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Ask Slashdot: What To Do With Misdirected Email?

Soulskill posted about 8 months ago | from the respond-in-character dept.

Communications 388

An anonymous reader writes "My Gmail account is of the form (first initial).(middle initial).(common last name) I routinely receive emails clearly intended for someone else. These range from newsletters to personal and business emails. I've received email with various people's addresses, phone numbers and even financial information. A few years ago I started saving the more interesting ones, and now have an archive of hundreds of emails directed at no less than eight distinct individuals. I used to try replying to the personal ones with a form response, but it didn't seem to help. To make matters worse, I frequently find I can't use my email to create a new account at various sites because it's already been registered. Does anyone else have this problem? Is there any good way to handle this?"

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Get a real mail account (4, Insightful)

Animats (122034) | about 8 months ago | (#45927747)

Get a real mail account and get off Gmail/Hotmail/other free service. You get what you pay for.

Re: Get a real mail account (4, Informative)

MarioMax (907837) | about 8 months ago | (#45927799)

This. Domains are cheap, and hosting/forwarding is cheap. Plus you get some level of personalization.

Also easier to remember. is catchy while is generic and easily forgotten.

Re: Get a real mail account (4, Insightful)

Nerdfest (867930) | about 8 months ago | (#45927837)

Exactly. This also covers the case where your ISP or Microsoft or Google does something that you can't abide by. It decouples you from your provider. You can move to a different email hosting service or even run your own without much inconvenience. It also looks a little more professional than having a HotMail account.

Re: Get a real mail account (1)

sparty (63226) | about 8 months ago | (#45927971)

That doesn't always solve it. My personal address is on my personal domain, which is my name (dot com). My name is not particularly common, but not terribly uncommon, either, and on several occasions I've gotten misdirected email because someone got the domain wrong. My personal favorite was the Verizon FIOS signup info, because clearly the person who signed up screwed up his *own* email address.

I've given up on dealing with them, I just hit the GMail archive button.

(and yes, I could reduce the volume by turning off the catchall inbox feature, but I prefer to leave it on so that I can sign up for websites with unique email addresses and then know which jackasses sold (or lost) my info to a spammer down the road.)

Re: Get a real mail account (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45928105)

If you are hosting your email yourself on your domain, you can setup one-off emails for all those companies. Then you can get real emails from them, while still knowing who sold/lost/was exploited to spread around your email address.

Re: Get a real mail account (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45928127)

Absolutely. I must have avoided the melee since I domained back in '95. Gmail was interesting for porn accounts and whatnot, but now mailinator is better. Gmail isn't good for anything anymore except privacy violations.

Re:Get a real mail account (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45927817)

"Get a real mail account" By any metric GMail is a great service; You'd be hard pressed to find something that offers significantly better service for an individual.

The solution you unknowingly are proposing is not to use a common domain name. Gmail can be configured to use your own domain name for free.

I expected more from a low 6 digit UID.

Re:Get a real mail account (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45927847)

FWIW, you can't (any longer) use GMail with a custom domain for free. Free Google Apps was withdrawn for new signups last year and the for-pay version is fairly expensive.

Re:Get a real mail account (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45927921)

FWIW, you can't (any longer) use GMail with a custom domain for free.

Ho ho ho. My registrar gives me free email forwarding. I have my own domain, it goes to Gmail (currently). Google don't know the difference.

Re:Get a real mail account (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45928031)

Hotmail still does though.

Re:Get a real mail account (1)

pspahn (1175617) | about 7 months ago | (#45928171)

1. Settings button (top right of Gmail)

2. Accounts and Import

3. Add POP3 Account

4. Read email.

Re:Get a real mail account (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45928123)

The problem is that while gmail might look to you like it is providing "email service" to you, that is actually a misdirection.

gmail's customers are not you, the users. gmail's customers are the advertisers. You are the cattle, being sold off to the highest bidder for slaughter. You are gmail's product, not gmail's customer.

Re:Get a real mail account (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45928245)

>You are the cattle, being sold off to the highest bidder for slaughter.

Well, at least slashdot isn't prone to hyperbole.

Re:Get a real mail account (3, Informative)

Tool Man (9826) | about 7 months ago | (#45928205)

Bah. This cranky old guy (with a *four* digit ID) agrees with Animats. Get your own domain, and control your own online presence, with as much or little mucking about as you like.

Re:Get a real mail account (1)

bondsbw (888959) | about 8 months ago | (#45927823)

Obvious privacy issues aside, what is your experience with paid services? I've only used free accounts on Gmail and Hotmail (other than employer accounts and ISP accounts when I was on dialup).

And specifically how do they alleviate the problems described in the post?

