Someone else's gmail
October 29, 2009 6:24 PM   Subscribe

I'm getting someone else's gmail along with my own. What to do?

I have a gmail account the address of which is my name, in the format It seems that someone who shares my name was able to register I am assuming that I am getting a lot of mail for this person due to the address being mistyped, since I doubt I get all of her mail. 1) Is this a reasonable assumption? 2) What are the chances that this person is getting any of my mail? 3) What is the appropriate action regarding the misdirected mail? Should I set up a script to forward it, ignore it, or what? I'd rather not have to communicate directly with this person; I know too much about them for comfort due to having accidentally read their mail so often.
posted by obloquy to Computers & Internet (43 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I don't think this is possible, because from what I know, GMail is set up to accept "" the same as "," the same as "" So, not sure what's happening, but I doubt it'd let the person setup the same email address.
posted by InsanePenguin at 6:30 PM on October 29, 2009 [3 favorites]

Probably the person whose mail you're getting has a number in their address, or an odd spelling for their first name. I get mail for all the time, and it turns out most of it is supposed to be A couple of the geniuses who email him now send their email to both addresses, though I've explained that I'm not the guy they're looking for.
posted by willpie at 6:36 PM on October 29, 2009

The chances are as high that she's getting your mail as you are getting hers. In other words, quite possible, adjusted by the general typing confidence of your cohort.

This used to happen to my wife (who had a very common name) until she changed her name all the time.

I'm not sure why you're so reluctant to contact the person directly - something simple like:

"Hi, I think I'm getting your mail by accident - my email address is, and yours is first.last. Could you send me anything you might get that clearly isn't yours? I'll do the same, and if you could let your contacts know to check their address book (or watch their typing) that'd be great."

If it'd be easy to set up a filter in gmail to catch this, why not do it? Or just reply to the original sender, cc the correct person and say "hey, I think this meant to go to you - they forgot the dot between your first and last name."

That tends to be a polite but effective way to embarrass the sender into fixing their address book.
posted by canine epigram at 6:36 PM on October 29, 2009

FWIW, I have and some stranger has and we do indeed occasionally get each others' emails. Thus far our grand solution has been to avert eyes and forward it. And I don't know about her, but I don't use that particular account for anything sensitive.
posted by jamaro at 6:36 PM on October 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

From Gmail help: Receiving someone else's mail?
Gmail doesn't recognize dots as characters within usernames, you can add or remove the dots from a Gmail address without changing the actual destination address; they'll all go to your inbox, and only yours. In short:

* =
* =
* =

All these addresses belong to the same person. You can see this if you try to sign in with your username, but adding or removing a dot from it. You'll still go to your account.

If you get mail that seems to be intended for someone else, it's likely that the sender entered the wrong address, just like if you've ever dialed a wrong phone number for someone.
In these cases, we suggest contacting the original sender or website when possible to alert them to the mistake.
posted by kathryn at 6:38 PM on October 29, 2009 [9 favorites]

This thing about yourname and is absolutely false. I have one, someone else has the.other and yet another person just the last bit and they all are unique addresses.

You only need to worry about someone else getting email intended for you if you have a) given out the wrong email address accidentally or b) your friends are typing it wrong.

I just set up a Google Labs "Canned Response" to answer the sender politely with my full name and correct email, point out I don't recognize them and they may want to check their address and, if they persist, filter it straight to archive. I do not have the benefit of knowing which of the variants they intend and I don't presume to.

(I have now received more unintended cell phone photos from skeezy strip clubs than I needed, for instance.)
posted by abulafa at 6:38 PM on October 29, 2009

I recently received the following email, which seemed more than adequate:

Please note that you have the incorrect email for XXX YYYY. The correct one is Don't worry it happens a lot! :). Thanks!!

And for what it's worth, that email was sent from and the correct email was, so I don't think InsanePenguin is correct on that point
posted by chndrcks at 6:38 PM on October 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

Hm, as I look back (based on the timely help quote) I probably meant underscore, not dot. In any case, the only way I can handle this is with the canned response.
posted by abulafa at 6:40 PM on October 29, 2009

Ok, thanks to chndrcks now I don't know what to believe.
posted by abulafa at 6:41 PM on October 29, 2009

If there's and there's, email addressed to will be delivered to obloquoy's mailbox. Respond to misaddressed emails:
This is Obloquoy@gmail, and I believe you have sent me email in error. I get a lot of incorrectly addressed email. If you help me find the correct recipient, I'll try to get this email to the right person. Meanwhile, please correct the address in your contact list.

