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Communications Bug

Ask Slashdot: What To Do With Other People's Email? 619

Posted by timothy
from the care-of-general-delivery dept.
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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Ask Slashdot: What To Do With Other People's Email?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @12:49PM (#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....
    • by hawguy (1600213) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @03:46PM (#36379332)

      I have the same problem, I particularly like the misdirected emails send by law firms - they invariably have a disclaimer saying that if I receive an email in error, I must destroy all copies of it.

      I like to reply and tell them that in order to comply and delete the email off of all devices that the email ended up on (which is at least 5 different devices), I'll need to bill them for the work. So far none of them has offered to pay the bill.

      I've often wondered if I could just spend an hour or two to go around deleting the email from everywhere it was delivered, and send them a bill. After all, they told me that I *must* do it and since it was their error that sent me the email, I shouldn't have to pay for it.

    • by Quirkz (1206400) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @03:59PM (#36379502) Homepage
      There's a business in Australia called Qirkz which is just one letter away from my business, Quirkz. It must be a reflex to always type the U after a Q, because I get a lot of messages aimed at Qirkz, which is a music venue. I usually take the opportunity to send them an email explaining the differences and plug my own business and wares (a browser-based computer game, which at least *might* interest some Aussies). They can't call it spam, because after all they initiated the conversation by writing me.

      Still, after some time the barrage of email gets pretty annoying. Some of them are downright incoherent until I get the context of knowing they think they're talking to a music venue. Some woman started up about this "kid and bear show" one day that took three rereads to convince myself it wasn't spam for weird pornography. And when the place got shut down for a few months I ended up on the mailing list with a bunch of riotous music-loving Australians who wanted to save that other business.

      On a good day I settle for polite self-promotion, on a bad day I lean towards snippy sarcasm about spelling, and I'm waiting for a really bad day to rip them a new one for failing to get either of the hemispheres correct.

  • Delete it (Score:4, Informative)

    by kylegordon (159137) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @12:50PM (#36376592) Homepage

    It's not your meat...

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @12:58PM (#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: (Score:3, Insightful)

        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?

        • by arth1 (260657) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @01:20PM (#36377050) Homepage Journal

          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?

          • by iamhassi (659463)
            Of course you would be in your rights, but since when has that stopped people from suing?

            if you have money for lawsuits then post them or reply or make phone calls. If you don't, just delete them.

            I made the unfortunate mistake of getting lastname@popularfreewebmail.com many years ago. I get bombarded with emails from friends, neighbors and teachers, talking about how Timmy did on a test or the barbecue next month. I use to reply and get "oh sorry!" back, but now I just delete them, it's just too ri
      • 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.

      • by mlts (1038732) *

        I have that happen all the time with a gmail account of mine. I have a filter, look through to find if the mail is relevant to me, then just purge the mailbox with the misguided stuff in it. Chronic people who send in error, I just blacklist their E-mail addresses.

    • Re:Delete it (Score:4, Insightful)

      by DigiShaman (671371) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @01:08PM (#36376882) Homepage

      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.

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

    • Re:Delete it (Score:4, Interesting)

      by bdh (96224) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @01:59PM (#36377678)
      It's not your problem. Don't make it your problem.

      I have a personal domain which has the same problem. My domain name is a four letter latin word (not wanting to slashdot my poor server, I won't mention the name). There's a Belgian rock band with the same name, a video game with a similar name, and at least one medical ward in a Boston hospital which uses a typographical variation.

      I used to be inundated with (a) Flemish grunge fans who were indignant that I had "stolen" the name of "their" band's website (fans, not the band itself), (b) people asking/demanding help in the game, and (c) confidential reports from the hospital. And when I say inundated, I mean I was getting between 3,000 and 7,000 spam/misdirected email a day. Probably 50 of those a day were misdirected emails that weren't flagged as spam.

      Ten years ago, I used to send back a boilerplate "this isn't the web site you're looking for" response to these guys (I set up a script in the Bat mailer I was using at the time). The results I got for this were:

      a) the grungers demanded I give "back" my domain to their favourite band;
      b) the gamers told me "I'll never buy another one of your effing games again"; and, for the win
      c) the hospital types said "you have illegally intercepted confidential medical data, we're going to sue you into the ground"

      To be fair, there were a number of "oops, sorry, thought you were the other guys" apologies (and one rambling email in Portuguese from a woman who wanted to know if she should marry her boyfriend whom she didn't love, and should wait for Mr. Right instead)

      Nothing ever came from it, other than my deciding to say the hell with it. Most of it was nonsense, but it could easily become a time suck.

