How do I go about contacting someone who has apparently confused my email address with her own?
January 27, 2011 1:24 PM   Subscribe

Someone out there in internet-land with a first initial & last name somewhat similar to my own is apparently operating under the mistaken presumption that my gmail address is hers. I'm starting to get regular emails from her magazine subscriptions, her car dealership's service desk, etc. and I'd like it all to stop. I'd email her about the problem except, well, like her, I don't know her email address. A google search has failed to come up with anything promising. What are my options here? Have you had a similar situation that you resolved, and if so, how did you do it?

I suppose I could mark everything as spam and go on with my life, but ideally, I'd rather let her decide which emails meant for her are important and which are not. And, I'd rather not be getting on any new lists when she subscribes to People, or whatever it is that comes next.
posted by .kobayashi. to Computers & Internet (20 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

If it bothers you, try waiting for a family member or work colleague to email you, reply to them, and see if you can get her contact info to clear it up.
posted by deludingmyself at 1:28 PM on January 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

Also be aware that there may be nothing mistaken about this presumption - she may be using your email address as her dumping ground.
posted by deludingmyself at 1:29 PM on January 27, 2011 [4 favorites]

Call anything that would have her contact info, like the dealership. Get a phone number and sort it out offline.

Barring that, set up a filter that dumps anything containing her first name into your trash.
posted by supercres at 1:30 PM on January 27, 2011

If you're getting emails from the car dealership, at least you have a geographic location; maybe you could find her phone number?
posted by jozxyqk at 1:30 PM on January 27, 2011

I get this often enough that I have set up a Gmail canned response via Google labs for the real people who mail. I'm supposing that this is the price to pay for being a Gmail early adopter with a pretty decent email address.
posted by Skwirl at 1:43 PM on January 27, 2011

If you think her real gmail address is perhaps a numbered variation of yours, you could try sending an email to,, ... (or whatever the pattern in your case might be) asking for relief.

A couple years ago I had someone with my same first and last name (they're both common), but whose gmail address had a number after the last name, get confused, so a bunch of commerce and friend email began to come to me. Eventually I figured out what was going on and emailed back his relatives who were sending email to my account because he gave them the wrong address, and they either phoned him or visited him and straightened it out.
posted by aught at 1:44 PM on January 27, 2011

I've had a similar problem, having snagged in the early days of the service. Now I get email intended for every other firstname lastname in the world.

What I've done is this: I have a canned response of "You have the wrong email for the person you are trying to reach. Their address is probably similar, but different than mine. Please contact them and get their correct address." This usually clears things up. If it's a subscription or bank email or something like that, I mark it as spam or try to unsubscribe. If there are multiple people copied on the email, I reply-all with the above message. If it continues, I mark it as spam.

All it takes is one person to mis-key an email address and it propagates from there. It's probably not the person who shares a similar address as you. It's most likely their contacts making an assumption about the person's address. You just have to be ruthless about replying, reply-all-ing, and marking as spam. It eventually slows down or stops.
posted by gyusan at 1:45 PM on January 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm not so sure about the dumping ground theory... I'd lay good odds she's at or and gets them mixed up. Whether she will do anything about it is going to be her call, though.

I'd be inclined to send e-mails to those addresses and say that her credit card company e-mailed you about some of her charges and you deleted the e-mail, and that you got other stuff from [name specific businesses that did e-mail] as this will probably make her take notice that a stranger is seeing all of her private business. However if the recipient didn't actually do any business with [specific businesses] then the recipient you tried isn't the person you're after, and they'll know that, and no harm done.
posted by crapmatic at 1:54 PM on January 27, 2011

Mustn't she know it's not hers, since she can't log into it? Maybe yours is the address she uses to give out to places/sites that require an email contact or a valid-sounding email for login. (Exactly like car dealerships and online mags.) Maybe she thinks she made it up and doesn't realize you exist.
posted by Knowyournuts at 2:11 PM on January 27, 2011

Try searching for your email address on social networking sites you're not a member of, or joined using a different email address, and see if you can turn up her profile, then use their internal contact features to reach her.
posted by jacquilynne at 2:11 PM on January 27, 2011

Email the car dealership back and say "if you have any other way of contacting this person, PLEASE let her know this is not her email address".

I've had loads of people doing this with my Gmail address - some repeatedly. Some I was able to contact directly. Others I just persistently wrote back to anything that didn't seem machine-generated.

One of them got a job refusal email. I wrote back saying "sorry, I know this will be awkward cuz you don't want her to work for you, but please give her a call and at the same time tell her she's giving out my email address." And ACTUALLY, it stopped after that.

Someone else ordered some books at B&N. I sent her a postcard, since I had her physical address (incidentally, she never thanked me. Pfft).
posted by ClarissaWAM at 2:25 PM on January 27, 2011

This happens to me fairly regularly. I've gotten bank statements, investment account information, late notices for utilities, family photos, etc. Apparently I'm a member of a classic car club in Las Vegas, a bridge club in Wollongong, New South Wales, a gym in Sussex, UK (where I'm behind on my dues and need to pay up right now or else), and I have an investment account at a bank in Cape Town, South Africa (those are just the ones I can recall off the top of my head, there are several more).