Or just delete it. I respond to to email for theora54 and theora56 once. Then I just delete. The Internet doesn't have social norms for this, really.
posted by theora55 at 6:47 PM on October 29, 2009

I would email the people who are sending you the mail to inform them they have the wrong email address and get them to fix their records or, at the very least, stop cluttering your inbox. The burden falls on the sender to send it to the right address, and you're really not obligated to forward anything. In fact, I would strongly advise against forwarding the messages, since you can't actually be certain they were intended for her or someone else with a similar address. My boyfriend has been having the same problem recently, and that was how he handled it.

If you're getting too many emails to handle like that, even though you say it's not ideal, you might want to email the person directly and advise her of the situation, so that she's aware that she'll likely continue to miss emails if she persists with that address. It's an awkward situation, but it's one that you ought to be able to handle professionally. I mean, it's not like you have to go over every personal detail you accidentally found out. You just need to disclose that you've been getting mail intended for her, and she might want to do something about that.
posted by Diagonalize at 6:49 PM on October 29, 2009

Anyone with doubts as to whether some.address is the same as someaddress need only send themselves an email with a few extra periods inserted. (another gmail address trick: yourname+anything@ gets delivered to yourname@)

I think a just-as-likely explanation for receiving a stranger's email is someone else has got, or
posted by unmake at 6:50 PM on October 29, 2009

My bet is that you do in fact own Prove this by sending a message to that address, and I bet every time you do, it will show up in your account.

So, bottom line is that people are using the wrong address and reaching you, either because they were given the wrong address or because they just messed up. Either way, you should let the sender know, IMO. (You can't really let the intended recipient know, because you don't know what their real address is.) That's what I'd want someone to do if they received a message intended for me. How about you?
posted by c, as in "kitchen" at 6:52 PM on October 29, 2009

I get this older Canadian lady's email all the time. Most of the time it's junk, but I did respond to it when it was people from her old high school trying to contact her regarding her 40th class reunion. I suspect her correct address is Our_Name or includes an initial or number, while mine is Our.Name (and incidentally, I just tested it and I also receive Gmail addressed to Ourname).

But I don't know, and since none of it has been of vital importance, I don't worry about it. I also don't forward catalogs when they come addressed to the people who used to live in my house.
posted by padraigin at 6:53 PM on October 29, 2009

My gmail address is I often get email for someone who shares my last name but spells her first name Kayte. I generally don't forward it to her; instead, I send a canned response to the sender so they can fix their address book/note the unusual spelling of her name. Perhaps your bizarro email twin has a similar spelling issue.
posted by katie at 6:54 PM on October 29, 2009

Oh, by the way, the high school classmates invited me to come to their reunion anyway. Canadians are NICE.
posted by padraigin at 6:55 PM on October 29, 2009 [2 favorites]

Anyone with doubts as to whether some.address is the same as someaddress need only send themselves an email with a few extra periods inserted. (another gmail address trick: yourname+anything@ gets delivered to yourname@)

This is actually how I discovered my nameganger: I had read about the cool
"stick a period in there anywhere" feature, experimented with sending an email to and the email never arrived. A few days later, I got a polite note from forwarding my email back to me.
posted by jamaro at 6:56 PM on October 29, 2009

This happens to me with three different women (I mentioned it once here) - one in London, one in Australia and one in New Jersey. From what I can tell, the one in London should really be firstname.middleinitial.lastname@gmail, but I can't figure out the other two.

After having the above note about gmail not recognizing the dots to me, I've just worked under the assumption that they, like me, have multiple emails based on name variations (I have two yahoo that are firstname_middleinitial_lastname and firstname_maidenname_lastname) and that they just forget sometimes when they're registering somewhere, or that since firstname.lastname or firstnamelastname is the most generic default base email that sometimes people are wagering a guess on how to get in touch with them. I guess I'd rather believe in human error than a fault in the great Google.