      More recently, I've started getting "confirmations" from companies that my application has been pre-approved. This isn't spam, it's actually some bozo using my email address, despite giving different address/phone information when applying. The fact that he's getting these pre-approvals says something about the approval process, to be sure. I called the first few, thinking maybe my account had been hacked, but it's just someone else (it's always the same address he gives) who doesn't seem to know his own email address.

      • The results you got suggest a large number of people who are truly clueless about email and the Internet. Might I suggest that in your initial "This isn't the website you're looking for" email, you provide a small note to the effect of "I reserve the right to post future correspondence from you publicly."

        Then just do what The Pirate Bay does [thepiratebay.org].

      • I have a personal domain which has the same problem. My domain name is a four letter latin word (not wanting to slashdot my poor server, I won't mention the name). There's a Belgian rock band with the same name, a video game with a similar name, and at least one medical ward in a Boston hospital which uses a typographical variation.

        Deus [deus.com], right ? Belgian pop knowledge FTW ! Also 1995 called and wants their web design back ;-) I mean, frames, seriously ?

  • 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).

    • by Fwipp (1473271)

      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.

    • by rwa2 (4391) *

      Heh, strange, I'm really surprised no one's suggested that you're morally obligated to turn yourself in to the FBI for illegally invading other people's privacy... you're not allowed to open other people's mail even if it is addressed to you :-P

      So legally, the safest thing to do is just filter/delete the thing as soon as you realize it's not for you.

      That said, I suspect this could become a new SPAM technique, if it isn't already.

      But of course, the legal or even the safe thing to do isn't always the right th

    • by Ichijo (607641)

      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).

      But it is junk. Quite literally, because it is unsolicited e-mail. If a bank can't be bothered to properly implement opt-in, then they get what they deserve.

    • I get emails for people who used a fake address on my domain as a throw-away address when they signed up for some web account. That's no different than someone else signing me up for junk mail; I have every right to ask the sender to stop, even if that ends up deleting the original person's account.

      Someone out there lost a lot of Southwest Airlines mileage points because the requirement for bonus points was to sign up for their email newsletter for 6 months. After two I emailed customer service and had it

    • I'm actually quite happy to put them in spam. If there is, for instance, a university that some kid who has no business in university (I'm looking at you, "Cor Ey", and if by some small chance you are, in fact, reading this you are, in fact, an idiot) signs up for with a bogus address, and they don't send a fucking confirmation link, they deserve to have their outgoing emails marked as spam.

      Same goes for cable bills, etc. The people who's responsibility it was to make sure those emails don't get to me are

  • Not your problem. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by grub (11606) <slashdot@grub.net> on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @12:51PM (#36376608) Homepage Journal

    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.
    • by Zebedeu (739988) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @02:59PM (#36378676)

      Don't mark them as spam.

      If you do and they are legitimate emails, then you'll be training your filter (or worse, everybody's filter, if you use a web-based client) to flag real emails.

  • by Doctor O (549663) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @12:51PM (#36376616) Homepage Journal

    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...

    • Because it can snowball, fast. This happened to me twice on a gmail account. If the person making a mistake sends messages to a group, then everyone in that group now has your email address; I'd get a long conversation via the reply-alls of his correspondents. I emailed one of his correspondents and explained, since I wasn't sure of the correct email address. That one recurs now and then since I'm in so many group mail lists of his friend and biz associates.
      And I started getting lots of please-please-come-b

  • Filter (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pluther (647209) <pluther@nOSpam.usa.net> on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @12:52PM (#36376642) Homepage
    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.

  • by TwiztidK (1723954) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @12:53PM (#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 .

    • 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 a

      • by MBGMorden (803437)

        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.

