What do you do with emails that are not intended for you?

Updated Oct 12 2015
Guest post by Jackie
DON'T email me. (Photo by: David GoehringCC BY 2.0)
I have a name that's not common in my generation, but is common in older generations. When I signed up for email, I chose the simplest form of my name. Now that the other 50 or so people in the US who have my name are also using email, I am having problems with receiving their personal emails.

The emails from someone's husband stopped after I replied to him several times. Now that stores ask you if you would like your receipt emailed to you, I am having a new round of problems. Part of me thinks "Learn your own email address, dammit." And the other part of me thinks "Well, what if she really needs this receipt?"

It's always a repeated case of someone giving out the wrong email address, but I don't actually know what their correct email address is. Am I obligated to do anything here? How do you handle emails not intended for you?

The wrong email problem happens to me a lot, ever since I realized my school emails were going to expire and grabbed jackie[mylastname]@gmail.com as a grown-up, non-work-affiliated email address. While my last name is pretty uncommon, there is a Jacki [Mylastname] who I've gathered is a lawyer in New York — and many, many people mess up her email (I actually figured out what it was because someone had even typed it out properly farther down the email thread!). I soon discovered that getting emails intended for someone else is kind of like getting a wrong number… except that the sender has no idea, they may have already sent you sensitive information, and they'll likely do it again unless you say something.

I have a standard response I use in that scenario:


Unfortunately it looks like you have the wrong email address (I live out in California). I believe the one you're looking for is jacki[mylastname]@gmail.com (note that there is no 'e' in Jacki). I recommend that you go into your contacts list and make sure to update it so your email program doesn't autofill the wrong one in the future.


Most email clients allow you to save canned responses to use at whim, so you can insert whatever standard text you like and then tweak as necessary. Most everyone I sent it to has responded back with an apology and a thank you. One time I did have a woman slip up after I had already responded, so I told her again and ignored any further messages with a clear conscience (and eventually the emails stopped).

I don't think the problem will ever quite go away, but making it as painless as possible to deal with has worked well for me. One day I may even have the ovaries to email Jacki herself and tell her to make extra sure people can spell her name right, but for now I'll just deal with the occasional message that floats my way. Your mileage may vary based on how popular your name is, so it's totally your judgment call if what you get warrants a response.

Homies that are constantly intercepting personal emails: what's the new-era solution for getting someone else's virtual mail?

  1. Even more fun is when someone sets up an account using your email. I recently signed up for Twitter and discovered that someone has used my primary email address for an account with the handle Thug Lyfe. Because I can have a password reset sent to my email address, I'm seriously considering taking over their account. I mean, I didn't choose the thug life, but maybe it chose my email.

    • I had someone use my e-mail address to sign up for a Match.com profile. I'm a 22 year old woman, and the profile was for a middle-aged man. It took about half an hour on the phone to straighten it out!

    • That happened to me with a shady hook-up site. I MAY have replaced his picture with something that amused me. I admit to nothing.

    • I've actually done this. We put my email in wrong on my Xbox live account, and it's a pain to change. When I finally did get it changed, I got a call (we used my phone number to reset the account) from the other KikiDae, trying to figure out why Xbox Live thought someone was trying to hack her account. It was kinda nice talking to the me from texas, if only for a moment. 😀

  2. My husband has this problem frequently and it's very frustrating. And alarming sometimes – He's had an email giving him information about a child's school security and another regarding a flight booking details for an elderly lady.

    Most often he'll reply and point out that the sender has been given the wrong address. On a bad day he might be less than polite about the aptitude of the intended recipient. I'm not sure his example is the best one to follow!

  3. I have this happen with my gmail occasionally. I usually send a reply like above if it is a personal from someone who probably just made a mistake.

    However, there are a couple people (i actually know their names by now), that tend to mess up and use my email (which is just firstinitial-lastname) to sign up for accounts, etc. For instance, my email is registered with someone's account at the NRA (!!) and i can't even unsubscribe to that one without knowing the account number…. Others i just hit unsubscribe.

    Recently, i got an email from Instagram (i don't instagram) saying my photo had been deleted for inappropriate content. There was a 'click here' on the email, which i didn't do because i thought it might be phishing spam. A couple days later I got another. I went to the main instagram page and tried to log in my email. It was clear there was an account there, so i did a 'forgot my password' thing, and changed it. I REALLY did not want my email associated with that particular account. Then i posted this on their instagram page: http://instagram.com/p/mpu6ioMN1L/

    Interesting side note about instagram site security – just a couple minutes after i posted that (and it got a couple comments), i got another email notice from instagram that the email had been changed to (new email address). Apparently it let him change it on his phone he was already logged into after i changed the password from my computer. In this case, that's all i wanted, but doesn't that seem like a security flaw? If someone had hacked you and you changed your password, they could still access.