Re: Get a real mail account (1)

MarioMax (907837) | about 8 months ago | (#45927915)

I've used my own domain for 9 years with paid hosting thru a major host. Personally I can't stand webmail and stick to traditional POP3 email and for that purpose it suits me. But it is easy enough to set up domain forwarding to services like gmail if you choose (most likely for a fee).

The nice thing about buying a domain is you can pretty much set up unlimited email addresses under the domain for any purpose you choose, or use a single email address as a "catch-all" for said domain. Web services like Facebook won't know and won't care.

As for specific hosting recommendations, they are all about the same in terms of terrible service and support, but I encourage you to research and decide for yourself.

Re:Get a real mail account (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45927947)

Nah, that's not a real solution. Not when you've had gmail since it's inception.

What I'd do is...

Where anytime the email has already been registered, reset it and take ownership of it.
Mark any email sent to you that you don't want as spam. Even if you save it. In theory Gmail will start marking all emails sent from those email addresses as spam or contact the domain of the sender.

If it's your email, who gives a crap. A classic dox'ing of annoying, obnoxious and stupid people is what 4chan does. If you feel that the emails you are receiving contain sensitive info, maybe start posting best stuff on pastebin if you're feeling malicious. Otherwise just ignore it with the spam filtering.

Re:Get a real mail account (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45928153)

That doesn't help if the same domain name exists under other top level domains, e.g. you get, but, and also exist and belong to other people or businesses.

The only plausible solution... (5, Funny)

XPeter (1429763) | about 8 months ago | (#45927749)

Is to change your name

Re:The only plausible solution... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45927893)

Add something more to your name. Like "j.smith1997@nowhere.nul", where the number is something significant to you, maybe the year you were first on the Internet. Or maybe "", or "". Just use something that other people would easily associate with you. (Bonus points if it is the name of your business or describes the service you provide-- within socially acceptable limits of course.)

Re:The only plausible solution... (1)

bhcompy (1877290) | about 8 months ago | (#45927941)

I guess I don't know how lucky I am to be one of two people in the US with my first initial and my last name. The other being my brother. I guess it's nice having a family name only a few dozen people have

Re:The only plausible solution... (1)

pspahn (1175617) | about 7 months ago | (#45928065)

I've often thought the same thing, having a unique name was so convenient!

Now, though, I'm not so sure, as the proliferation of personal information available to anyone means that I don't get lost in the sea of common names.

Re:The only plausible solution... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45928071)

Jimmy Jojo and Joey Jojo? The Jojo bros?

Re:The only plausible solution... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45928077)

Is to change your name

That would be the stupid way to do it. The smart way would be to use a pseudonym, handle, or fake name. Everyone that the person actually wants to communicate with can be told and since the NSA would still be able to use metadata to identify the individual it's an all around win win.

Re:The only plausible solution... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45928095)

Is to change your name

You'd be surprised at the amount of misaddressed email I get at It's rather astonishing, I do say.

Re:The only plausible solution... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45928179)

Change it to Albert Qaeda , or Al for short.
Then all that NSA snooping will pay off as everyone who emails you will get sent on holiday to Guantanamo.

Well, for your second problem... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45927751)

Reset password, follow emailed link, and the account is now yours. And, bonus if it's already been paid for.

Re:Well, for your second problem... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45927979)

Modded funny? I've done this a few times. It has always been a teenage girl.

After the password reset I sign on, delete content, unfriend friends, change the email address, and close the account if that's an option.

Re:Well, for your second problem... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45928155)

Modded funny? I've done this a few times. It has always been a teenage girl.

After the password reset I sign on, delete content, unfriend friends, change the email address, and close the account if that's an option.

I bet you didn't get many dates in high school.

Re:Well, for your second problem... (1)

koan (80826) | about 7 months ago | (#45928159)

None of which you can do if it's Facebook, or any other popular site.

Don't make an email account with your name in it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45927755)

It's just common sense.

Re:Don't make an email account with your name in i (1)

hawguy (1600213) | about 8 months ago | (#45927765)

It's just common sense.

Unless you use a long random string as your email account name, you can still run into the same problem.

Re:Don't make an email account with your name in i (1)

ihtoit (3393327) | about 8 months ago | (#45927813)

my email address is at gmail and is the same as my slashdot username. I get *average* amounts of spam, and zero redirected. That's with a five letter alias. And no, it isn't a random string.

Re:Don't make an email account with your name in i (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45927869)

from here it looks as if you might have to take your counting skills off your CV

Re:Don't make an email account with your name in i (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45927827)

yes... resumes where your email is "" present a far more professional impression than something like ""

No problems (5, Informative)

mysidia (191772) | about 8 months ago | (#45927761)

Just ignore them, or block the sender.