What I do is to make an attempt to contact (by e-mail) either the person or business who sent me the message and let them know they're sending things to the wrong person. If it's a case where the message came from an automated system that doesn't take replies, I'll try to either search for or make a best guess at a logical address to respond to. I generally try this twice. But after I've done that, I just delete anything that comes across my inbox that isn't specifically for me. I don't have the time to play e-mail nanny for someone who can't get their e-mail address right, especially for things like bank statements and utilities.
posted by ralan at 2:34 PM on January 27, 2011

What makes me think dumping ground is the fact that it's all promotional / service email - things I send to my (my! my own! on Yahoo!) junk account. If you were getting friends, family, utilities, or other things, different story.

I aggressively use most of the tactics above, and have cut down on doppleganger stuff a lot, but I still get frequent "welcome to our mailing list" crap. I have interpreted this as one or more of my identonyms intentionally using myfirst.mylast as an alternative for when they're asked for an email address but don't actually want to give theirs to a merchant.
posted by deludingmyself at 2:43 PM on January 27, 2011

you could try out the new super creepy spokeo for a reverse directory if you have some other info on her. (note to everyone else, i recommend you look yourself up and remove your info)
posted by raccoon409 at 3:30 PM on January 27, 2011

I have to chime in as one of the misanthropes on the other side of the fence. I'm a gmail user who chose firstinitialmiddleinitiallastname@gmail way back when. Then, 3 years later, I realized that was a bad idea because my middle initial is L and my last name starts with B, so people are always always skipping over the middle initial when they transcribe and sending my emails to firstinitiallastname@gmail.

He tracked me down through a cc in one of the email chains and told me and I'm so grateful! It happens all the time with all kinds of personal stuff, even my bank.

Now I use a domain email that forwards to the old email account, but with the gmail alias in the sending header, it still happens. Just because of a dumb choice I made in 2004.

He's a very nice man and never complains. I'm very grateful for this internet stranger who does right by me even though he doesn't have to. I sent him an Amazon gift card at christmas and I'm going to keep doing whatever I can to thank him.
posted by paddingtonb at 5:59 PM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Anecdote, delete away if you must, mods, but I get this all the time from a bank/credit union, and when I wrote to them to say "you are sending me someone else's bank statements" they replied "Are you sure? Because we double-checked the email address and it's what you gave us. Are you sure you're not the Ambrose Chapel located in South Carolina?". For god's sake. Someone's bank.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 8:03 PM on January 27, 2011

Since I didn't see anyone else say it, my guess is they are writing or typing their email correctly as firstinitiallastnaim@gmail, and people are helpfully correcting it to firstinitiallastname@gmail.* Possibly more likely, they are giving it over the phone and not clarifying an odd spelling of a common name. Not knowing your shared last name, I don't know how plausible that is.

*Or your other has sloppy handwriting, and it's getting transcribed faithfully as far as the transcribers can tell.
posted by attercoppe at 10:09 PM on January 27, 2011

Yea, I had exactly this problem recently; a few months ago I began getting emails from an overseas university to one of my email addresses. At first I thought they might be a scam but after a while it became obvious it was genuine as they were tutors mailing him about class options, library withdrawal requests etc.

Eventually there was a email replying to this student where the original email header details were quoted, it turns out that the student's email was the same as mine but (presumably because I'd got the address he wanted beforehand) he'd simply removed all the vowels from the same address - so if my mail was 'timpollard@email' his was actually 'tmpllrd@email' but for some reason he'd put the full address (mine) as the 'reply to' name, which is why I was getting it all. I mailed him but got no reply and after the university sent another I mailed them explaining the issue and cc'ed him in. Since then, nothing!
posted by timpollard at 1:58 AM on January 28, 2011

I had this going on for over a year and just recently was able to resolve it. Finally I got some emails for this other person which included a postal address so I sent her a letter saying that my email address was blah and that she seemed to be listing it as her address somewhere. She replied to me by email and explained how the mix-up had started and that she was so glad to figure out what had gone wrong, and since then I haven't gotten a single email intended for her. Yippee!
posted by olecranon at 8:36 AM on January 30, 2011

There were lots of good ideas here. I spent some time replying to emails, telling the would-be sender that they weren't looking for me. Understandably, they didn't want to share a full name, and they didn't know the email address. Things like automated mail, or stuff sent through flickr and the like just had to get dumped.

Eventually I got a first name in an email, and it wasn't a common name. Since my surname isn't too common, I took a gamble, and forwarded the email to and that worked. Hopefully, she'll be able to take the next step and send a note to the people who do this most often.

In the meantime, I'm happy to forward mail when I get it, now that I know where to send it. But I'm sure that, like me, she'd prefer to get her email directly, rather than having it rerouted through a stranger.
posted by .kobayashi. at 8:16 AM on May 17, 2011

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