    • Maybe it had a security question in addition to a password? I have multiple emails (spam email, main email, used-to-be-my-main-email-before-I-got-married) and sometimes when I've had too many email/password incorrect combinations, a website will give up and go "Hey, what about answering this security question?" And when I do, it will suggest I reset my email or password.

  4. On a similar vein, what do you do about that person who sends you email forwards that you have NO interest in? My dad (who, politics aside, is generally awesome) is an ultra-conservative Republican who listens to Rush Limbaugh and loves to send email forwards about how terrible Obama is or how global warming is a sham. He just hits "forward all" so EVERYONE on his email list gets this stuff. I used to just delete them (or respond with a Snopes.com link when appropriate), but now I just send all incoming email from him to spam. Whoops….

      • Well, the tricky part is that he IS my awesome dad and I don't want to hurt his feelings/offend him. Right now I have everything going to Spam, and if he asked later if I saw a certain email, I make a vague excuse about Gmail being funny about marking email forwards as spam…….

    • Ugh, my dad, whose politics are never entirely clear to me, sometimes sends me emails with pretty racist comments in them. Contrary to your mass-emailing-father, these aren't things he says to other people (that I know of), and I know him well enough to know that I won't be able to change his perceptions or get these kind of emails to cease. But I hate that the comments were ever even in my email inbox, as if that somehow associates them with me.

      As for the main topic of this post, my name is weird enough that such things have never happened to me. But I'm pretty sure I've accidentally given out a wrong email address at a store checkout once or twice when my email was newer (I gave [firstname]@gmail instead of [firstname.lastname]@gmail). I don't know if it went to anyone, but now I feel really guilty! Sometimes people just make mistakes.

    • If you're feeling particularly sassy, you can always reply to all with links to Snopes. 🙂

      But really, sending it to spam is the way to go. I had to do that with an Aunt. I figure since it wasn't "personal", I didn't have to feel bad about it. And if you're worried about not getting something that actually is personal, I think a lot of email clients allow you to set other parameters. Gmail lets you set up filters, so you can set it to go to Spam if it is from him and has certain keywords or subject lines, like "FWD". The rest will go to your inbox.

    • My dad has always felt that he knows what is best for me and is constantly sending links to jobs he feels is more appropriate (I'm a web designer…it's not like I have a terrible, throw-away job), schools that he thinks I should go to instead of where I'm going, religious newsletters he is subscribed to, and various other things. He has also recently discovered that the internet is a treasure trove of cute/funny animal pictures and loves to send those too. It's not uncommon to get 20 email from him in a day. I've started handling it by a quick look through the subject line, click if it seems really really really interesting, then mass 'mark as read' for the rest. I also regret the day I taught him how to text message…

      • My dad stopped forwarding me things when I responded to some political thing going LINE BY LINE through all the pages showing just how his conservative dumbassery was affecting me as a woman and a social worker. He was actually impressed that I wrote back to him in such an informed way.

        Sure he's sent me random stuff since then, but a quick Snopes reply-all is enough to curb it for the most part.

    • I thought it was just my in-laws that did this stuff! Sometimes I laugh at how silly the stuff they send out can be, other times I just cry to think there are people in this world who really believe these things without hesitation. *sigh* I love the *unsubscribe* idea below.

    • There's been a couple of cases–most notably email from several different homeowners in a neighborhood we no longer live in, caused by them finding an old email to the group and copying all the addresses from it–where I just created rules in my email program that send them all to the trash.

    • I would love to see a full post dedicated to this. I actually sent my mum a reply suggesting better ways for her to deal with it (like, post articles to her Facebook account instead). She never responded – I did get more stuff, but it was slightly different stuff, so I'm not sure if she's changing or not. I feel it is genuinely not good for me and gives me feelings of anxiety to see this stuff, but I also don't want to block her because sometimes she includes news and other stuff and I don't want to miss anything. I also want to give positive reinforcement if she does send along something I like!

    • Back before people could just post things to facebook and forwards were all the rage I had a strict policy. If I opened up my email account and I had more than three forwards from you, you were getting blocked. However, I didn't want to do this with out warning so I would let you know for a first offense and if it happened again, blocked – no exceptions. The idea being, before you send me something think long and hard about whether or not I will appreciate it and if its worth not sending me something later. One day my mom hit this threshold. I sent her an email clearly stating the above (it may even have read like a form letter since I'd typed it a few times before). I think we may have had a brief conversation about it where I basically reiterated the "no exceptions" part. She still sends me forwards, but they are much fewer now. Still rarely something I'm interested in reading, but fewer at least.

