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Ask Slashdot: What To Do With Misdirected Email? 388

Posted by Soulskill
from the respond-in-character dept.
An anonymous reader writes "My Gmail account is of the form (first initial).(middle initial).(common last name)@gmail.com. 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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Ask Slashdot: What To Do With Misdirected Email?

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  • by Animats (122034) on Saturday January 11, 2014 @04:20PM (#45927747) Homepage

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

    • by MarioMax (907837) on Saturday January 11, 2014 @04:30PM (#45927799)

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

      Also easier to remember. bobsmith@bobsmith.com is catchy while bobsmith@gmail.com is generic and easily forgotten.

      • by Nerdfest (867930) on Saturday January 11, 2014 @04:34PM (#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.

        • by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Saturday January 11, 2014 @06:46PM (#45928587)

          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.

          You don't need to run your own mail server to decouple your email address from your current email provider - even if you want to use gmail. In my case, I've used my alumni email address as my constant email address for many, many years, even though I've changed the back end provider multiple times and am currently on gmail.

          People don't generally send email to my gmail address, and when I send mail it doesn't show as coming from my gmail address.

        • I just started using microsoft's domain stuff on mine. Rather handy.
      • by sparty (63226)

        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 tu

        • and yes, I could reduce the volume by turning off the catchall inbox feature

          I use the catchall feature with a second email account. I just check it when I need/want to.

        • by PlusFiveTroll (754249) on Saturday January 11, 2014 @05:52PM (#45928317) Homepage

          Never use a catchall. And I repeat, never use a catchall. It's better to use a hosting service that allows you to control alias accounts easily and quickly. If someone types a non-existent address they are suppose to get a bounce email.

          Catchalls also create some unique bad situations. A number of years ago I had a small client who had a domain similar to a large university. They had just a few accounts on the domain and in general received around 20 emails a day and ran a catchall to get mistyped addresses. When they came in to the office and had over 35,000 emails in the inbox we new something was wrong. A spammer was 'confused', or something and thought the domain was part of the university and was sending mail from a@domain to zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz@domain and every possibly name and combination in between. It was coming from thousands of different IP addresses and hundreds of connections per minute.

          We had to turn off catchall and implement a SMTP policy of instant disconnect in the RCPT TO: header to stop the flood. After around a week the barrage stopped.

        • by mwvdlee (775178)

          I use my own domain and domain email as well. It's all stored on my own server, but generally I use Gmail as a mail client.

          However, the unique-email-address thing is something gmail is actually quite useful for. user+whatever@gmail.com and user+anything@gmail.com will both be delivered to user@gmail.com.

        • Depending on the software you are using for receiving your email, you may be able to do a partial catch-all. For instance, have it accept any emails sent to "spamcatch.xxxxxx@yourdomain.com", then just change the xxxxx part. This still lets you track which company gave away your email and also reduces the chances of getting someone else's mail by accident.

          Of course the best solution is to make a script or something that lets you quickly generate one-off accounts, but the above may be enticing if you insist

      • by jklovanc (1603149)

        Except that another Bob Smith has already registered that domain. What do you choose them? If the email address is common enough to cause collisions so is the domain name.

      • by snsh (968808)

        My personal domain name is a variation in the spelling of the name of a multinational company. I get a lot of people's bank statements, hotel reservations, etc. which I suppose come from senders who key in email addresses read to them over the phone, and are prone to typing in the wrong spelling.

        The volume of the email has gone way down over time since self-service has become more common. It's not as big a problem as it used to be.

        The best part of it, though, is when I get CV/resumes from random job appli

      • by gwolf (26339) <gwolf AT gwolf DOT org> on Sunday January 12, 2014 @02:42AM (#45930553) Homepage

        I defend that same point, and of course, my mail address is gwolf@gwolf.org (hey, no point in hiding it, have had it for too long for spambots not to notice!). People's perception is *not* IMO what you say: When I repeat my name after the '@', the most common answer is, "come again?". Some people have even tried to correct me explaining my name can *not* be part of the domain.

        Of course, I'm better off not receiving mails from those people...

      • by Lumpy (12016)

        Running a email server is NOT cheap. so still use gmail but with your own domain. Low cost and you get the absolute best spam filtering on the planet.

    • by bondsbw (888959)

      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?

      • 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 Faceb

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      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

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

        And the longer you keep using it, the harder it is to switch. I don't personally know anyone who has lost their GMail account, but I do for other mail providers (and Facebook), either because the provider decided they had violated some nebulous terms of service, they decided to start charging and kept pushing the price up, or they went out of business. If you like the GMail interface, then get the Google Apps for your Domain thing, buy a domain and point the DNS at Google, and at least then you can always

        • by FatLittleMonkey (1341387) on Saturday January 11, 2014 @10:04PM (#45929585)

          I don't personally know anyone who has lost their GMail account,

          I have. It also locked up every google-owned service, such as blogger/blogspot, (and presumably any 3rd party site that uses a google-account for login.)

