagine the possibilities.

This is Why I Stoped Participating on Slashdot (0)

TechnoGrl (322690) | more than 3 years ago | (#36376778)

"I am receiving emails that do not belong to me. What should I do?"

When I joined Slashdot many years ago it was a cutting edge forum of interesting news with interesting comments - very techie.
Now this makes the front page.

Oh... and the new ajax anti-user interface {sigh}

Re:This is Why I Stoped Participating on Slashdot (1)

space_jake (687452) | more than 3 years ago | (#36376872)

Aren't you participating by commenting on this topic?

Re:This is Why I Stoped Participating on Slashdot (1)

Frederic54 (3788) | more than 3 years ago | (#36377062)

Many years ago with a 6 digits ID?

;-)

trivial solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36376784)

1) Change your e-mail address to something less obvious. Has its' draw backs, of course.

2) Report the corporate ones to the police as identity theft cases

Start using a different address away (1)

the_olo (160789) | more than 3 years ago | (#36376790)

It seems from your description that this is becoming a significant nuisance.

So just get a new account, with a non common e-mail address, notify all your contacts and start using that.

On the original account, put an automatic reply notifying the sender that they probably got a wrong address.

Dots are not processed for gmail accounts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36376794)

Dots are ignored when sending to gmail accounts, so firstname.lastname@gmail.com is the same address as firstnamelastname@gmail.com. So it's not just a . typo - they've actually got the letters wrong in the person's email address, which I guess would make me less interested in trying to help them. http://mail.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?answer=10313#

I had the same problem... (1)

ospirata (565063) | more than 3 years ago | (#36376798)

.... and 1 month ago I found out that I was co-authoring a paper in Veterinary.

Filter + Canned message (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36376810)

Set up a canned message in GMail, telling them the email is an error. Set up a filter to bypass the inbox, delete, and reply with the canned message to all future emails from that address. Done.

do what we used to do... (1)

bmo (77928) | more than 3 years ago | (#36376814)

Post them to alt.flame. Deleting your own email address, of course.

--
BMO

Ditto (1)

ChrisGoodwin (24375) | more than 3 years ago | (#36376816)

If it's a personal email, I mail them back and let them know they've got the wrong guy. If it's some web site that they've signed up for, I'll try to log in and leave a comment to their profile. I've gone as far as poked around for phone numbers and called and texted them (that freaks people out, but... not my problem). I'll also often change the email to "not(address)@(domain)" and even sometimes randomize the password.

Some of the no reply ones I've marked as spam, and there's at least a couple of people (individuals) who I've emailed back more than once and told them I'm not their guy. No response, and continued emails. Those go into the spam folder also.

Re:Ditto (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36376984)

This. Exactly what I've done as well. Anything that's for junk sites, corproate emails etc gets unsubscribed of filtered as spam just like anything I might have normally brought on myself, but in a few cases I've recieved personal emails that were things like offers to help get their children to cancer treatments etc...and in those cases I made the effort to email back and tell the original sender to try to get ahold of my doppleganger in some other way. Kids shouldn't have to pay for their parents being unable to spell their own name.

Google does this to me (1)

LearnToSpell (694184) | more than 3 years ago | (#36376818)

Somebody signed up for Orkut Brazil with an address for one of my domains (catch-all caught it). I'm perfectly happy to "give" them that address, and have it forward somewhere else, but of course I can't contact them. Dear Google: if you're going to continue to spam me, have a fucking contact address. I know you're all very busy doing no evil, but maybe *some* point of entry would be useful.

I just set it up so that any mail there bounces to all the abuse@ addresses I could find, but that's not the greatest solution.

Your making the problem worse. (1)

tempest69 (572798) | more than 3 years ago | (#36376824)

If there is an expectation that email will be handled correctly even if sent to the wrong address, then people get more careless. Companies get more lax in their procedures. The problems frustration equilibrium stays at a higher value. Much like people typing in captcha values for nonsense, it ruins it for everyone.

JUST...DELETE...THEM (1)

oldmac31310 (1845668) | more than 3 years ago | (#36376834)

I know I'm not the first to say it, but seriously, just delete them if they are not yours. It is not your responsibility. Better still, as others have said, filter them out if they are cases of recurring senders.

Just change the email... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36376838)

To one that can't be so easily confused with someone else's.