To make matters worse, I frequently find I can't use my email to create a new account at various sites because it's already been registered.

In that case, use an e-mail based password reset, set a new password, and done, as far as having registered for the site, or contact the site's support.

Re:No problems (1)

It doesn't come easy (695416) | about 8 months ago | (#45927957)

Hmmm. It is actually interesting. Email addresses are unique to the world. No one else can create the same value @ domain unless the domain gets sold to another entity (which has not happened to as far as I know). If you have an email address assigned to you from a reputable source, anyone else who sets up an account with that email is already doing something wrong.

I wonder what the legal implications of this is...

Re:No problems (2)

CanadianMacFan (1900244) | about 7 months ago | (#45928043)

Didn't Yahoo just reissue some email accounts that were "inactive"? Never assume that email addresses will always belong to one person for ever and ever. For that matter never assume that an email address even corresponds with a person. It could be a group or even nobody. Or a person could give it to their friend (not good when the account is based on a persons' name). Yes, in the case originally brought up it is a single person. But it doesn't mean that there is a one to one relationship between people and accounts.

Re:No problems (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45928133)

Harassment is one legal implication.

Abandon Your Real Name (1)

rueger (210566) | about 8 months ago | (#45927775)

A bit of a joke... anyhow, if you have e-mailed them once offering (I assume) to forward misdirected mail, and they haven't bothered to answer, you're well within your rights to just set up an auto-delete using Gmail's filters. Good manners always is the first option.

If you're archiving and reading other people's misdirected e-mail you're a little bit creepy though, and I somehow doubt that you'll do this.

As for the rest of your problem, just set up a second Gmail address with a nonsensical middle name (first initial).turnip.(common last name) and have it forward to your "real" gmail address. Problem solved.

The great thing about G-mail, Facebook, and pretty much every site that isn't a bank, is that you can in fact make up a new name and have it work.

Re:Abandon Your Real Name (1)

aardvarkjoe (156801) | about 8 months ago | (#45927891)

As for the rest of your problem, just set up a second Gmail address with a nonsensical middle name (first initial).turnip.(common last name) and have it forward to your "real" gmail address. Problem solved.

This is actually a good idea even if you don't have the problem that the original poster had. I created a new gmail account with that general idea a little while back which I use for things like online retailers. It makes it really easy to filter those emails out of my personal inbox, which can be a pain sometimes otherwise.

The addresses would let you do something similar, but they've got a couple serious drawbacks -- many (in my experience, probably "most") websites will reject an email address with a + sign, and also it exposes your actual personal address. Using a separate gmail address solves those.

I do wish that Google would come up with a proper disposable email address solution.

Re:Abandon Your Real Name (-1)

pspahn (1175617) | about 7 months ago | (#45928097)

I do wish that Google would come up with a proper disposable email address solution.

You mean like ""? Try it and you'll find it still makes its way into your inbox.

Re:Abandon Your Real Name (2)

mhotchin (791085) | about 7 months ago | (#45928239)

If only the parent had *specifically* addressed this, and pointed out the major shortfalls with this method...

Name? (-1)

It doesn't come easy (695416) | about 8 months ago | (#45927777)

Sorry, no one in their right mind would use their real name as their email address.

Re:Name? (1)

mvar (1386987) | about 8 months ago | (#45927853)

This. As for misdirected email, i had a similar problem a couple of years back when someone decided to use my email (no real name) for his facebook account. As it seems email confirmation is optional and the guy made a full profile, added friends etc xD

Re: Name? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45927855)

You mean all non 14-17 year old boys are out of their mind?

Get off my lawn.

Re:Name? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45927877)

Just send a CV with an e-mail address like these:

These examples say something about you that you might not want to transmit on your CV.

Re:Name? (1)

It doesn't come easy (695416) | about 8 months ago | (#45927989)

Heh. Obviously some email names would be inappropriate for certain situations. That's why I have no less than 400 separate email addresses. It also makes it harder for various TLA groups to positively connect one email to another...not that I'm paranoid or anything...

Are you really that stupid? Jesus Christ. (-1, Troll)

realmolo (574068) | about 8 months ago | (#45927783)

Change your e-mail address. Problem fucking solved.

Man, talk about "white people problems".

Re:Are you really that stupid? Jesus Christ. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45927835)

Yes, because no one, ever, in the history of the world, has had his or her e-mail address tied to enough things that what you suggest would be not just inconvenient, but a fucking stupid idea.

Man, talk about willfully ignorant jerk problems.

Re:Are you really that stupid? Jesus Christ. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45928107)

Man, talk about "white people problems".