        • by base3 (539820)
          I don't know -- I think a common name would be of benefit from hiding among the results in search engines, etc. There aren't many Mr. Base3s in the world, and someone searching up my information pretty much gets me. I was never under the illusion that everything online wouldn't be archived and searchable, so it's not a problem--but it would be nice to give children a name that made it hard to dig up dirt on them later.
        • According to the White Pages, there is 1 person called Plaxico Smith in the US.
      • Um... I did exactly that. I had received an email from an educational institute, a credit card company, and a theatre club, all addressed to someone with a different first name. My email address is just my last name, so I kinda expected I'd eventually get wrong emails, but this was all email addresses manually provided by this other individual to these companies. With the three emails, I decided I had enough info to do some quick research. I found out who she was, where she worked, etc., and got her cor

        • by mcmonkey (96054)

          Enjoy your stay at PMITA prison.

          You're admitting 'hacking' in to someone else's account and changing the account details? Are you insane?

          Likewise,

          and tell them that I first have to say I am that kid's parent or guardian

          Enjoy having to notify your neighbors about being on the sex offenders list. Why would you pretend to be the parent of some strange kid on the internet? Yes, if I take you at your word, you're going out of your way to help. On the other hand, if I'm a local official who wants to look tough on cyber-crime, you're a predator.

          I have a not-so-common FirstNameLastN

    • by sonnejw0 (1114901)
      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 EMAIL
    • by belphegore (66832)
      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, fairl
  • Careful (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anrego (830717) * on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @12:53PM (#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).

  • by falloutboy (150069) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @12:53PM (#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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 s

  • by j-beda (85386) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @12:55PM (#36376680) Homepage

    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.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    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 t

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

    Fix: Get a different email address.

    • by houghi (78078)

      I am sure he already thought of that and decides his email must be his name, so get a new name.

  • 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.

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

    --
    BMO

  • 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 peopl

  • 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 great
  • 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.
  • 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

    • by gknoy (899301)

      An automated bounce message that explained the issue ("It lookes like your friend Pat.Smith set his reply-to address as P.Smith. This is an automated message ... but he didn't read what you sent") sent to every single person that e-mails you as a reply to something from him might work. I haven't a clue how I'd set something that complex up in my mail client, though.

  • 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.
  • Change your email address, my verbose friend :)

  • Have fun... (Score:5, Funny)

    by wmbetts (1306001) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @01:08PM (#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.

  • by MBGMorden (803437) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @01:09PM (#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.

    • by Deadstick (535032)

      There is another person with my first and last name (different middle) born in the same state as me on the same day

      Just the name is all it takes. I've been getting phone calls from a bank for over a year looking for a guy with the same first & last name who's delinquent on a mortgage. They go something like this:

      Mr. x?
      Yes.
      This is Mongo Bank. May I have the last four digits of your SSN?
      No.
      Would you like me to give you a phone number to call back?
      Why?
      So you can get the information I have for you.
      What i

  • by andymadigan (792996) <amadigan@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @01:10PM (#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.
    • by houghi (78078)

      I typically just mark misdirected messages as spam

      Makes me think about those comapny signatures with some legal blabla in it telling me what to do if mail is send to me by accident. Two things:
      1) I did not agree with that signature, so sod off.
      2) I looked at the header and it clearly shows that the mail was intended for me each and every time. Otherwise I would not get it.

      Yeah, the company I work for also has them. When I asked legal why, they pointed to IT as it is their responsibility. They pointed to leg

  • by scharkalvin (72228) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @01:10PM (#36376912) Homepage

    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.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • by Slashdot Parent (995749) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @01:17PM (#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.

  • by Animats (122034) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @01:20PM (#36377056) Homepage

    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.

  • I have had my personal email address for quite some time (5-digit UID and it's the same email address with which I registered my /. account, so 1998?). About a year ago, I got a reply to an Emily Wright. Luckily, the original email had her correct address (same as mine, but with a digit). Apparently, she goofed on setting up the reply-to in her email client.

    Anyway, I forwarded her the email explaining the problem and giving pointers on how to fix the problem. Well, Emily replied and accused me of hackin

  • by Nyall (646782)

    I have my last name registered as a domain so I could have a first_name@last_name.org email address. But I occasionally get news mails that address me as Ralph, my dads name, from the Missouri state university, where my dad went. I also get environmental political action emails addressed to him.

