Is she or isn't she?
July 12, 2011 4:24 PM   Subscribe

A family member told me that his wife has been complaining that she is getting emails from online dating services. He said she told him that she has never signed up for them.

He wants to know how he can check to see if this is true, or if she has an account. I don't know what to believe, but I want to know is it possible to get emails from these sites without ever signing up as a member?
posted by CollectiveMind to Human Relations (27 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Definitely possible. There was a question here on Ask not too long ago about some Italian (?) dating site that consisted mainly of profiles scraped from facebook.

It seems weird that she'd start complaining out of the blue about getting emails from a dating site she did have a profile on. Was this an explanation she gave after she was confronted, or did she just happen to mention it one day?
posted by phunniemee at 4:30 PM on July 12, 2011

What's the site in question, and what kind of emails are these? They could very easily be spam. Or perhaps someone with a similar email address botched their address in the signup process and is now wondering why the email notifications don't work for them. Or perhaps some other site she registered for sold her contact info. Maybe it's identify theft. There are dozens of possibilities here, and unless your family member actually finds his wife signing on to a dating site, there's no way he can be sure.
posted by katillathehun at 4:31 PM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

How common-like is her email address? Because I have one completely useless address because at least 15 people think it is theirs. Several of them have signed me up for dating services (they've signed me up for everything, dating services just scratches the surface).

That's before you take into consideration the spam that pretends to be dating sites. All my special friends over at Yahoo! get phishing scams pretending to be dating sites, Facebook, Paypal, JC Penney, etc etc. Because they'll sign up for any stupid goddamn thing, they get me shittons of spam and scams too.

It's just an email address entered into a box, it's not like you have to go down to the OK Cupid store and show your driver's license. Of course it's possible. If she says she didn't do it, she probably didn't do it.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:32 PM on July 12, 2011 [17 favorites]

If wife was complaining to husband about getting emails, it sounds more credible than if it were raised defensively. Why not unsubscribe to the e-mails? This sounds like plausible spam to me, possibly from scraping social media.
posted by Hylas at 4:32 PM on July 12, 2011 [3 favorites]

I've gotten a few spam emails recently that look like they're from an online dating service (eharmony in this case) without being signed up in any way. Subject lines something like 'check out your new matches' or some such. I'm assuming this was just an attempt to get people to open spammy messages or attachments.
posted by amy lecteur at 4:33 PM on July 12, 2011 [4 favorites]

Another possibility: someone else, someone who knows her email address, thought it'd be "funny" to sign her up on the site.
posted by easily confused at 4:42 PM on July 12, 2011 [3 favorites]

It can definitely happen; a couple of years ago I began receiving notifications from a dating website the I never joined.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 4:43 PM on July 12, 2011

Well, he says his wife has been complaining about them - so I imagine she didn't sign up for them unless we're missing some part of the story.

Yes, it's very possible to get signed up to things either legitimately or illegitimately that you want nothing to do with (you fill it in a form, it says in the fine print - we'll send you stuff from our partner network or your email has been sold to some company that's using it to send you spam you don't want). I am receiving many e-newsletters that I can't remember ever having signed up for (nor want).
posted by mleigh at 4:46 PM on July 12, 2011

It's definitely possible and, if she is openly complaining to her husband about them, I doubt that she is secretly trying to meet someone new on the side.
posted by asnider at 5:05 PM on July 12, 2011 [3 favorites]

I get spam all the freaking time with subject lines like "New singles in my area" and "Someone visited your profile on!". It's harmless.
posted by zsazsa at 5:10 PM on July 12, 2011 [4 favorites]

How common-like is her email address? Because I have one completely useless address because at least 15 people think it is theirs. Several of them have signed me up for dating services (they've signed me up for everything, dating services just scratches the surface).

This. I have a very common email address. Well, no, I'm the only person who actually has my email address, of course, but a lot of people seem to think it's theirs. My email address is my real name — the same as my username here on Metafilter — at gmail dot com. Since my first name and last name are both very common, there are surely many people with similar email addresses who would mistakenly type mine instead of their own. So any of the billions of emails in the world that get sent out based on someone writing it down somewhere, are likely to get sent to me. This is completely meaningless; it's just an annoyance that goes along with having this kind of email address.

If, on other hand, the part of her email address after the "@" is very rare — along the lines of — then this explanation isn't so likely. But I'm guessing her email address ends with a major domain like or

Of course, it could be just plain spam.

Everyone gets random, unwanted emails. Often these happen to be from dating sites. This is probably not a big deal.
posted by John Cohen at 5:50 PM on July 12, 2011

I've definitely gotten spam from dating sites I've never visited. My email, and all my classmates emails, were stolen from a class listserv and it was months of speed dating invites.
posted by whoaali at 6:19 PM on July 12, 2011

Its' definitely possible, but man, I wouldn't want to get too heavily involved in someone else's marriage.

I would tell my family member it's very plausible and then avoid discussing it again at all costs. If he doesn't trust his wife and her internet activity that's not the kind of thing you wanna be involved with; you could end up as collateral damage.
posted by smoke at 6:27 PM on July 12, 2011 [6 favorites]

Recently at my job I had someone email me that they had never signed up for an account with us and could we please close the account. It turned out that the person who HAD signed up had simply misspelled the email address when they were signing up.

Additionally, I used to work for a company where getting people to sign up for email news letters was a job requirement. It led to some employees trying to boost their numbers by entering other peoples email addresses, sometimes just randomly guessing at what might work. Maybe someone working for the dating service used her email to boost their numbers. Maybe the dating service ran a referral program and someone your wife previously had an email conversation with borrowed her address to get the referral bonus.