I'm pretty sure a bunch of people in China & India encounter the same "common last name" problem. And last I checked they aren't supposed to check the "white, white, lilly white" box on any forms.

Re:Are you really that stupid? Jesus Christ. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45928145)

But it's not an real problem for them, that's the difference. They just change their e-mail address and move on.

Use more dots.... (1)

kootsoop (809311) | about 8 months ago | (#45927787)

GMail allows all sorts of variations on your email address. Suppose it is Then or are also valid versions and will come to your inbox. You can also add a + and any text after it: will also work. Note that many places see "+" as an invalid email character, which means this isn't as useful as it might be.

Re:Use more dots.... (1)

Jaktar (975138) | about 7 months ago | (#45928109)

This is exactly what I was going to bring up. I use the form (full_name_no_periods)@gmail for regular things. Any other variation is set to filter to spam.

Slashdot time machine? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45927791)

What the hell, is this a question from dial up days? Somehow the rest of the world has solved this problem by themselves in the last 20 years. Don't use such a common fucking address.

you're not the only one (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45927795)

I have a similar situation. My favorite one was when somebody set their internet connected security cameras to email the pictures to me. It looked like a nice house.

I've started just cancelling web site accounts. Just use the "lost password" links, change the password, and you own the account and can close it (If they actually allow anyone to actually close an account, lots of sites don't).

gmail plus sign postfix (5, Informative)

watermark (913726) | about 8 months ago | (#45927803)

Well, I have a solution to your "email has already been registered" issue. Gmail will treat as the same address as, both will go into the account. Give the site an email address with a plus sign postfix like that and it should detect it as a new unique address. Some sites don't allow the plus symbol in email addresses (even though it's a valid character), so mileage may vary.

Re:gmail plus sign postfix (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45928169)

Mod parent up!

Re: gmail plus sign postfix (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45928217)

Lots of sites won't allow a + in the email address though.

Re:gmail plus sign postfix (2)

whoever57 (658626) | about 7 months ago | (#45928247)

MANY sites don't allow the plus symbol in email addresses (even though it's a valid character), so mileage may vary.


Seriously, having used "plus-addressing" for many years, I can attest to the fact that many websites won't accept it.

I know of one site where I did register years ago, but their de-registration page won't accept the "plus-address" that I used to register (, I'm looking at you).

Yes (4, Funny)

chill (34294) | about 8 months ago | (#45927805)

Yes, I have this exact same problem. However, I do not keep other people's e-mail.

I have been able to track down the correct people to whom the e-mails belong. In two cases, the people are lawyers and the e-mails contained either personal or confidential information. Another case is a general contractor, and I've received quotes from subcontractors, blueprints and general correspondence. In one case it was a confirmation of tickets for a theme park. (I debated showing up as soon as the park opened and claiming the tickets, but ethics got the better of me.)

These people now reside in my address book. I forward the e-mail in question over to them, and CC a copy to the sender.

One guy kept signing up for things using MY e-mail address instead of his. ( vs He finally got the hint when *I* got the login information for his account. (Ethics was still distracted by the theme park tickets case and lost.) Considering he was a single lawyer in San Francisco, I think my updates indicating he was gay, submissive, into BDSM and wealthy might've paid off. He seems to be extra careful in which e-mail address he uses now.

Re:Yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45927895)

Yes, I just spent the £200 Amazon voucher I got sent, and strangely the number of misdirected emails fell dramatically after that.

What is the problem? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45927809)

To make matters worse, I frequently find I can't use my email to create a new account at various sites because it's already been registered.

Why not make a password reset for them (unless they have "security questions") and change the email? Then you can create your own account. It is not your problem that some hobo can't enter their own e-mail address when registering accounts.

As for the unwanted email, tell the sender politely that they have sent personal/confidential information to you, an unsuspecting third party with a similar address. Then throw any future mail from them away. I have gotten some mail like this, but they all rectified their mistake and stopped sending to me. If they wouldn't, it isn't my problem (apart from pressing the "junk email" button in my MUA).

Even worse: Facebook does not validate e-mails (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45927819)

So I got somebody else's Facebook notifications. From time to time, I get some e-mail from Facebook stating the e-mail address has not been verified (with no description on what to do if you are not the intended recipient). I hoped this situation would die with time, but it is already five months since I got the first e-mail.

At some stage in the past, I also got some e-mails from ebay about a seller and a buyer discussing transaction e-mails. These ones did actually die.

In both cases, the e-mail account the messages should go was not the one I tend to give out. Google allows for different spellings on the same account. Your e-mail account may be achieved by following permutations:
And this is not a bug, it is a feature.