  5. I use my first name and middle name (which is my grandmother's maiden name) as my email address. There is someone with this as their name in New Zealand and someone in the UK – and I get their email all the time (at least 2-3 times a month). When it seems like something important (paying a doctor's bill, kid's school or dance lessons etc.) I respond and say they have the wrong email address, when it is a mailing list, I just unsubscribe.

    The number of times it has happened makes me think that they don't know their own email address or people just keep making the same mistake with regard to it. I don't know their real email addresses, but wish I did because I could forward stuff directly to them, and hope that they learn to make sure people have their right addresses

  6. This is the bane of my existence.

    If it's to an individual, I reply and tell them they have the wrong address. (And I have some repeat offenders…) if it's to an account I try to unsubscribe.

    And then I blog about it. http://emailidiots.tumblr.com/

    One of my recent "favorites" was when I had to repeatedly reply-all shame the person who kept sending me updates on their fantasy sports league after I told him several times that he had the wrong address.

  7. My name isn't very common in North America but apparently is quite common in South Africa. My email address is [myfirstname@popularemail.com] and I am CONSTANTLY getting emails for other people. I get flight itinerary, meeting minutes, vacation photos, bills, subscriptions, password resets, and on and on and on. It's almost a daily thing.

    I once had a woman email me constantly thinking I was her long lost lover Karl (my email address is a woman's name). And no matter how much I said "I am not Karl" she would not believe me – I even sent her a facebook message with my very non-male profile picture. She still didn't believe me. She's now blocked.

    When I got my new phone, I tried to register my phone and set up an account with the company, but it seems that someone had beat me to it and had used my email address. Fortunately it was really easy to switch that over, it only took one email to their online support. I've also had to go on to dating sites and delete profiles and deactivate accounts.

    Lately it's been banking information and bills for a phone line. I've tried to get my email removed with these companies, but it didn't take and now they go straight to my junk folder.

    My husband thinks that I should blog about it, because some of them have been really strange.

    My go-to response with the emails that seem personal are that they have the wrong address, that I live in Canada. I once got an email with a job offer and I replied that they had the wrong email address but if they were willing to pay for my moving expenses (from Canada to South Africa! HA!) that I would consider it! That got a chuckle, but they went with the candidate that lived closer.

  8. I had this happen on the other end right after I got married.
    New married, new name, new email address. However, when my grandmother changed my email address in her address book, instead of entering [firstname].[maiden name].[married name]@gmail.com, she put a space in between my maiden name and married names.
    Fortunately, my married name is pretty uncommon and everyone with that spelling is part of the same family. So the nice gentleman out in CA got an email from my grandma, and he just forwarded it to me at my old email address (which was in the email chain), welcomed me to the family, and recommended that I get my email address correct in my grandma's address book.
    Long story short: politeness is a plus. And certainly with private correspondence, if you can figure out where it goes, forward it with a note.

  9. Oh gosh this!

    It's happened a few times to myself. I tend to treat them on a case by case basis. There was one instance where my email was used to sign up for a instagram account. When it had said I already had an account I requested a password change and discovered a very professional account with beautiful photography. At that point I felt horrible because I wanted to give the account back to its rightful owner but didn't know how to get in touch with them.

    Eventually, a posted picture and explanation went up, she contacted me via email and I was able to get the account back to her safe and sound.

    The other time is an ongoing struggle. I've discovered a surprising amount of information about the lady in the Eastern USA who keeps using my email to sign up for photo clubs, work newsletters, prescription pick ups and various other things. Several times I've written back to the company explaining this was a frequent thing, but this has been going on for over two years now to no avail. I'm at the end of my rope.

    On her most recent foray into signing up for something with my email, I simply went online through my account, found out she had ordered a few pictures, and proceeded to order many more copies of the pictures for her to pick up at Walgreens. The orders were all cancelled (I know, I got the emails stating such) and hopefully she learned her lesson. My next step is going to be calling her and politely telling her to check her sign up information carefully.