So how I handle it is that I write back a simple one line along the lines of "I'm sorry, I am not the Amy Lastname you are seeking. I hope that you can locate the correct contact information for the right one." If it's a shopping website, I go in and unsubscribe. So far my experience has been 100% positive with the senders, and having a brief exchange with the gal in London, our mutual civility has guaranteed that if she were to get any of my mail she'd do the same. (And fwiw, I too know far too much about all three of these women, but there's a part of me that figures it's good karma - if I were trying to work out a debt resolution or plan a surprise hen party or find a new job - I'd hope that one of them would be kind enough to not let a misdirected email ruin the process.)
posted by librarianamy at 7:02 PM on October 29, 2009

This has happened to me too on gmail with someone who has my same name who is in England!!! I don't know what her email address is but her business contacts in England and London are always sending it to which ends up in my inbox. I thought maybe it was supposed to be or something?
posted by anniecat at 7:11 PM on October 29, 2009

Yeah, when you send it to yourself you get this response:
to: (Yes, this is you.) Learn more
cc: (Yes, this is you.) Learn more
And the learn more links to this that says exactly what kathryn said. That said, this same thing happened to someone I know as well, so I'm not sure what the deal is.

I was a pretty early adopter, but with the differences in experiences here, is it possible that registration date or method of sender is a factor? I wouldn't think so.. ?
posted by june made him a gemini at 7:13 PM on October 29, 2009

This has happened to me a few times, and I just reply to the sender and tell them they have the wrong katemcd. Usually, it gets fixed, but there was one instance in which people kept replying to all which included the mistyped email, and that took a heartfelt fed-up plea to get it fixed. Usually, you can't tell what the exact typo is, so it's kinda hard to contact the intended recipient. Good luck!
posted by katemcd at 7:23 PM on October 29, 2009

See this question; there was a bunch more to it but most of the answers also answer your question (3).
posted by advil at 7:28 PM on October 29, 2009

google probably changed their system.
right now my password for gmail has a few less characters than the current minimum number of characters required if you set up a new account right now.
So maybe the dot in middle of the name is like that.
posted by Iax at 7:37 PM on October 29, 2009

i think that the particular emails you are receiving, and their importance can be at play here in regard to how you handle trying to track down to intended recipient.

I have firstInitialmiddleInitialLastname@gmail (thank god it's not that long!) and I receive email for someone with the same initials and last name with a two-letter US state abbreviation before the @. I used to be really bothered by this, as most of them were addressed to a Dr. MyLastName.

Sometimes they were emails from retail stores or newsletters, but then attachments started showing up. They were X-ray films from animals needing veterinary care! I decided that it was important that I track down the Vet who was supposed to be receiving these emails because most of them were actual surgical consultations. One email had the Dr.'s first name, so i was eventually able to track her down. We've actually spoken a couple of times via email at this point, and once over the phone in the middle of the night when i received an urgent email with horse x-rays attached.

I used to respond to these misdirected emails in a huff, if at all. Now that i have the good Dr.'s real email address, i simply forward them over to her. I wouldn't want to put an animal's well being at risk because of someone's improperly addressed email.

if you're not receiving animal or human life-or-death style stuff in your inbox, i think you're probably ok to just notify the sender then trash them. please please first think of the ponies :)
posted by Bohemia Mountain at 7:38 PM on October 29, 2009 [2 favorites]

There is another jessamyn. At one point she has mistyped her email address on a website and people started mailing her at my address. Also since I've emailed a lot of people [because of MeFi or whatever] many people have me in their address book and my address comes up before hers when people who know both of us start typing it in. I got invitations to go on television, other people's baby photos, homework. I always wrote back to people and told them that I did not know them and that they should check their address book. I cc'ed the TV invitation to the other jessamyn. It's maybe one or two emails a month, I figure it's decent manners.
posted by jessamyn at 7:41 PM on October 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

I often have the same problem, but I think its because people always mistype ones that look like my e-mail. For instance, if my e-mail is, I get a lot of e-mail intended for I also suspect some people don't know their own e-mail addresses.

What can you do about this? Here's what I do, and think is fair:

If it's automated newsletters/website signups or the like, I unsubscribe or delete it.

If it's a normal e-mail, I reply, letting the sender know about the issue. Some people don't do anything about it, so I shrug and mark the stuff spam.

I also try figure out the intended e-mail/contact information. I inevitably get information like someone's library records, or name, or hometown, and can extrapolate. Often I can find the person on facebook. I let them know that people are mistyping their e-mail, and forward messages on.