Header issue? (2)

gavort (176290) | more than 3 years ago | (#36376844)

my GF has been getting a bunch of these for someone else that has the same first initial as her. After getting a few very personal email replies obviously directed at this other person, she attempted contact (as these folks were replying to an email this other person had sent). There was much confusion between the two of them until I suggested that I look at the headers. It seems that this other person had configured their mail client to set the "Reply To" header to be my GF's email. Unfortunately, even upon trying to explain to this other person what was going on, this other person won't/can't fix it so she is apparently going to be stuck never having anyone be able to reply to anything she sends out. It's kind of frustrating, because it's such a simple fix/problem, but seems to be out of the realm of non-techie folks.

gmail issues (1)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 3 years ago | (#36376854)

Not sure if they've addressed this situation, but Gmail has/had a problem with the dot between first.last@gmail.com. It is actually ignored. john.shopkin@gmail.com, johnshopkins@gmail.com, and johns.hopkins@gmail.com would all route to the same address. I've gotten a couple that were addressed to someone else, and the position of the dot was one space off. Completely different last name.

Re:gmail issues (2)

petefine (871424) | more than 3 years ago | (#36376992)

This is not a problem, it's a feature. both addresses are yours. I like it since it helps avoid misdirected emails if someone accidentally adds a . in my address. http://mail.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?answer=10313# [google.com]

Re:gmail issues (1)

choko (44196) | more than 3 years ago | (#36377022)

That isn't a problem or a bug, gmail was designed that way. I use that particular feature for filtering mail. I just put the dot in a different place depending on who I am providing the email address to. You can then set up filters based on the incoming mail address. I think its pretty handy.

Re:gmail issues (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36377026)

Then Google is being functionally retarded by allowing more than one account with the same end resulting email address.

the easiest thing to do in the long run (1)

amn108 (1231606) | more than 3 years ago | (#36376856)

Change your email address, my verbose friend :)

Also a problem with recycled addresses (1)

HikingStick (878216) | more than 3 years ago | (#36376860)

I signed up for an address with one of the free providers a few years ago. As soon as I signed in the first time, I ended up receiving multiple messages from the former owner of the account. I've managed to get rid of all of the unwanted messages except for one--from a major university that keeps sending me crime and safety notifications. They have no contact information published in the email message, and attempts to get to a responsible person through the switchboard have been useless.

If it's that much trouble for you, either filter out the offending messages (based on senders/subjects), or switch email addresses.

Re:Also a problem with recycled addresses (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36377044)

You could try bouncing the emails to postmaster@put-the-apropriate-university-here.edu or abuse@put-the-apropriate-university-here.edu, that might get someone sufficiently annoyed to convince the mailing list maintainer to remove your address from the list

Have fun... (5, Funny)

wmbetts (1306001) | more than 3 years ago | (#36376878)

I get this one guys mail all the time. I've manage to sign him up for bbqs and all kinds of fun stuff. If I remember right I even told them my "daughter" wasn't allow to go on some field trip.

First Email "
Dear Bentley Families,

You are receiving this email because we still have not received a gift or pledge from your family towards the Annual Fund.* While we understand that this has been a particularly challenging economic time for many of our community members we hope that you will still consider a gift or a pledge to the Annual Fund. In an effort to keep tuition as affordable as possible, Bentley, as other Independent Schools, sets a tuition level below our annual operating costs. The difference, or gap, between tuition and the price of a Bentley education is covered by Annual Fund dollars raised. This year the gap is $1,500 per student. While we do not expect every family to give at this level we do expect each family to participate to the best of their abilities. Every dollar donated will be used this fiscal year towards the benefit of your children.

You may make an easy no-fee gift by credit card by clicking on the GIVE button on the right side of our home page: www.bentleyschool.net . You may also mail in a check or make a donation of stock. No gift is too small. Every single gift counts. We receive gifts from $1 - $40,000. Please join us in supporting Bentley to provide the very best education possible for our students.

Avoid a call- make your gift or pledge today.

Many thanks sincerely, "

My reply"
To Whom It May Concern:

I would love to be able to help with your fund raiser, unfortunately due to the current economic situation I will be unable to help with your fund raiser. I'm doing everything I can just to ensure my daughter has a proper eduction. This includes a list of things we've had to cut from out normal lives. Two of the major things we've had to cut out is electricity and food. While we do have some food, we have no electricity in the conventional sense. I have to power my computer using a battery being recharged from stolen lemons (my neighbor has a tree). Is there any way you could maybe have a fund raiser or pass around a donation plate to help me and my family?

Humbly Yours,"

This goes on back and forth for a while with his daughters school.

Same thing with snail mail (4, Insightful)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 3 years ago | (#36376896)

I have the same thing happen with snail mail - mostly bill collectors. Apparently they just LOVE trying to guess at addresses and track people down. There is another person with my first and last name (different middle) born in the same state as me on the same day (I found all this out while sorting out similar problems I was having with his crap showing up on my driving record).

At least every 3 weeks I get a new collection notice from some company trying to get money from him. I call them up and they always act as if I'm trying to cheat them or something. One collection agency actually tried to convince me it would be better to just pay the guys bill anyways. Thing is, since he's SSN is different none of them ever make it to my credit report, so if they don't take my word for it I don't care too much.