  10. My gmail address is my full name. So of course, the "Other Mes" forget to add in the number when they give it out or whatever it is that differentiates their address from mine. At this point, I'm scorched earth on that shit. It's gone on for years now, so I'm done. It's the same three women, so they can live with my bitter retribution.
    At first, I tried to be cordial and reply that the sender is mistaken. Several people flat-out didn't believe me–like I was pulling some prank "haha, funny, NO WAY YOU'D BE A DEMOCRAT". Some were incredibly rude about the fact that they had gotten the email address wrong or had been given a bad email address–as if it were my fault. Several people simply ignored my emails and continued to send along their forwards. I keep getting new emails where this person has obviously just given the wrong email address. One of them gave her apartment complex my email address and the complex offers no way for me to correct it. One of them signed up for a Kindle with my email address and proceeded to download every app in friggin' creation. I've been sent notifications that someone from federal prison wants to communicate with me, I've been sent pictures of an old dude (from waist to knee) wearing thigh high stockings, I've been sent love notes "to the mother of my children, please take me back".
    I reply back to interview offers in New Hampshire that this applicant made a typo in her email address in her resume. I canceled the Kindle account. I replied back to Grandpa's crotch "2/10". I told the would-be Romeo that he and his children's mother need to learn their email addresses because I was sick of getting their email. I reply back to the guy that sends me $350,000 house postings in Georgia that this shit is clearly pedestrian, that "I'm" looking for something in the $500,000 range. I just delete the notices that "my" rent is late.
    Is anyone else as bitter and shitty about this as I am? I feel like I've gotten to the point where I'm legitimately mean, but I just CAN'T with these women. They keep signing up for websites with my email address and all signs point to the fact that they're just giving out the wrong email address.

    • I was so tempted to reply to a "What's the dress code?" email with "I believe the event is 70s- themed" or some other nonsense.

    • I am sorry for your frustration, but these are some great stories! I love your responses. Man, those of us with unique names are really missing out.

      • Yeah, I found this interesting because I don't think I've ever gotten an email intended for someone else. I didn't even know that was a thing, although it makes sense that it would be when people have their names as email addresses, heh.

  11. I had this problem for quite awhile – just one person, but she got a LOT of emails. The problem was – she had the same e-mail as me (not a name), only spelled incorrectly.

    I was very polite at first. But then, the same people kept emailing me repeatedly after multiple e-mails telling them they had the wrong person. I eventually tried the "scare tactic". I got about my 10th email from her youth pastor, and replied telling him that firstly, I had told him multiple times that he had the wrong email and then went on to list all the things I had learned about this 15 year old girl because she had been giving people the wrong e-mail (seriously – I knew her full name, her friends names, her church, I had her picture, her address… it was scary).

    The e-mails kept coming, and I was admittedly getting really annoyed. Then I got a horrid letter from the youth pastor – that was telling everyone on this list (not BCC'd, by the way) about one of the young members of the church being gay, outting him, reminding people how "wrong" it was… it was a truly vile email. So I lost my shit, emailed the entire list telling them once again that I never wanted to get another email from them, listing again all the things I had learned about this girl because of the year of mis-directed emails – honestly, was a lot meaner than I really needed to be.

    … I got an email from her telling me she was changing her email so it wouldn't happen anymore. (I also got an email from her pastor telling me how inappropriate I was, lol)

    I felt kind of bad flipping out on a bunch of kids like that, but I haven't gotten a single further email for her since so… mission accomplished?

    • They have to learn about Internet security sometime. And I am glad it was you and not someone who would use that info to hurt her!

  12. This has happened to me several times with my Lydia[lastname] account as well. The worst offender is a journalist/activist who once e-mailed a whole bunch of news outlets offering to write about her activities – and then gave those outlets MY e-mail as a response address. I mailed her back but she never responded.

    I've also been approached about catsitting and music camps in the US (I live in the Netherlands).

  13. Oh, one other person who doesn't remember their own email address, and thinks they have mine, is a film professor in California. Occasionally i get items from him, obviously forwarding from his work email to his gmail. Incorrectly!

    Once he sent me his entire final exam for a film course he teaches (i had replied to him several times previously that he is using the wrong email address…) I briefly toyed with posting the exam online somewhere, but, my conscience wouldn't allow that….

  14. Um, thank god for my weird, rare, ethnic last name that I use for my Gmail address? No one can spell it or pronounce it, but at least I get the lone perk of no mistaken identities.

    • Yeah, but do you know how many emails you have NOT gotten because there might be a more common variant, it's easy to make a spelling mistake?

      Personally my name was taken on gmail, so now I have weirdchildhoodname.lastname@gmail, only that first name is only one letter different from sara. I don't misspell it when signing up for anything, but I've had at least one person misread it when it was written down somewhere (and send at least 1 Email).

  15. I've had a lot of problems with my email address (it being my full name, which is fairly common). The easiest to deal with was a Norwegian professor whose students emailed me for extensions.. I quickly found out that her middle initials were M. L. instead of just M., so I was able to inform her and her students how to connect properly. The most frustrating is a woman in California who seems to be in her 50s, and super active in her church and book club. She's pretty incompetent with internetting (signing up to all sorts of things with my email address), and her friends are too.. not believing my corrections, or just forgetting. The condolences e-cards were most uncomfortable to receive, with the catty gossip emails a close second. I still have no idea what her real email address is, because even the people who believe my correction don't bother telling me what's going on.