I have the same problem (4, Funny)

hawguy (1600213) | about 8 months ago | (#45927821)

I use my first initial+last name as my email address and get mail destined for a half dozen people. One person is an elderly gentleman in the midwest, I've given up any hope of getting him to stop giving out my email address. I only get a half dozen or so a month so it's not too bad.

I usually send a form letter to emails where it looks like a person might read the response (as opposed to newsletters, etc). For those emails where I don't think a human will read the response, I usually just hit the Spam button, unless there's a quick and easy to find unsubscribe link.

Sometimes when an email has a signature that says that if I receive a copy of the email in error I must delete all copies, in my reply, I ask whether they want to work on a time and materials basis or a fixed price $500 contract for me to track down and delete the email from all devices that it may have been delivered to (having emails go to a phone, tablet, several computers, imap download + backup means a fair amount of work to find and delete it everywhere). So far none have been willing to pay. I wonder if I could accept their demand to delete all copies of the email as implicit authorization to do the work and then bill them for the work.

Re:I have the same problem (1)

NotPeteMcCabe (833508) | about 8 months ago | (#45928005)

You could definitely "accept their demand to delete all copies of the email as implicit authorization to do the work and then bill them for the work." Whether they will pay the bills is the question.

Re:I have the same problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45928163)

I like mail redirectors. Everyone but true spammers will respond to you redirecting all the mail from their domain back to the support address for that domain. Preface it with, "you must have lost this, I am helping., HERE" And resend the email. Maybe twice to make sure it isn't lost. Works every time.

Here's how I handle it... (5, Funny)

KennyLB (303512) | about 8 months ago | (#45927841)

from: lauren
to: Ken
date: Fri, Dec 18, 2009 at 10:15 AM
subject: Information About Loose Mansion: Ken REMOVED


Hi Ken and Stephanie!

Thank you for your interest in Loose Mansion! We would love to host your wedding ceremony and reception, or possibly just your ceremony! As I mentioned, we'll have to wait until closer to your date before knowing if we can accomodate your afternoon ceremony on November 6, 2010. We are also available Saturday evenings, October 2 and 30, and November 13 and 20, 2010! Please know Loose Mansion is perfect for your group size!

Attached is general pricing and policy information. I will put together a more specific estimate for you now that I know more about your plans, and will send that in a separate email shortly!

In case you haven't had a chance to fully explore our website, please know that it contains a wealth of information about our events, including slide videos, photo galleries, guest comments, and answers to frequently asked questions.

We're proud to say that the Kansas City community recently voted Loose Mansion, "Best Venue in Kansas City" on the KMBC TV A-List Website! To see reviews and photos on the A-List Website, please visit: REMOVED.

We know that planning a wedding event can be overwhelming to many people...but, not to us! Our expert staff will ensure you have an amazing event, and we'll make planning simple and fun!

Warm Regards,

Event Manager

My response....

date: Sun, Dec 20, 2009 at 2:09 PM
subject: Re: Information About Loose Mansion: Ken REMOVED


Thank you very much for your information about the Loose Mansion. While the information was rather intriguing, I'm afraid that I do not know this Stephanie who you are hooking me up with? I'm very surprised to hear that I am getting married as well, and this was quite a shock to my current wife.

Also, Kansas City seems a rather long drive from my current residence in Maryland. I'm afraid that while Loose Mansion sounds wonderful, and I'm sure this will be an excellent event, I don't believe I will be able to attend.

To Mark, Brett, and Seth, whom I have CC'd on this email. Please guys, NO MORE BLIND WEDDING DATES. My wife does not appreciate it.



PS: Lauren, you may want to try to get in contact with the OTHER Ken, who is actually getting married. Sorry, I have no idea who he is.

me too (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45927857)

my gmail is and i have this problem all the time. i have on occasion looked up the person using my email by searching the phone book for people with my name around the address of the local businesses and people that frequently email me... usually it appears the people are 60+ but when someone used my email to start a twitter account it was someone in his 30s based on the picture he used on the account. i did like someone above said and used email based password reset and posted on the account that the person was using the wrong email address and that the account should be removed from their friend list or whatever twitter does.

in general i am really annoyed by the email i constantly get, though the other week i did get some tickets to an indoor trampoline place that sounded fun... sadly the place was 2500 miles away. most the people using my account i think are leaving off the random number or swapping out a _ for an inconsequential . that leads me to getting their emails.

I have the same issue (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45927859)

I have had several emails from job applications to registrations on shopping sites to my gmail. I reply telling the person that they have contacted the wrong person, and advise them to contact the intended recipient by another means.

I once got a schedule for a church rota for somewhere in the states, and when I replied saying I wasn't the person in question they asked me to forward it to them! I'm not quite sure how they expected me to do this.