Did have an interesting traffic stop once though. I didn't know why it was taking so long until the cop came back asking whether or not I had any narcotics charges on my record. After that processed for a second and realizing he wasn't just messing with me we got it cleared up. He was close to calling for backup as my "evil twin" (as I've come to refer to him :)) was supposed to be incarcerated at that time.

undeliver button (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36376902)

we need an undeliver button. A way to just bounce the message back as not able to be delivered. This should handle all cases because the message was not truly delivered. It should be the companies responsibility to monitor for messages that were not deliverable and update the accounts.

I just mark them as spam (4, Informative)

andymadigan (792996) | more than 3 years ago | (#36376910)

I typically just mark misdirected messages as spam. I didn't request the message (so it's unsolicited), and it's the sender's duty to get the address correct, I'm certainly not going to put time or thought into fixing it.

I once got an e-mail from Dell that gave me a login to someone else's account, including their name, address and various other bits of information. I called them to fix that. I also got an e-mail from classmates thanking me for opening a new account, I closed the account.

Bottom line - if someone's signing up for a service, they better get the address correct, and online services should ALWAYS verify the address (by sending a message to it that contains a link) BEFORE finishing account creation.

Same problem with snail mail (2)

scharkalvin (72228) | more than 3 years ago | (#36376912)

After buying a new house we started getting snail mail addressed to the former owners. Most of it was junk which just get put in the recycle bin. Some were bills which we marked as 'return to sender' and handed back to the post deliver person. Eventually, a collection agent rang our bell to serve a legal notice, we told them to take a hike as the person they were looking for is now in parts unknown. That stopped the bills from coming.

make a blog + get rich! (1)

schlachter (862210) | more than 3 years ago | (#36376930)

1. Take all these emails and post them your very own blog!
2. Advertise on your blog!
3. ....
4. Get rich.

Make work the idiots work (1)

sjwest (948274) | more than 3 years ago | (#36376940)

If they buy stuff like air tickets reply that you did not order then cancel the order. That will annoy somebody so that they only do it once. airlines are happy to oblige.

I still get some idiot on comcast who has a the wrong domain names in there m$ email client setup and tries to access our email servers now and again. Dont expect change.

I changed the addressing format as well however short fred@fredsmith.tld accounts are out of the question, the spammers might be reduced but those addresses still are for sale never to be removed.

Change your email (1)

Moof123 (1292134) | more than 3 years ago | (#36376942)

Delete it, and create a more unique email for yourself. John.DoeZIPCODE@gmail.com for example Of course that likely means that down the road you'll be stuck wondering who is getting mail meant for you.

happens even to uncommon names (1)

John_Sauter (595980) | more than 3 years ago | (#36376952)

My name isn't all that common, but even so this has happened to me. I first learned about a "john Sauter" in southern California who is some kind of medical doctor when he traveled to a conference and I got notices from his hotel. I told them that they had the wrong e-mail address, and thought no more about it. However, I kept getting other messages obviously intended for him. When there was a reply address available I would politely tell the sender that I am a computer programmer in New Hampshire, not a medical professional in southern California.

It got a little scary, though, when he sold his practice, and a lawyer sent me the legal paperwork. I don't know what kind of trouble you can get into by receiving legal papers intended for someone else—it would be easy to run afoul of the insider trading rules in the case of a public company, or HIPPA rules for medical information.

I've been getting someones tax returns for years.. (1)

Ironhandx (1762146) | more than 3 years ago | (#36376958)

About 3 years ago I started getting emails regarding tax returns from Intuit. All for a guy by the same name except he's from Georgia, USA.

I've tried contacting them, to no avail. Intuit says they can't send him anything due to privacy etc, meanwhile I'm getting all of his details in an email.

Since I had his address and everything I even tried calling the guy, but I guess his number is unlisted or something, couldn't find him. Figured that tax return emails were kind of important.

Same problem w/ gmail (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36376980)

I've got pretty much the same situation with my gmail account, but I'm getting tons of personal messages. I just tell them that I'm not the person they're after, but sometimes that doesn't work. When that happens and I keep receiving e-mail from that person, I reply with messages like, "This Saturday? No, I'm afraid I can't come. That's when my John and I are having our 'coming out' party."

That usually takes care of it.

"It isn't spam, but it isn't my meat." (1)

tokul (682258) | more than 3 years ago | (#36376994)

It is spam. You never asked them to send those emails to you. If email sender does not provide good return address or lies with "we got your address from public sources and you can unsubscribe", when your address is not public, you are free to report them to spamcop.