    Amusingly, I've recently had a string of account creation emails.. directed to the account I made for my _cat_ so she could have a facebook page (I know, I'm a dork). Who makes a Pandora account with the first name Tribble??

    • Tribbles are very amusing classic Star Trek monsters. I don't think it's a far stretch for someone to make a Star Trek themed account handle.

  16. There seem to be two people with similar email addresses to my pre-marriage email address (sylvia[maidenname]@gmail.com) — one of them is a homeschooling mom, and I was homeschooled, so those emails really confused me at first — I thought they must be coming from my old homeschool group, until one of them mentioned a location, and it wasn't where I'm from. That one, I eventually figured out — her name is Silvia, with an i, and mine is Sylvia, with a y. So when I get emails for her, I pass them on, with a note back to the sender that they have the wrong address. The second seems to be buying real estate in England — and I haven't figured out what her actual email address is. With emails for her, I simply reply and say that they seem to have gotten the wrong address, and best of luck in getting it touch with the right person. Fortunately, neither of these have happened too much, so I've remained fairly polite about it.

  17. These stories of email doppelgangers are fascinating! Mine is actually my cousin; our respective parents gave us the same first name for some dingbat reason, and we both kept our surname after marriage. So sometimes my relatives send me things meant for her, including a long, wrenching email from her brother detailing his money troubles. Oh man, how bad I felt to tell him he had poured his heart out to the wrong relative. Moral of the story: name your kid something weird.

    • My name is weird (though I prefer unique). See my comment above about the popularity of my name in South Africa (I am from Canada with no ties to South Africa)

  18. I just had this issue yesterday. I live in Seattle and somehow got on a group email with a ton of reply alls about a kid's dance recital in PA. I asked politely to be taken off the list. And was for a while. Then somehow I was back on. So I asked again, and the emails didn't stop. So yesterday I sent them a photo of my chickens with a note that said "I thought you would like a photo of my chickens." I got a few "they are so cute" and "do you get a lot of eggs" emails, then someone posted "I don't think this is the [name] we think it is" and someone else said "I think this is the person who asked to be removed from the list" And then I was!!!

    I also have the same first and last name as a comedian who happens to be from Seattle, but lives in LA. She spells her last name with a double letter, where I have a single one. I get her booking emails all the time. Sometimes I forward them on to her. Other times not. I did get drunk dialed by a fan once. She and I email occasionally to clear up mistakes and she's invited me to her show.

    • A photo of your chickens is a great idea! People tend to pay attentoon to unusual things, so I am going to keep that in mind!

  19. This happens to me with work email. I'm an administrative assistant, and a woman in IT has my last name as her first name. I usually just reply "you've emailed [me] in [department] but I think you meant [her] in IT as I can't make heads or tails of what you're talking about!

    • Yeah, my husband and I work for the same college and often correspond with the same people. (He's a reference librarian, I'm the museum registrar.) As the standard email address is lastnamefirstinitial, we often get emails meant for the other person. Thank goodness it's just a spouse mixup and it's not that hard to forward things, but there is always the concern that something might be more confidential and that we might accidentally read something not intended for us, perhaps related to a student or something security-related.

  20. There are, apparently, two separate men in Virginia with my name who have a tendency to use my email address instead of their own. I've gotten receipts for online orders, login info for shady dating sites, workers comp info (eek)… I have their addresses now so if I can tell who it was meant for I'll forward it (usually with a LEARN YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS, DUDE) but… geeeez.

  21. I do a sort of case-by-case basis. Some woman in the UK (I'm the US) has my name, and seems to think we have the same email address. I can't tell if she signs up for spammy stuff with the "fake" (my) email address, or whether it's an honest mistake. In addition to all the listservs she's joined about finances and travel (which I've just ended up blocking as my repeated replies that "hey I don't know you stop emailing me, also I don't live in the UK" were ignored) I've also gotten emails of a more personal nature.

    That poor woman gave my email address to all the schools her children were trying to get accepted into. I told all the schools who emailed me about how her children's interviews went that I was the wrong gal. I also got an email from a new friend of her and her husband, thanking them for having dinner at his house and wanting to get her and her husband together with him and his wife again soon. For some reason, I never replied to the nice man that the email was wrong. I haven't received any more emails from that guy either, but reading these comments here makes me feel guilty. Maybe the lady and her husband never hung out with their nice couple friends again because she/I never responded to the invitation?

  22. Actually, this is excellent timing; I've recently received an e-mail including a stranger's full name and address, as well as the hotel s/he will be staying at and which nights. I e-mailed the hotel back telling them that they had the wrong e-mail, but they've sent me another. I'm wondering if I should call and inform them that they're sending personal information about one of their customers to a stranger, since e-mailing them didn't seem to work.