Once I got a pretty important automated e-mail that only contained the person's phone number, so I called them and tried to explain the problem. Sadly I don't think they understood technology too well and they clearly thought I was a scammer, so whatevs. I would not normally spend that much effort rerouting e-mail, but if it's important I would because I hope someone would do the same for me.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 7:49 PM on October 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

The dots do not matter. Repeat: for gmail, multiple period characters in the username portion (everything left of the @) do not matter. I can't remember if this was the case for the first couple months of its existence, but for the years since, it definitely has been.

Any other character, such as _ or +, are different cases. The + is another special one in that it ignores everything after it, making it go to the username preceding the +. An underscore is a valid character.

theora55's response is incorrect:
If there's and there's, email addressed to will be delivered to obloquoy's mailbox.

No, will be delivered to's address, not Their system only ignores periods, nothing to the left or right.

For what it's worth, I have a very common and I receive misaddressed emails for a Mike in New Zealand, a Mike in England, and a few others. The other day I received a registration confirmation for a major stock trading site -- but it certainly wasn't me that registered. Some people mistype their own email addresses, or those of their friends and family, constantly.
posted by mikeh at 7:49 PM on October 29, 2009

Response by poster: Data points:

I, too, thought I'd read that a period could go anywhere in your username and still work. Tests have proven differently:
firstlast works
first.last disappears
f.irstlast disappears
the.firstlast is returned as undeliverable.

june made him a gemini, I am also a very early adopter. I had the address for years before this started happening.

Bohemia Mountain, there are animals involved, but not life-and-death. I was finally prompted to action by a ridiculous amount of AKC correspondence over the past 2 days regarding her new puppy.

Thanks for all the great suggestions so far!
posted by obloquy at 7:54 PM on October 29, 2009

Woah, okay, weird. I think just tested it. My works just as well as - so I told my friend who also has gmail to try it the same, since she has, so she sent a card to herself and she never got it. I think june made him a gemini might have the right idea that it depends when you registered the email name - I was an invitee to gmail and she's a late adopter.

Note: Just checked someecards and it totally worked well for me again, with and without the dot.

(p.s. this makes me totally glad I greedily registered circa 2003)
posted by banannafish at 7:55 PM on October 29, 2009

fwiw, if you are seeing behavior like banannafish just mentioned, then report it as a bug. Google's documented how their address scheme is supposed to work. If it's not working that way, then there's a problem.
posted by mikeh at 8:15 PM on October 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have had literally this exact problem, so hopefully I can do more than speculate.

You should contact Gmail, because periods are NOT ever supposed to be recognized by Gmail. I have looked into this because I get emails from someone with the same name as me.

Here is what is actually happening, I can almost promise you-- the other person does not actually have They have some other email address and people just think they have This is what is happening in my case. I have a slightly common first/last (there are like 50 of us on Facebook alone), but it's not like Mary Smith or something.

I got email for a person with the same name as me to my account every few weeks for a few months, but it has pretty much stopped. Here is what I did:

Responded and said something like, "This is the First Last that lives in Texas, not the First Last that lives in California, I think you may have sent this to the wrong address. I get email for a First Last that lives in California fairly often. You might want to let your First Last know that some people may have the wrong email address for her." Sometimes the people would try after this and I'd respond, "No, still me. Periods are not recognized in Gmail."
posted by ishotjr at 9:11 PM on October 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

*er, that should say people think they have
posted by ishotjr at 9:11 PM on October 29, 2009

Best answer: Last time I looked, underscores were not allowed in Gmail usernames, though they were OK for Yahoo; Gmail is letters, numbers and dots only.

Has that changed?