          Sent in the official challenge-form via another email account, next day the block was lifted. Still have no idea what I was actually meant to have done. The only thing I can think of was logging in from someone else's computer (I was at their place when I was blocked) which is surely the whole fucking point of having webmail.

  • by XPeter (1429763) on Saturday January 11, 2014 @04:20PM (#45927749) Homepage

    Is to change your name

    • by bhcompy (1877290)
      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
      • by pspahn (1175617)

        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.

        • 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.

          The weirder your name... the more likely you are to publish an important paper.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 11, 2014 @05:28PM (#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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 11, 2014 @04:20PM (#45927751)

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

    • by tlhIngan (30335)

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

      Funny enough, I had it happen to me with British Telecom and apparently some university in Colorado.

      But for both of them, I couldn't use the password reset link - each time I tried, it gave me "email address is not recognized" which when I look at the headers, no it's not. No + addressing or anything - I just copied and pasted the email address from the header.

      One of the ironies is that BT is sending

  • No problems (Score:5, Informative)

    by mysidia (191772) on Saturday January 11, 2014 @04:22PM (#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.

    • 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 @gmail.com 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...
      • 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 peo

        • by CBravo (35450)
          Yes. Some ESPs were given lists to unsubscribe contacts. It would be bad to start out with newsletters from someone else.
      • by mysidia (191772)

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

        There's not any legal recourse you are going to be able to pursue against them for entering your email address by honest mistake.

        They were negligent in making a typographic error, but they do not have a duty of care towards you in that regard. You need evidence of intentional malice.

    • Re:No problems (Score:5, Interesting)

      by slashdotjunker (761391) on Sunday January 12, 2014 @04:22AM (#45930843)

      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.

      This is bad advice. Do not interact with an unknown account opened with your email address.

      A successful login from your IP address may be construed as assuming ownership of the account. They might try to collect money from you. Or, the account may have been used for illegal activities which are now linked to your IP address.

      Never assume ownership of an unknown account. All communications (if any) with the account management should clearly state that you are not the account holder and are not responsible for the account. In particular, do not ask for the account to be closed. Asking the company to take action on the account may also be construed as assuming ownership of the account.

      At best you can send an email stating you are not the account holder. Then put them on your block list. Do not get more involved than that.

  • 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 nam
    • 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)@gmail.com 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 name+extension@gmail.com addresses would let you do something similar, but they've got a couple serious drawbacks -- many (in my experience, probably "most") websites will reject a

  • by watermark (913726) on Saturday January 11, 2014 @04:31PM (#45927803)

    Well, I have a solution to your "email has already been registered" issue. Gmail will treat yourname+blah@gmail.com as the same address as yourname@gmail.com, both will go into the yourname@gmail.com 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.

    • by whoever57 (658626)

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

      FTFY.

      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 (rakuten.com, I'm looking at you).

      • by Shados (741919)

        Additionally, some of the bigger names in the industry of mass mailing are in on it, and for gmail specifically, if you use the + notation, they automatically use the real address under the hood. So it wouldn't help.

  • Yes (Score:5, Funny)

    by chill (34294) on Saturday January 11, 2014 @04:31PM (#45927805) Journal

    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. (name@isp.com vs name@gmail.com) He finally got the hint when *I* got the login information for his match.com 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.

    • 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. (name@isp.com vs name@gmail.com) He finally got the hint when *I* got the login information for his match.com 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.

      I generally do what you do. Most of the folks, when contacted, are appreciative. I generally simply ignore activation emails or simply cancel accounts.

      I've only had a few problems. One is some sites don't realize gmail properly ignores periods in address names and will let someone signup with my address either without periods or with one in an odd place. Gmail, of course, directs all emails to me and I can cancel the account or ignore activation emails.

      I had one person who insisted the email address was cor

  • by hawguy (1600213) on Saturday January 11, 2014 @04:32PM (#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.

  • by KennyLB (303512) on Saturday January 11, 2014 @04:34PM (#45927841)

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

    12/18/2009

    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,

    Lauren REMOVED
    Event Manager

    My response....

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

    Lauren,

    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.

    Thanks,

    Ken

    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.

    • by antdude (79039)

      Did they re(ply/spond) back? :D

    • by shess (31691) on Saturday January 11, 2014 @08:42PM (#45929171) Homepage

      I was getting some emails about an event of this type from a gal who thought I was her son. I gave a sarcastic response like this, saying that while I'm sure would be enjoyable, my wife and kids weren't really interested in traveling to Arkansas for my wedding, etc. She politely explained things again, so I suspect that the real son involved probably must also respond sarcastically, and I think she was kind of offended that I was making light of this important event. I switched into the mode I'd use to explain such an issue to my actual mom, it worked a lot better. I hope things worked out for them. *sniff*.