  23. I've never had this problem with email, thankfully. My first name has an unusual spelling, so it does not matter that my last name is super common, and my primary email address is my business name which is also unusual.

    I am, however, having a similar problem with my home phone number, specifically with an apparently confused elderly lady who is transposing the digits of her phone number and giving people mine instead. We have had the same land line number for probably 15 years at least, but suddenly we're getting calls for this old lady. First it was the medicare prescription delivery service, which is an automated robocall, and no matter how many times I yell "operator" or "customer service" at it, it just gives me the same message over and over again, that "Edna Oldladylast" needs to call about her prescriptions. Then, a bill collector trying to collect a medical debt keeps calling, and no matter how many times I tell them they have the wrong phone number for "Edna Oldladylast" they pretty much just tell me they think I'm lying and continue to call. AND, on top of it, I suppose someone in a place where she wrote down my number instead of hers has sold their phone contacts to a telemarketing conglomerate, so we're starting to get calls from various elderly related services that want to sell us diabetes supplies and home security systems. The medicine thing is the most concerning, since I feel like this poor old lady isn't getting her meds delivered because she probably does not realize she wrote down the wrong number. The other calls are an annoying nuisance that I can't do anything about, other than not answer the phone.

    • I had a phone number mixup, but in the BEST possible way. Apparently when my parents let me have my very own phone number at home (with my own answering machine, no less!!!) I inherited Yasmine Bleeth's old number. That was REALLY fun.

      • As the only Jew in a small rural Minnesota town in the late 90s I was given the old phone number of a local fundamentalist church that had gone under. I used to get calls from some right-wing fundamentalist group with calls to action and sermons about random topics.

        That was interesting!

        • My husband gets phone calls all the time for a local eye doctor they get the wrong area code). He tries his best to steer the little old ladies in the right direction, but we have a good laugh at the messages they leave for a CLEARLY NON BUSINESS voicemail 🙂

    • I only ever had one email mix-up, and it was low-key (I got emails about something being delivered from a particular store… I could see they'd got the other woman's address ok, so I figured she'd get her stuff eventually and things would work out).

      But I had the most dramatic phone-number mix-up one time. This poor guy kept calling my mobile (about 10 times in one hour at first) first speaking in a language I didn't know, and then switching to English but insisting that I was Ahmed, then begging that I pass the phone to Ahmed or tell him how to get in touch with him.

      There was some terrible trouble at their house, a pipe had burst or something, and they were trying to call their (dodgy-sounding) landlord, who had given them an incorrect number. It was awful, but after the first few times, I just had to stop answering… I have no idea who Ahmed was, but I hope they found a way to get in touch with him eventually…

  24. I had this problem in grad school–another student had the same name as me, just with a different initial. Needless to say, getting emails about labs and get-togethers from people I didn't know got old very, very quickly. I emailed her to let her know that people were sending me her messages (and continually forwarded things to her), but after a while, I had to just say "look, you need to tell people what your email is, because I'm getting sick of this." Thankfully, I got significantly fewer messages after that. Rarely did she bother to forward anything to me, though, that my fellow students erroneously sent to her…

    I get tired of people calling my cell phone, leaving messages, and clearly not getting that they have called the wrong person. It drives me nuts, as I have a personal message on there–do they not notice that the voice is unfamiliar and that the name doesn't match up? Whenever I can, I try to call people back to let them know (because sometimes, it sounds pretty serious), but there was one time that I missed a call, didn't have the number, and apparently some doctor's office had called to tell a guy that his medical appointment had to be moved…There was another guy who used to get really angry whenever I would tell him that there was no "Pam" at my number–until the time he called and I yelled at him for calling AGAIN looking for her. The priest that kept inviting some couple to communion was amusing, though. Eventually I told him that I appreciated the offer, but I didn't know the people and wouldn't be able to make it, myself…

  25. I send a reply and then filter it so that all subsequent emails from that address skip my inbox. Because I ain't got time to be doing that more than once per person (seriously this happens to me like every other week… my last name is very common).

    I also actually take over any account set up with my address as quickly as possible, and change the password. On the one hand, I can thus stop getting email updates from whatever service; on the other, it prevents them from adding a bunch of personal information to it that I shouldn't really be privy to.

  26. ALSO: Once, I actually figured out the correct address for an email sent to me, and forwarded the message along, asking politely for the other person to let their friends know what their actual address was. And they asked me to just keep forwarding emails along, as if I was their personal assistant. First of all, I get emails for way too many people to figure out which should be going to one person versus another. Second of all, NOPE. WTF?