This misaddressing of emails is probably really confusing the NSA email contact database though.

Had this issue (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45927863)

Someone was registering for sites using my GMail address without the dot I use. They registered for a site and an email came through confirming their details, including phone number.

I phoned up and asked him politely to not use my email address.
He accused me of hacking his account he has used for 2 years.
I explained I have had the account since GMail was 'invite only'.
Got swore at loads, so hung up and set up a rule so that mail without the dot is ignored and trashed. Problem solved!

Re:Had this issue (2)

mdenham (747985) | about 7 months ago | (#45928037)

For what it's worth, GMail treats all e-mail addresses that are identical other than dots as the same e-mail address internally, so,,, and are all going to be the same account.

I've noticed that forum spammers like to use that trick to get around "each account must have a unique e-mail" settings on certain types of forum software.

Send yourself a password reset (3, Informative)

wiredlogic (135348) | about 8 months ago | (#45927909)

If your e-mail address has been registered by someone else just have a password reset request sent to the address so you can take control of the account. I did this when someone registered a Facebook account with my email address and I got tired of the FB spam and friend request notices.

Unsubscribe or filter (1)

hism (561757) | about 8 months ago | (#45927927)

I have the same problem. There's at least two dozens distinct individuals who have had emails erroneously addressed to my inbox.

For automated emails that offer an easy link to unsubscribe or dissociate my email address from that account, I use the provided link. Those are pretty easy.

Sometimes people register for paid services that send a monthly bill and it comes to my email address. They may or may not be of English origin. For these, I just add a filter or rule to my email provider or client to just delete them or move them. Communicating with someone, possibly in another language, possibly requiring lots of bureaucratic red tape, is not really worth it. If they care about it enough, it's their responsibility to fix it.

The most annoying case is when a large group of friends start an email thread with a whole bunch of different people in the "to" or "cc" field. Asking them to correct the email address is pretty much an exercise in futility, since all it takes is one person to hit 'reply to all' and your email address is back on the thread. For these, I just block every recipient on the thread.

I've never had the problem of someone already having registered my email. One way around it would be to set up another email address that just forwards to your actual email address.

Yep, I have this issue (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45927945)

1) If I can track down the person, I try to contact them and let them know they have they're using the wrong email
2) If it's a real person sending the email (like when one person have out my email for his house refinance stuff), I email the person back asking them to contact via phone or whatever the person and tell them they have the wrong email address
3) If a person in #2 does so and i keep receiving new emails because the person doesn't learn, I ask someone again like in #2, though this time I recommend they they stop doing business with, or throw out the job application, or whatever because the person is so stupid that they can't even figure out their own address
4) I've been know to find the person via their relatives and ask them to inform the person that they're using the wrong email
5) For sites where registrations were done, I simply go to the site, click Forgot Password, get a reset, go in, and change the information so it's no longer to my email address. Often I change the address to STOP+USING+[MY+ADDRESS] Sometimes logging in to the account has the benefits of getting me their address and/or phone number to contact, which I've done.
6) In cases where I've changed the email address and they've had tech support change it back to mine, I go back in to the account and change ALL the info to mine, so now it become my account and they can no longer use it or get any access to it.

I've just been dealing with this (1)

xrayspx (13127) | about 8 months ago | (#45927967)

I use a personal domain for my actual mail, but have accounts at all the major free mail sites too, just for spam or whatever.

I started getting mail to my Yahoo account which wasn't spam, but clearly not for me, as part of a group of people participating in a medical imaging conference. For a while I just blew it off, but eventually the organizer mailed my actual non-yahoo address by mistake as well. So I decided to be swell about it and let her know that I'm not the person she's trying to reach. She said "Oh, I'm sorry, I meant to do (yourname), thanks!", and so I told her "well no, that's also me, sorry". I proceeded to tell her an address which would work for her intended recipient (work email for the person she was trying to mail, who isn't me).

Basically she refused to believe she has been sending to the wrong address, and said "I had no idea two people could have the same email address, I guess Yahoo must allow it or something". At that point, I gave up and just let it go again. It's not high-volume enough to matter.

Me too (1)

koan (80826) | about 8 months ago | (#45927981)

They can't reply or get your reply because they can't log in, I went so far as to track one person down via an ad sent to them, I have also received someone's complete information, SSN, etc.
In the end I just drag them to the trash.

Re:Me too (1)

koan (80826) | about 8 months ago | (#45928027)

Oh and Google needs to admit they fucked up and fix it, I'm pretty sure that guys info I got could lead to some sort of law suit.

