Will they just keep being stupid?
March 26, 2013 2:41 AM   Subscribe

Is it worth snail-mailing the idiots who share my name and use my e-mail address to sign up for things?

Right now, there is a person in the UK and a person in Florida who both have the same name as me and use my Gmail address to sign up for stuff (myname@gmail.com). Since they were both stupid enough to do this, I have a lot of their personal info, including physical addresses, and I could have even spent their money by now if I were that kind of person.

Usually I ignore it, or else unsubscribe/lock the accounts and send e-mails to the websites telling them it's unprofessional to not send confirmation notices to the e-mail during sign-up -- or just now, asking why they bothered to send such an e-mail if it wasn't going to stop them from putting me on their mailing list anyway.

But lately this has gotten to be something I am dealing with daily, and it is taking up way too much time and clogging my inbox. I have no way to filter e-mails meant for them. I do not understand how these people can be this stupid, or if they're doing it on purpose (which is still stupid since I have their personal information), or what. I control one of their Amazon accounts now, which has a ton of her info, and have gotten confidential client information from her work as a realtor, to which I responded that it was the wrong e-mail address, that she does this constantly, and I would not trust her with any confidential information in the future. And yet she persists in signing up for stuff using my e-mail address. I have also gotten her insurance information. The one in the UK I could have gambled using her money on the gambling website she signed up for, and I recently got her address too.

So aside from this wasting my time, and its being extremely inconsiderate of them, they are just throwing their personal information around willy-nilly. Should I write them and ask them to stop and point out that I know all this stuff about them AND that the realtor has been exposing her clients' information to me? That last part seems like it's probably even illegal, and something she should have already had brought to her attention when I responded, and for some reason she didn't care.

Has anyone ever wrote to someone who shares their name and uses their e-mail address? I am concerned that if they're this stupid, it will just make them mad for who knows what reason. Or that they will think I'm threatening them, or that they'll blame me when their poorly protected personal information gets used by someone less scrupulous, or anything else.

How can I make this stop without snail-mailing them? I have no other means of contact, since I don't have a real e-mail address for them. Am I just doomed? I have had this e-mail address since Gmail was beta-invite only (I guess nearly 10 years now?) and I do not want to change it.
posted by Nattie to Computers & Internet (31 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I had this happen to me. I eventually got their snail mail address from an order they made at an online store, which gave me enough info to figure out their work email address with some crafty googling. I emailed her at work, told her that I nearly filed a police report after one of her receipts ended up in my inbox and she apologized and stopped using my email address, as far as I know.
posted by empath at 2:45 AM on March 26, 2013

"Comics I Don't Understand" founder Bill Bickel has been dealing with what he refers to as "Idiot Bill Bickel" for years. He's finally come to see the humor in it, but for a long time he was trying to educate the other guy about what was going on. The other guy doesn't seem to want to stop, in a "Your name... is Homer Thompson" sort of way.

I think all Bill does now is to make sure he isn't liable for things. You can follow the saga backward here.

To answer your title question, Will they just keep being stupid? Yeah. Probably.
posted by themanwho at 2:51 AM on March 26, 2013 [7 favorites]

I've had two people do it to me. Managed to make contact with both. Both were grateful, and both stopped.

Also made contact with a major retailer that gave me way to much information about one of them. Got a generic apology but nothing else...
posted by monkey closet at 2:57 AM on March 26, 2013

I've had this happen also and got some pretty sensitive stuff that was intended for someone else. When the incorrect email was from an individual person I just emailed them back and said, 'Hey you've got the wrong guy'. Eventually it came to light from those conversations that they were missing an 'L' in the middle of the address, so firstnamelastname@gmail.com instead of firstnamellastname@gmail.com, which is easy to miss in lowercase. For a month or so I forwarded on the incorrect emails with a smiley-face, and now it has mostly all stopped.

Occasionally though he does still try and sign up for stuff with my email address and I ignore it. He's oddly enthusiastic about getting an account with panasonic.com, though clearly not quite driven enough to get his own email address correct.
posted by StephenF at 3:13 AM on March 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

This happens to me frequently enough that I've just stopped caring about it beyond spam flagging. Just not worth the effort when next week/month someone else does the same thing. And yes I've received everything from half nude pictures to sensitive healthcare information.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 3:18 AM on March 26, 2013

StephenF may have it, they are probably mistyping their email addresses, as they've done it before then the incorrect one pops up in autocomplete suggestions and so it keeps happening. Write to them with hints showing how to remove the incorrect one from their autocomplete history.
posted by epo at 3:21 AM on March 26, 2013

I'd change their passwords, and e-mail then the new ones. Ask them to please be more careful next time.
posted by devnull at 3:38 AM on March 26, 2013

I'd change their passwords, and e-mail then the new ones.