  27. I work as an attorney, and this is common enough with law offices that our ethical rules have very exact responses to these sorts of problems.
    First, you are to "return" the e-mail to the sender if possible, and notify them that you received it in error. Once you realize you got the e-mail in error, you're supposed to stop reading it, so you don't over-inform yourself on something confidential (but you're always treated as if you read the whole thing).
    The really sucky part is that a mixup like that can completely ruin someone's court case, because that information is no longer considered confidential. Ultimately, if an attorney is very careless about sending information to the wrong people, or the item was something really sensitive, they could get reprimanded or disbarred.

  28. I actually have the OPPOSITE of this problem. My first and last name are very common, but use slightly less common spellings. The woman who has my e-mail address, just with RachEl not AEl, gets my e-mails all the time, and I feel really bad about it. Every single time I give someone my e-mail address, I specifically spell it out in an effort to avoid this problem….and then it happens again. It has happened even when I SEND AN E-MAIL to that person or when I have written or typed my e-mail out specifically for them. I even had a woman send an e-mail, intended for me, to the OTHER Rachel that was like "Wait, so your name is spelled Rachael but your e-mail is Rachel?" ….No.
    I guess people just don't read when they think they know the name already? It's super frustrating. I've had really important e-mails sent to the other Rachel; I'm lucky she's kind enough to continue forwarding the important ones. I've thought about switching my e-mail address to my initials or something, but they all seem to be taken, and I need my address to stay professional. 😛 It's a problem.

  29. There is a woman who is doing this to me also! In the past three years I have received:

    — notes from her children's teachers
    — reminders for dentist appointments
    — reminders for car maintenance
    — her "family birthday list" containing the phone numbers, addresses, full names and birthdays of all her family members
    — emails about health insurance from her ex husband
    — emails from a banker negotiating the short sale of her house with her ex husband
    — receipt for romantic weekend with her new husband
    — invitation to spend the holidays with her family (i was tempted to show up if I actually lived within a few hundred miles…)

    Basically I have enough material to write a book about her at this point.

  30. This happens to my husband almost daily; he has a fairly common name, and has been getting emails from companies and services on behalf of someone who apparently doesn't know their own email address. He gets everything from hotel reservations to Playstation account notifications, even some financial service info and tax-related emails. Unfortunately, even the most benign of these providers don't make contact easy, so my husband's response is to just unsubscribe from or cancel the account or service when he can. We know that has led to this other Ryan (our last name) showing up to a flight with no reservation, having his XBox account cancelled, and even having a phone account suspended, but we have no way to contact the other guy, and he seems not to have caught on! It feels cruel, but it's the only way we've found to staunch the flow of misplaced emails.

  31. I have this EXACT problem, specifically with a woman who appears to live in Dallas. I've received personal emails, receipts, signups for newsletters that are in her area, her new gym membership and even BANK STATEMENTS!

    What's worse is when I called the bank to say "Hey this isn't her email address please remove it" they refused to take it off because I couldn't verify her personal information (like social security number) and said it was against their policy to change account information without verification. I said, "I'm not asking you to change it to something, I simply want you to remove my email so you stop sending a total stranger this woman's bank information." I had to escalate the issue before they would stop sending me her banking stuff. Apparently no one told her though cause she continues to use my email as hers

  32. So the timing on this is funny. This morning I received a third email from my similar email lady's husband that was adressed to BOTH of us. Part of me is relieved he notices that there is a problem, and part of me is annoyed that he can't bother to fix it. But since it has become a trend to email both firstlast and first.last, I am assured that she will still receive her emails, and I can block his email address with a clear conscience.

    On the other side of this, my mother would claim she emailed me something and would be annoyed that I hadn't responded. After asking my brother to forward me a recent email, I figured out that she was emailing my defunct undergraduate email. When she switched to a new email client, her address book was organized differently, and old email adresses started showing up again.

    • Ugh, my mom has the same problem sending me e-mails. I'm pretty sure her e-mail address book looks like this: [high school gibberish account], [undergrad.edu], [gradschool.edu], [maiden.name@gmail], [married.name@gmail] and she sends emails to ALL FIVE – even professional work stuff. It's embarrassing. Shouldn't her Blackberry be able to figure this out?

  33. My address is [myfirstname1]@whatever, and I get lots of e-mails for [myfirstnamel]@ whatever. I usually write back and tell the sender that they have the wrong person, with varying results. I once got a reply that said, "no, you know me, you took my prenatal yoga class!" I assured her that I would have noticed if I'd ever had kids, and that I really was the wrong person. (I've also received birthday greetings from her dentist, presumably for those same kids.)