Sort of similar... (1)

Skater (41976) | about 8 months ago | (#45927983)

My Yahoo email address (yeah, I know, and I'm moving away from it - I've had the account since 1995 or 1996, but this latest mail interface redesign is finally getting me motivated to stop using it for anything other than junk mail) often receives legitimate mail intended for other people. My favorite incident so far was when a wife tried to email their password spreadsheet to her husband, but sent it to me instead. I let her know of the error, and she thanked me and said her husband was pretty pissed at her for the mistake. I deleted the message, though: if their accounts were broken into, I wanted to be able to say, "I deleted the message and the attachment."

I usually just ignore the messages and delete them. If it keeps happening I'll often respond and let them know they have the wrong person. I really want to slap the lawyers that have "if you are not the intended recipient of this email, delete it immediately!" at the bottom - I mistakenly received a message with that at the bottom once, so I responded per their directions and included a bill for my fee of $200 for the service. I never heard from them again, and if their little disclaimer was legal than my bill probably was too. I wonder if my point got through...probably not.

I would be careful about saving anything that could open you up to liability - the password spreadsheet above is a perfect example. The odds are excellent you'd never have a problem saving something compromising, but it only takes one idiot, and even if you're innocent, the hassle wouldn't be worth it.

Non issue (0)

chuckugly (2030942) | about 8 months ago | (#45927987)

"Someone else has already used my email" - how is this even a problem?

Happens to me a lot with my own domain (4, Insightful)

weave (48069) | about 8 months ago | (#45928015)

I own a very short domain name where the first part of the name is the same as many organization's name.

e.g., if it was then others have or etc and I get a LOT of their email because I wildcard my domain for email and people just assume that will work

As I get them, I add a postfix rule to reject that specific username but I still get stuff, including very confidential stuff.

I haven't advised these organizations because I fear they'll just turn around and try to dispute to get my domain or accuse me of criminal interception or whatever. So I just delete them and they can wonder why they never got a reply.

Rule #1: "Email is not a guaranteed service."

Rule #2: "Email is not secure. Stop sending confidential stuff through it"

Get your own domain name (1)

kiick (102190) | about 8 months ago | (#45928023)

I had various problems with email address collisions as well. Then when I had to change ISPs, I decided to get my own domain name. It's a little different when you own your own email address. If you register a domain, you can be or such. Then you just forward from your actual email host to the registered email address. It's only a few dollars a year. Then YOU decide who gets an email address for your domain, and you can have whatever policy you want to avoid collisions.

Re:Get your own domain name (1)

pspahn (1175617) | about 7 months ago | (#45928143)

I've been using "" for awhile now. It's nice when verbally sharing your email address because people you don't have to spell it out to dense people.

Kohl's Cash (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45928029)

I have the same issue. Someone signed up their Kohl's rewards account under my e-mail address, and I get 10-15-25 dollar coupon codes all the time. My entire work wardrobe has only cost me about $18 in the past year.

Really, are you this stupid? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45928039)

You actually need to come to /. to ask for assistance in this matter?

bah, you guys are no fun (2)

Garin (26873) | about 7 months ago | (#45928045)

Y'all are missing out on a good time.

I have a gmail account with the first name dot last name set up. As you can imagine I get quite a few messages for people who forget to tell their friends about their middle initial. However from context, I can often tell which of my name-sharing buddies the email was intended for. Over the years I have actually gotten to know a couple of them, which is fun.

I don't bother trying to tell the senders about the mistakes, they usually do nothing, oddly. The recipient, however, tends to get on it effectively.

It's quite interesting do talk to them. What's in a name?

Related XKCD (-1, Redundant)

cosm (1072588) | about 7 months ago | (#45928073)

This is what DELETE is for (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45928083)

It's not my job to solve their communication problems.

awww poor little entitled murician (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45928089)

somebody else in the world has all ready registered his account.

Craft a good bounce message (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45928119)

Setup a rule in gmail that autoreplies to anyone whose email address on it emails you with a bounce message saying they've emailed the wrong person and tags and archives the email. When you get a message intended for the wrong person add the sender to the rule (just their email address, the domain or whatever).

That happens, even with... (1)

MindPrison (864299) | about 7 months ago | (#45928121) exotic name like my family name. I constantly get erroneous emails intended for someone else, sometimes these emails are of a very private nature, so this isn't very good. One of them was involving a personal gift to someone in my family and it was the lawyer who got my email address instead. Another time, it was the tax offices - and they even included the tax return documents with detailed information about their income. I've been sent several personal documents that should never have been seen by anyone other than the intended recipient. I don't think this is Googles mistake though, it's just people - being people.