Run with it! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36377000)

That's what I've done, this website gets about 20% of my misdirected mail from 2 GMAIL accounts. I just don't have time to post it all.

http://sorryitsnotme.blogspot.com/

Gmail Canned Responses (2)

Slashdot Parent (995749) | more than 3 years ago | (#36377008)

I have the Canned Responses set up from Google Labs that has a short, sweet, "Hi, you got the wrong [John Doe]. Don't bother apologizing/replying, I know it was a typo. Just update your addressbook, please."

I just do a quick reply to all with that canned response, and then I assume I've done my due diligence regarding the error. If nobody gets the reply, that's not my problem. If I still get more misdirected mail from that source, I just trash it.

Try using typos of your own (1)

PowerCyclist (2058868) | more than 3 years ago | (#36377010)

Personally I would ignore all this as you may stumble upon private info and that's unethical, but you could try a simple approach. Make an email explaining the situation and address it to as many variations on your address as you can think of. If they don't take heed of your advice to double check their user info for their services, that's their fault. I take the same approach with regular mail for old roommates. I only remind them once or twice in the first month. I don't collect their mail and resend it to them or even tell them to come pick it up, I simply shred it -with the one exception of a diploma! It's up to them to contact the companies of interest and make sure they change their address on file.

Log in as them and change it! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36377034)

This happens to me quite a bit. One thing i've done is goto the website the email came from and use the Forgot Password link to have them send the password to me, then login as them and change the email :)
Doesn't work on every site depending on their security checks, but gets me out of a lot of emails.
Also a lot of what I get is just newsletter type stuff from sites someone signed up for. Most of them have Unsubscribe links at the bottom so I just hit those.

Used to be an issue, but not so much today (4, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | more than 3 years ago | (#36377056)

Back before rising spam levels made this unworkable, I used to have a catchall address for my domains. One of my domains in .com has the same name as a church school in ".co.uk". At the beginning of each term, I'd get some messages addressed to students who hadn't figured out the address yet, and I'd send back a canned reply.

One day I got a message titled "I am going to kill you tonight". This was a bit worrisome. Especially since my site predicted which dot-coms were going to go bust, based on their financials, and I routinely got threats. But those threats were usually from corporate lawyers and CFOs, and threatened litigation. After reading the message, though, it was clear it was aimed at some kid at the school.

This was shortly after Columbine, and it said tonight", so I felt I had to do something. I was able to get hold of someone at the school by phone, and they woke up the headmistress (8 hour time difference) and put her on the line. I read her the text of the message, and she immediately knew who it was. She told me it was a 12 year old kid, and the matter would be taken care of.

It's a good thing it was a UK school. In the US, a SWAT team probably would have been sent in.

Same Problem Here (1)

cdoggyd (1118901) | more than 3 years ago | (#36377058)

A lady in New York sent me pictures of her new purse.

The film crew for the movie The Fighter sent me info about the shooting schedule and on-set parking issues.

I receive flight and car rental reminders for guy in Phoenix.

I've even received bills from a pool company and electrician in North Carolina.

The worst was a California photographer that signed up with numerous photography companies at a trade show.

Sometimes it's it interesting, but mostly it sucks. I unsubscribe where possible and delete the rest.

If you care, do something about it. (1)

Essequemodeia (1030028) | more than 3 years ago | (#36377064)

Sure, you could just delete them or filter them and leave it be. But if you want to do something nice for a stranger (but a stranger who shares your name, which kinda puts you in a special club), why not perpetrate some special trickery in order to determine the person to whom the emails are intended so you may contact them to inform you're receiving mail intended for them. It's really a shame that you can't simply mark emails with "return to sender, addressee not known." It's easy to not care. I'm not suggesting making this your life's effort, but doing something nice for someone you don't know is always a good way to please the cosmos.

Identity Theft? (1)

DERoss (1919496) | more than 3 years ago | (#36377082)

If I started receiving such E-mail messages from companies, the first thing I would do would be to check my credit reports to make sure I am not a victim of identity theft. If the reports are clear, I would trash the messages.

However, it the messages continue to be sent by the same company, I would do some on-line research and determine the postal address of the company's headquarters and the name of the company's CEO. I would mail a postal letter to the CEO with a printout of the message -- with all headers -- demanding the company stop annoying me. I would clearly point out that the messages are going to the wrong E-mail address. Also, if the message was about a past-due bill that someone else owes, my letter would suggest that I might sue for harassment.

their stupidity (1)

e3m4n (947977) | more than 3 years ago | (#36377086)

outside of an obvious case of someone trying your email to see if you are the person they are trying to reach (hey is this bob from phoenix college back in 1998? ) I would reply to every email as if you were a victim of identity theft. Its absolutely crap that you get legal guardian questions about someone elses kid. That means some asshole put your email instead of theres. Those sites arent in the habit of randomly guessing. Respond so that whatever you pick could be the worst possible result for the person who is using your email address instead of theirs.

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