Also: if you're trying to test whether flabdablet and flab.dablet and flab.dab.let all work for Gmail, and you're doing that by sending a single message To: or Cc: all of the above, you will only see one copy of that in your Gmail inbox and you might mistakenly assume that only the first one has got through. In fact, it's just Gmail suppressing duplicates, which it's good at.
posted by flabdablet at 9:21 PM on October 29, 2009

I have an email address that uses a common word spelled correctly. Another user uses it with it spelled incorrectly. For example v. Whenever I get something that appears either important or timely, I reply it is not for me and cc the correct (incorrectly spelled) recipient. Turns out she is a nice lady from across the country who has been appreciative. I never have her forward me stuff, but then again I only use that addy for signing up for crap on the net so not sure I would want it. Bottom line: Try to be helpful when needed like the horse vet story above, but don't lose sleep over it. As for the gmail thing, that bothers me. A lot. I hope my primary email addy is not being used by someone with a (.) in it somewhere.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:37 PM on October 29, 2009 is me. I get plenty of email to Somebody somewhere who is not be confuses the two domains. Understandable, but a bummer for X___ in England.
posted by eccnineten at 10:01 PM on October 29, 2009

Response by poster: flabdablet's comment prompted me to try sending test e-mails again from a non-gmail account, and, yes, both first.last & f.irstlast were successful this time. As many above have said, it seems the dots are irrelevant. Of course, this means I don't actually know this person's true address, and therefore can only respond to the mistaken senders. Which is fine. I'll try to make a better attempt to reply to some of them. Great answers, all!
posted by obloquy at 11:33 PM on October 29, 2009

I can only answer the last part, which is that you should respond and tell them they have the wrong e-mail address.

However, don't be surprised if it doesn't work. Someone has the same name as me and the same person has been sporadically (every several months) sending me e-mails intended for her for years now. It's clearly a family member, not a business or a bot, but she never responds to my telling her she has the wrong e-mail address. After about the sixth time this happened I just started deleting the e-mails without saying anything to her; I figured I'd made a reasonable effort to correct her and she wasn't having it, so.
posted by Nattie at 1:20 AM on October 30, 2009

I have this exact same problem. It started out of the blue about a year ago. For a while, I replied to every single one, with a polite note explaining they had the wrong email address. I got a few "thanks for the correction" emails in reply, most went unanswered. Several continue to send emails to the wrong (my) address, and I continue to receive emails not intended for me from new people. After much experimentation with the dots, I decided it was unlikely anyone else was receiving *my* email, and I was sick of replying to everyone, so now I ignore them unless they look extremely important. To this day I have no idea what the "correct" email is for this mystery person.
posted by Roommate at 4:34 AM on October 30, 2009

Honestly, if it got bothersome, I'd just change my email address and notify my contacts, and let the other person's emails vanish into the ether. Screw 'em. If something's really important, they can call that person. Don't have their number? I guess you're not that important.

My email address is my first, middle initial, and last name, like jennifer.k.desjardins (not my real last name). I know there is a jenniferdesjardins on gmail, but I never get her email. She may get some of mine, I don't know. But if I were having a constant problem with this, I'd say fuck it and get an entirely new address.

Also, I tried to grab my married name on every site possible. Unfortunately, it's much more common than my birth name.
posted by desjardins at 7:20 AM on October 30, 2009

Same issue with gmail here - once in a great while I get her email and I just forward it. You'd think she'd say something like "hey, thanks" but no word from her at all. Whatever. I just forward it.

Personally, if I had your issue with frequent emails, I'd set up a rule to auto forward and delete.
posted by Mysticalchick at 7:29 AM on October 30, 2009 is me. I get plenty of email to Somebody somewhere who is not me confuses the two domains.
posted by eccnineten on October 30 and are interchangeable, they will both go the the same account.
posted by Lanark at 7:55 AM on October 30, 2009

For the people forwarding mail, how do you know the correct address of the intended recipient? Just curious; I have a very common name and occasionally get misdirected mail. I have always just responded to the sender that they have the wrong Jennifer. It never occurred to me to try to figure out and forward the mail, nor could I be sure I was forwarding to the correct Jennifer.
posted by JenMarie at 3:13 PM on October 30, 2009

Response by poster: Update: After responding to the sender of a personal & confidential e-mail misdirected to me once again, I have finally learned that the Wrong Person's actual address is This required expanding my boilerplate "sorry wrong person" message to include the complaint that I had no way of notifying the intended recipient of delivery of her sensitive documents to the wrong person, as I had no idea what her correct address is (as Theora55 suggested). Many companies that she has tried to add her address to, such as her ISP, several department store mailing lists, and the AKC all seem to have truncated her address, removing the "email" prefix automatically.

Thanks for all the helpful responses. I guess one moral of the story is: don't start your email address with the word "email"; it's confusing.
posted by obloquy at 12:30 PM on October 24, 2010

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