Worst is Barnes and noble, nook (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45928147)

They won't take your email address off if some uses it by mistake, you are stuck getting perpetual updates

This happens to me a lot, too (2)

ShaunC (203807) | about 7 months ago | (#45928151)

A few months back, I received an email on my Gmail from the agent of an NFL player. The agent was apparently looking to help his client negotiate a contract, and conveniently attached a draft of said contract. I went and updated the NFL player's Wikipedia entry stating that he was going into free agency and looking for a gig. Hey, I could have done a lot worse, like placing bets using inside info or something.

Many, many years ago, I had the screen name "File" on AOL. There was some sort of ancient productivity suite (maybe Notes, or 123, or something) where you would cc a message to "file" in order to keep a local copy, and many AOL users presumed their email service worked the same way. Oh sweet Christ, the things that landed in my inbox there over the years...

Haven't had this issue with GMail, but with other (2)

lamber45 (658956) | about 7 months ago | (#45928191)

My GMail (and Yahoo! as well) username is (first name)(middle name)(last name), all fairly common [in fact at my current employer there are multiple matches of (first name)(last name), and my father has the same (first name)(last name) as well], and I have not had this problem with either service. Perhaps using initials instead of full names is part of it; or your last-name may have different demographic connotations.

I did, however, recently have that problem with a Comcast account. When the tech visited our home for installation, he created an account (first name)(last name) . I didn't actually give it out anywhere, yet within a few months it was filled with a hundred or so messages for someone in another state. I did try responding to one item that seemed moderately important, and whoever got the response [the help-desk of some organization] didn't seem to grasp that I had no connection with the intended recipient. Since I hadn't advertised it anywhere, it was easy to change the username, to (my first initial)(wife's first initial)(my last initial)(wife's last initial)(string of digits) While this address appears to have been reused, apparently Comcast no longer allows address reuse; I tried using a previous ID that I had used a long time ago, and it was not available.

Since you ask for advice, I recommend two courses of action:

  • 1. As long as you still have access to that address, when you receive anything that is clearly misdirected and potentially of high value, deal with it politely. Don't use a "form response", instead personalize the response to the content of the message. CC the intended recipient on the response, if you are able to divine who it is. Once you've dealt with the matter, delete the whole thread. For newsletters, try following an "unsubscribe" action, if that's not available mark as spam.
  • 2. Consider an exit strategy from your current e-mail address, no matter how much is attached to it. See the Google help posting "Change your username [] ". For the new address, try a long nickname or full first name instead of first initial; or maybe add a string of numbers, a city your contacts will recognize, or a title. Give your important contacts plenty of advance notice, post the new address with the reasons you're switching [perhaps with a list of the confusing other identities as well] on your "old" Google+ profile. After a reasonable time (say six months or a year), delete [] your old account. Make sure you change your address at all the "various sites" you've registered at before doing so, in case you need to use a password reset function.

Same Problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45928211)

Same problem, protocol is the same.

Don't Touch It.

Is it real or just a spoofer being clever?

This happens to me way too often... (3, Funny)

enderwiggen (174235) | about 7 months ago | (#45928249)

I run into this all the time... I don't have a particularly common last name, so I have, however, if you take the first letter off my last name, you apparently get a somewhat more common last name, so everyone with that last name whose first initial is the same as the first letter as my last name thinks that my gmail account is theirs.

I'm surprised by the number of companies that do not require validation to create an account. Most times I unsubscribe them. Some times I contact the vendor when they keep sending me stuff. Some times I just take over the accounts. It's very frustrating... I have had people try to open bank accounts with my email address. I had 3 different people buy cars using my email address this summer (and the car dealers do not remove you no matter how many times you call). My favorite one though is a woman in Nebraska who orders from Victoria's Secret once a month or so... I've contacted her and asked her if she needs to consider a diet since I've noticed her sizes are going up based on her purchase history. She wasn't too happy about it, but refuses to stop putting my email address in.

Shitcan it (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45928253)

Seriously Shitcan the shit that isn't yours. If the stupid fucking fucks can't fucking direct fucking email to the proper fucking place it just needs fucking shitcanned. How in the fuck is this fucking hard you stupid fuck?

Delete and block. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45928257)

If its from a person its easy to block and delete. I would not feel any responsibility to an email sent to me by mistake like if it was snail mail. For websites I would try to get control of them. The most annoying would be the additional spam emails.

This is why I don't use my name in email address.

Periods don't count (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45928265)

Also, note that the periods in your name don't make any difference. Email addressed to, and go to the same mailbox. It is part of the email specifications to do that, allow extra periods, and gmail implemented it correctly while some other email providers did not. If you are certain that everyone will use the periods just as you specified then it is pretty easy to add a filter which separates the mail into different folders based on the position of the periods. That can automatically filter email addresses that aren't formatted to your liking.

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