But they're using OP's email address to create accounts. I am not giving anyone the new password for accounts that use my email address to register!
posted by arnicae at 4:05 AM on March 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'm in the same boat. I am apparently a member of a bridge club in Australia, I own property in Durban, I belong to a gym in Sussex, and a classic car club in Las Vegas... and those are just the ones I can remember off the top of my head. Oh, I'm also on some kind of farming commission in New South Wales, and I work at a car stereo place in Melbourne, who kept putting calendar requests in my Gcal for my work schedule. I get family reunion pictures, insurance notices, bank information, tax records, meeting minutes, product registration info.. the list goes on and on.

Like you, I've had the same Gmail address since it was an invite-only beta program, and I'm not changing it. At first, I tried to contact the people on the other end, especially if I got really sensitive information. Now, I just delete it. If the person can't be bothered to make sure they got their own e-mail address correct, I can't be bothered to care that they're not getting whatever it is they signed up for.
posted by ralan at 4:14 AM on March 26, 2013 [9 favorites]

Some guy in NYC had my email address saved for one of his sons. I generally just ignored the emails because they were forwarded jokes and that sort of thing. Last year I got invited to a very expensive Father's Day dinner. I figured that was the right time to point out that I was not, in fact, his son.

He thanked me, and told me I was still invited to dinner if I happened to be in NYC. I'm not, which is a shame, because from LinkedIn I think he was either a high power attorney, or VC. Either way, could have been a good person to know.
posted by COD at 4:31 AM on March 26, 2013 [7 favorites]

My email was once added to a school staff contact list. It took about 3 months to fix it so I was not receiving scheduling updates regarding training seminars, but unfortunately by then, a lot of people's email clients had saved my email address as belonging to the imposter. So every so often, I'd receive invoices for party rentals and in once case, a very awkward email from the person's estranged daughter trying to reconnect on Mother's Day.

So, yeah, there can be a very long chain on this. In order to get anything done, though, you may have to be a huge dick about it. The 3 months of scheduling emails only ended when I upgraded from polite 'please remove me from this list' emails to inquiries about what accommodations could be made for my wild flatulence and therapeutic dingo. Even then, an email filter was required.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:22 AM on March 26, 2013 [6 favorites]

Yeah, there's a gamer kid in the midwest who does this with me. What I've had to do (including with a premium account on some gaming blog that was apparently very hard to get, from the pleading e-mails he sent me*) is set the profile spiel to "I'm an idiot." then set the password to something very long and random that I will never know, and leave it there. That way, I won't be tempted to be more malicious, and they can go whistle for their accounts.

*: tho' for all his pleading, he's not actually acting in the very best faith. He's tried to appropriate my gmail account several times, and sent me domain unlock requests for my main .com from several registrars. Using his name, but my e-mail address.
posted by scruss at 5:33 AM on March 26, 2013 [4 favorites]

they're using OP's email address to create accounts.

When I've been in this situation I was able to find out the correct address.
posted by devnull at 5:42 AM on March 26, 2013

If you receive rogue emails that contain their postal address, mail them a polite physical letter pointing out their error. I did this once, and once was enough.

If only the guy in Maryland with the Lexus and the golfer in Florida and the South African who likes safaris would sign up for something with a postal address in it...
posted by Hogshead at 5:50 AM on March 26, 2013

Are you in the same country as either one of them? If so, I don't think that any mechanism for dealing with that one will end well for you -- it will simply take more of your time, and may infuriate them. A significant chunk of humanity gets furious when they're shown to be fools, and if you combine that with "OMGZ! Identity theft!!" panic, I just do not see how engaging with them will achieve anything. They haven't learned yet, which implies that they will not learn without being forced, and if they're forced they'll get angry.