    I've examined the links closely and none appear to be phishing attempts.

    I'm wondering if these institutions have bought supposed good email addresses from a company that came about them through some kind of "smart"

  • I've gotten all sorts of things to my Gmail account (firstinitialLastname@gmail.com). Navy job interview details, hotel reservations, job quotes, renewals of UK commercial driver's licenses.

    I correct individuals, just a quick note to say "Sorry wrong e-mail address." Except some girl named Paige (same last name as me). I have been trying for 6 months to get her to stop sending me her stupid chain humor letters (she thinks she's e-mailing her dad), and she said she would several times. Today she got Reporte

  • Just make a mail filter that checks if there is a no-reply and junk the mail. That will work as long as you don't have any subscriptions running, but on the other hand you can filter them first so that they aren't deleted.

    However - every company should have a postmaster account so send any complaints to that account. The postmaster account is required by a RFC. And many companies do have a contact page or contact email addresses. Some even have abuse@... in which case you can use that too.

    If they request yo

  • You could...

    Start collecting them. Learn about the interests of those other John Smiths of the world. Then call them up someday or have a visit with then and amaze them with your psychic abilities.

    Sell them to Wikileaks as flack against corporations. Might turn into something.

    Print them out and mail them to their original recipients. They'll get real peeved to think their paperless preferences are broken.

    Cancel the services and say someone fraudulently signed up for something using your information. Th

  • From Harvard

    Dear Emily,

    Thank you for your application to the Management Program. Unfortunately,
    you have not met the admission requirements. Your grade point average of
    3.42 is slightly above the 3.33 required. You did not earn the required
    grade in ECON 1010. As a result, your application has been made
    ineligible. You may take the alternate course ECON 1600. You have two
    attempts to pass the required economic preadmission course. Failing to
    obtain a B on the second attempt will permanently bar you from admission
    to our ALM in Management Program.

    If you decide to continue your studies with us it will not be easy.You
    are required to maintain your cumulative GPA at 3.33 or higher. It is
    important to note that any grade below B+ will push you even further away
    from degree program admission. Please by mindful that all program grades
    count toward your cumulative GPA, including required repeat courses.

    Earning your graduate degree and moving ahead with your professional plans
    is of paramount importance. Our program may be an obstacle to this goal.
    Your valuable time and money might be better spent at another institution.
    You may even be eligible to transfer credits earned and begin again with a
    new GPA.

    We hope you accept this message in the spirit that it was intended, to
    support your degree completion plans. If you have questions regarding this
    information, you may call our office at **********.

    Best wishes for future academic success.

    Regards,
    Donna *****

    What asshats.. I told them the email was misdirected and didn't get a response either.

  • I also have a firstname.lastname@gmail.com account and frequently get email that is neither intended for me nor sent to me. I sometimes look at the email headers and many times my email address is nowhere to be found. It appears that if Gmail receives an email for a non-existent account it simply routes it to whatever account it can find that is most similar. And I believe that firstname.lastname@gmail.com accounts get ranked highest because they have no numerical permutation.

  • I'm friendly to the personal message, simply stating, "I am not Christina, please update your address book."

    If someone signs up for a website using my email, I immediately go there, reset their password, and change the email address to something like "abuse@yahoo.com."

    If a kid signs up for an account with me as their parent, I immediately revoke their account. I'd want someone to do that to my kids if they were trying to get around me.

    Any other accounts, I do what I can to alert the company, but for

  • I got a surname@gmail.com address and EVERYDAY i receive at least one e-mail by mistake. People type xyz.surname@gmail.com as xyz,surname@gmail.com and there you go...

    I tried filter, warn people, flag as spam, but there's no sure way to catch it all. I at least try to have fun. So far i've got:
    - Pics from a married man to his male lover.
    - US$370 transfer from Paypal (i didn't take the money, by the way).
    - Dozens of resumes.
    - E-mail from a girl to his teacher who would do ANYTHING to don't fail his cou

  • by Geldon (444090) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @01:57PM (#36377650)

    With an email address like "firstname.lastname@gmail.com"! I mean, you might as well have the address "user@example.com"!

...when fits of creativity run strong, more than one programmer or writer has been known to abandon the desktop for the more spacious floor. - Fred Brooks, Jr.

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