      In the end, crafting the witty response was a fine idea the first half-dozen times, but after awhile I just got tired of it. It's not like there's any payback, generally these people aren't early-adopters who get a laugh out of it, they're already confused by all this technology, so my comebacks are basically just mean. It's not my job to fix things for these various people who don't know their own email addresses, so mostly I just filter the emails away and move on.

      -scott

  • by wiredlogic (135348) on Saturday January 11, 2014 @04:42PM (#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.

    • by jonbryce (703250)

      That doesn't work with for example PayPal, because they ask all sorts of other security questions. I suppose it is very possible for someone to hack into an email account and then try to use that to hack into their paypal account and other things attached to it.

  • Relevant xkcd (Score:5, Informative)

    by Karganeth (1017580) on Saturday January 11, 2014 @04:46PM (#45927935)
  • 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
  • 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

  • by weave (48069) on Saturday January 11, 2014 @04:56PM (#45928015) Journal

    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 example.com then others have example.co.uk or exampleinc.com etc and I get a LOT of their email because I wildcard my domain for email and people just assume that example.com 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"

    • by volmtech (769154)
      Your would think a physical air courier service would be secure. I once found a large mailing envelope from "Emery" air freight in the middle of a potato field miles from any paved road. It contained contracts for a land development in Orlando, Fl. I am 90 miles north of Orlando. How they managed to lose a package out of an aircraft is beyond me. I resealed it and dropped in one of their collection boxes in a nearby town.
  • 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 firstname@lastname-variation.net 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

    • by pspahn (1175617)

      I've been using "me@myname.com" 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.

  • by Garin (26873) on Saturday January 11, 2014 @05:02PM (#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?

  • ...an 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 a
  • 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 producti

  • 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) @comcast.net . 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) @comcast.net. 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 [google.com]". 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 [google.com] 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.
  • by enderwiggen (174235) on Saturday January 11, 2014 @05:39PM (#45928249)

    I run into this all the time... I don't have a particularly common last name, so I have @gmail.com, 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.

  • by nuckfuts (690967) on Saturday January 11, 2014 @05:43PM (#45928269)

    I don't see what the big mystery is here. Misdirected (non-spam) e-mails should be sent back to the sender, as has long been done with physical mail.

    I routinely reply to such e-mails with something along the lines of...
    "It appears that you have e-mailed me by mistake. I am not the person addressed in this e-mail."

    The sender can then track down the correct recipient or not, but at least they're aware it didn't reach the person intended. It's the considerate thing to do.

  • In the 1700's and earlier, most people lived in small villages and went by a single name, like "Robert". In the occasional event when there was more than one "Robert", people would add a qualifier such as "Robert the blacksmith" or "Robert John's son" or "Robert from Westford". When people were born in and lived their whole lives in a small village, this system worked.

    In the 1800's, and 1900's with the reduced cost of long-distance travel and the increase of the urban lifestyle, most people lived in comm

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

    Most sites have a "forget password" button that will send an email to your emailaddress to reset the password. Just use that.
    I wonder which sites these are, since most sites require you to confirm a subscription by email as well.

  • by Chewbacon (797801) on Saturday January 11, 2014 @06:19PM (#45928453)

    Don't pick on me for using AOL. We were all new to the internet once and had to start somewhere. Anyway, John@aol.com had the quote in his profile "I get a lot of wrong-number email."

  • I have the same format email address. My name is unusual enough that I think there are only about three other people giving out my address though. Mostly they are individuals and small businesses emailing me, and I've had good luck replying with the information that the person they are seeking isn't at my address.

    My favorite, though, was this one particular guy who gave out my address dozens of times. I emailed his proper address, I replied to all his business emails.. he still kept doing it though. The

  • Buy your own Domain. It's ~$10/yr.
    Setup a web server. It's free to $10/yr or so.
    Have total control. Works.

  • My gmail address is lastname@gmail.com, so it this probably happens every 3 months or so. Due to this, plenty of people intending to do slastname or plastname screw up and it goes to me. What I tend to do is if it looks important (hotel confirmation, the budget notes of some organization), I will attempt to forward it to the person intended. If I am unable to do that, I will respond to the person sending it and advise that they have the wrong address. If its not important (website registration), I'll usuall

  • by sedmonds (94908) on Saturday January 11, 2014 @07:41PM (#45928847) Homepage
    Quite a few years ago I had an e-mail account with my ISP, and it received an e-mail from a lawyer to their client, which contained some personal information. I replied, to let them know that it hadn't reached the intended recipient. Shortly thereafter, that e-mail account stopped working for me.

    I hadn't used the account for anything even remotely important, so I didn't bother trying to get it back.
  • by Phreakiture (547094) on Monday January 13, 2014 @09:31AM (#45938393) Homepage

    It appears nobody has considered this marvellously simple approach:

    Hit "reply". Type four words: "This is not me." Hit send.

    This extends the courtesy to the misdirector of the email of letting them know that they've got bad info.

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