    After 7 or 8 years at our current address, we started getting mail for the former owners, from a Native American band council down in the USA, and they were obviously cheques. After returning at least half a dozen with "moved – address unknown" marked on them, I finally tracked down a phone number and called. They stopped eventually.

    • I love when people argue with you like "No, I sent this to the right person."

      I had one guy sending me family photos and when I replied saying "Sorry, wrong email address" he then explained who he was and and how he knew me. When I said "I'm sorry you have the wrong person, I don't know you or the people in these photos." He kept insisting that he had it right. I ended up responding "I've explained to you that you have the wrong person and the wrong email address. You can figure out the right email address and send these photos to the correct person, or you can continue to send them to me and I will block your address." He finally stopped after that

      • Someone did this to me after emailling me personal details about someone "mutual friend's" mental health. I said she'd sent it to the wrong person, she replied, "Oh, I thought you'd want to know?" I had to tell her I had never heard of any of the people mentionned in the email, I think she eventually believed me!

  34. My email address is kathleen.(surname), and right after I had a hacking attempt on my paypal linked to the address I had someone set up an email account (kathyj(surname)) and link it to mine. I was pretty suss and sent a 'why have you done this, I've just had someone try to hack an account of mine and this looks super dodgy' email. I got back an email from an apparently older woman from America (I'm Australian) saying that she used my email address as 'it was her name'. Right. So I sent her an email giving her a breakdown of how to unlink the accounts as it would not let me do so. I got back an abusive email from someone stating that they were her daughter. After 2 weeks of back and forth, with this crazy person becoming increasingly more abusive and yet not doing anything to fix the problem I caved and hacked into the account, changing the password and then updating the secret question to "I told you to fix it, you should have listened. Now get a new email address and leave me alone." Never heard from them again.

  35. I had a similar thing happen to me – but rather than getting emails intended for the "other me", I got stuck in a tug of war over an account that was rightfully mine.

    my first sign of an issue was getting the typical "you have requested a password change" message when I had done no such thing. I ignored the first few, then contacted the help center for the website to let them know that someone was trying to access my account. no response. they continued to come in, but I figured it's no big deal, the person clearly isn't going to ge the password reset emails and therefore won't gain access to my info.

    WRONG. one day, I tried to access the account in question only to find my password didn't work. I requested, received, and activated a password reset and gained access only to find that someone else's information was living on my account. Full name, address, phone, and full credit card information. I considered for just a split second how fun it would be to buy myself some stuff, then instead changed everything on the account – completely different email (zero similar characters), new password, new security questions, my name and personal info.

    years later, after I had let the account go dormant, I tried to regain access only to find I had been locked out. this time I called customer support, and was told that the account had been frozen due to a disputed charge to "my" card. I have never in my life requested a chargeback or dispute. the only thing that could have happened is that the "other me" really wanted into that account and placed the chargeback.

    here is what freaked me out: why would that person have ever been able to take any actions on my account? the only information she and I ever shared was the first syllable of our first names and clearly some element of an email address. needless to say, I have retired my version of that email alias and go by one that is unique to me and me alone.

    I never did figure out what her actual email address was, but had I been able to do so I would have sent her an email just to make her stop trying to steal my stuffs.

    • What on earth goes through peoples heads?! I WANTS THE EMAIL ADDRESS PRECIOUS crazy. It's not your email address ya weirdo! Get your own!

  36. I thought I was the only one with this problem! There's another person out there with my name who is never going to know when her doctor appointments are because I get all her reminders!

    Also, as a kid, we were given a phone number that had belonged to a bank. My mom changed our voicemail to "this is not soandso bank, but if you'd like to make a deposit, leave your number and we will definitely call you back."

  37. I've started getting misdirected account sign up emails from kids' websites, where the kid has to enter a parent's email to sign up for their account. I feel kind of bad about shutting down all her accounts, but I wish she would figure out that my email is not her parent's!

  38. I have recently been getting a slew of application and interview emails for jobs I have not been applying to, from a state I do not even live in. From my understanding nowadays if you register for an email addres (rachael.mylastname@gmail.com) I also own similar address (rachaelmylastname@gmail.com and so on). So even though it may not be my exact address I still receive these emails. A friend was concerned that my account got hacked but I believe it is just a mistake on the senders part.

    I just politely alert the interviewer that they have the wrong address and wish them luck in reaching their candidate. I would love to make them stop coming all together but I'm not sure how to go about preventing my "email" from applying to jobs.

  39. There is a successful creative person with the same first and last name as me (otherwise both are not so common) but I spell my name with a J and she with a G. When I first got a work related email meant for her, I googled my name, and her professional website came up as well as results related to me. I figured out what her email must be. If it's a work related email, I forward it to her and if it's a receipt I reply to sender to update their records.

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