I guess my point is that there are TONS of ways her email address could be receiving these emails without her having ever signed up on purpose.
posted by HMSSM at 6:57 PM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Not only do I get dating spam (Hot Christian Singles in Your Area!), but this:

someone else, someone who knows her email address, thought it'd be "funny" to sign her up on the site.

Someone did exactly this to me and thought it would be hysterical. It freaked me the heck out, particularly since they partly filled out a profile of me on the site too. Fortunately I was able to cancel it without needing to know a password or anything. I was fairly upset by it, though.

Sometimes you do those quizzes or surveys that are hosted by a (totally reputable) dating site and end up on their mailing list that way. (I think OKCupid has/had a lot of these? Or I might be confusing sites.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:19 PM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

>> Why not unsubscribe to the e-mails? This sounds like plausible spam to me, possibly from scraping social media.

Just a note, but if it's a true phishing attempt, never click ANYTHING in them. There is no "unsub" for actual phishing scams. Just delete. Set up a better filter.
posted by Ky at 7:20 PM on July 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

My last name is by no means common, but I get at least a few e-mails per month to my GMail account that are not for me. One guy in Wisconsin signed up for his account at the iTunes Music Store using my e-mail address. So yes, some people don't even know their own e-mail address.
posted by Johnny Assay at 7:27 PM on July 12, 2011

I also have a common email (mylastname at gmail), and computer-illiterate people regularly sign me up for all sorts of things while entering their email wrong, I assume putting a space between their first and last name (where the last name is mine). I can tell it isn't (necessarily) malicious or spam because I often see the first name of the person in question consistently across sites.
posted by advil at 7:41 PM on July 12, 2011

I know three people who have had people sign up with their email addresses on online dating services. For the life of us, we can't figure out why someone would sign up for a service with the wrong email address, but there you go. It totally happens.

If she didn't sign up for the service, she can still disable it. After all, *she* has the email address. She can send a password reset from the service to her email account and then disable the profile. This only works for services that let people sign in with either an email or a username - some do not.

An easy way to prove it's not her? Search for the email address and show that her picture isn't attached to the profile. If it is, then it's still possible that someone signed up as her as a prank. (Why yes, someone did do this to me, why do you ask?) In that case, look at the writing style and answers to questions. Unless it's someone who knows her very very well, they're going to be off somehow.
posted by stoneweaver at 8:07 PM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Heh, Hamms Bear.

OP, it happens to me all the time. My email address is not common at all, either. I get the ones about Hot Christian Singles (I see them when I occasionally review my spam folder) and I also get creepy sort-of-localized ones that I guess involve phishing according to my ip number, and those usually wind up in my inbox. One of them has assigned me (?) a "handle," even, that looks like an accountname someone would use on a site.

Your question reminds me of a gal in my office a few years back, who received some porny spam in her inbox and was terrified that she was being stalked by a pervert.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:45 PM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

This year, a woman in Michigan did her taxes using my email address. I now have all the information I'd need to get a debit card with her tax refund on it mailed to my home address. So yes, it is entirely possible to get email, even fairly important, personal email, that is not yours, simply because someone doesn't know or spellcheck her own email address.
posted by decathecting at 9:28 PM on July 12, 2011

Not email, but Facebook (which seems to usually have way too good of an idea of what I'd want to see in ads) is pushing me to look at singles in my town. Perhaps I shouldn't complain about this to my husband.
posted by bluedaisy at 9:49 PM on July 12, 2011

I get a bunch of legitimate email meant for other people. My address is Apparently gmail can't tell the difference between that and
posted by JV at 10:47 PM on July 12, 2011

I have about 15 emails in my spam folder right now asking me to "Look at singles' photos" and "Find your tru luv connection", etc. If she's using an email service without an adequate spam filter it's possible these emails are being delivered straight to her inbox. I've also gotten spam from what most people consider to be a "reputable" online dating service, eHarmony (I don't consider a company that discriminates against gay people reputable but that's another issue).

Also it is possible for there to be a mixup. If her email address is something like, it's very easy for someone with a similar email address, like to sign up for something and enter their email address incorrectly.
posted by katyggls at 2:16 AM on July 13, 2011

It's totally possible that she's getting unsolicited emails for services she never requested; some moron out there with a name like mine keeps putting my email address down for everything -- dating sites, porn sites, his x-box account, financial stuff.

If her husband is just burning to know if she actually has an account on a specific dating site, he should probably just go look at the site. Most sites are accessible without an account. However....if she brought up the annoying emails to him and then later found out that he checked up for an account (or checked his history and found a dating site!), well..... If I were you I'd stick to telling the husband that it's totally possible and then stay far, far, far away from further involvement!
posted by motsque at 4:37 AM on July 13, 2011

These answers are all pretty consistent and plausible. I'll tell him its very possible that it's spam or a mistake, suggest a spam filter, and otherwise stay out of it. Thanks.
posted by CollectiveMind at 5:56 AM on July 13, 2011

if it's a true phishing attempt, never click ANYTHING in them

Another important note: DO NOT VIEW AS HTML when viewing your email and DO NOT VIEW IMAGES. If you ever view an image sent in an email, or have HTML turned on in your email preferences, you are passively acknowledging to the sender that your address is valid.

How can they do this? Easy. The way email works, only text is sent in the message body. The images you see are hosted on remote systems. So what the spammer does is send out a bunch of spam emails with HTML IMG tags that look like this:
<img src=""/>
The 12345… part is a unique identifier sent with that particular email. Somewhere on bad guy's servers is a database with a list of potential email addresses and that same unique identifier. When your computer requests that image from the server, the server checks off "YES, REAL PERSON!" This list is then sold to others who will continue doing the same thing.

Check out any email in your inbox sent from a company. I guarantee you you'll see remote content (links or images) with long unidentifiable strings of characters at the end of the URL.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:15 AM on July 13, 2011 [3 favorites]

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