For the one who is in a foreign country, and thus has a very high bar to clear for pursuing legal action, feel free to be a bastard and just reset all of their account passwords to gibberish. Eventually they give up and get a different email address -- takes about six to nine months, in my experience.
posted by aramaic at 6:08 AM on March 26, 2013

Of you figure it out, let me know. I've got name twins in the UK, Georgia, Detroit... Also varying in age judging by the tween websites and federal penitentiary communications websites the idiots have signed me up for. I have canceled accounts, changed passwords, communicated with one via twitter, even, and she totally did not even understand the concept. She kept saying, "but it's my real name, you don't understand," as though she could be the only one in the world and I were somehow imposing on her. SMH. So if you can mail them, give that a shot. If it works, please do report back!
posted by OompaLoompa at 6:15 AM on March 26, 2013

I pretty much agree with aramaic. However, I'm a jerk. Even if they were domestic, I would still be a bastard and mess with them (and would cover my tracks) until they abandoned their use of my email address.
posted by Brian Puccio at 6:22 AM on March 26, 2013

I dealt with this for years when I was using firstname.lastname@gmail.com with my not-terribly-uncommon name. I got signed up for DirecTV, a ton of mailing lists for stuff I've never heard of, and even received family Christmas lists, e-cards, and all sorts of nonsense for other people with my name.

I changed my email address to firstnamemiddleinitiallastname@gmail.com and apart from the annoyance of changing my email address on every website in the world and dealing with friends and family members who didn't update their address books, it was worth it. I check my old one once or twice a week and just use my beautiful, clean, new gmail account with no garbage coming through.
posted by wolfnote at 7:03 AM on March 26, 2013

Yes, they are going to keep being stupid.

There are a lot of other my firstname lastnames out there. I try to be nice about it, it seems like many of these could someone else entering the wrong email, like when I got that lady's medical charts(!), the technician had missed a letter while typing in the email. Mistakes happen. For these, I have a form letter: "Hi, you've reached the wrong first last. Please check your records and remove me from your email address. Thanks!" Works 85% of the time. The other 15% will fight you about it, which is fun in its own little way.

For autosignups, you just have to be aggressive about marking spam. There's no way around it - I used to try to unsubscribe, but those never actually work.

When it's one person being completely oblivious, sometimes calling them works. I don't know about a letter, I would be inclined to disregard a letter from a stranger about my email address as some kind of spam.
posted by troika at 7:14 AM on March 26, 2013

This happens to a friend of mine. People who have his name apparently don't know their own email addresses, and their friends definitely don't know their correct email addresses. If you are fed up, I am not sure I see the harm in letting them know somehow. Really, it benefits them more than you -- they are never getting emails they probably need. On on earth can you have an Amazon account under the wrong email address and not notice? Yikes!
posted by AppleTurnover at 7:51 AM on March 26, 2013

Yep. This happens to me all.the.time. FirstinitialLastName@gmail.com. When I get something that seems materially important to somebody else's life, I do try to find the recipient and forward the misdirected email. I'm usually successful, but not always.

I routinely get flight plans, church newsletters, confirmations of account creations, etc, but just in the last few months, I've received:

Contract to buy a house
Copy of Driver's License
Scholarship Offer
Modification to the required window thickness on a construction job
In-Store Pickup Order for yarn
Receipt for Charitable Donation
An application for the Ross Volunteer Association (gig 'em!)
Lesson Plans
Photos of a family reunion
Receipt for a custom kitchen order at Home Depot
Receipt for a set of Zumba DVDs

...the list goes on.

All of these are intended for somebody else - and only a few are for "repeat offenders". I've stopped trying to fight, and usually look forward to the next bizarre thing that I get.
posted by grateful at 8:15 AM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

I knew that there were people who shared my given name ( including someone who later attended the same summer program in London) when I first went online.

My email addresses are something far different.
posted by brujita at 9:03 AM on March 26, 2013

This is so frustrating. I wish Google would throw their industry weight around and enforce email confirmation and add a "wrong number" button to Gmail. There are two Mary-Annes who share my initials and last name. One just signed me up to be a secondary email on another family members' bank account which is double crap because I also use that bank so filtering the messages is no go.

As it is, I use Gmail Canned Response when I'm feeling generous. Otherwise filter.
posted by Skwirl at 9:04 AM on March 26, 2013 [5 favorites]

I located the phone number of and called one of my name twins after she kept signing up on dating sites using my gmail address. I initially went through a round of locking her out of her various accounts but she just kept opening new accounts.

She was more than a little freaked out that Someone From The Internet was on the line but on the plus side, she learned that she has a yahoo email address, not gmail.
posted by jamaro at 9:21 AM on March 26, 2013 [5 favorites]

I'm sorry you're experiencing this, but at least you're in good company! One of my email doppelgangers recently sent her resume to my account; the subject line was "reseme," and the document itself was equally error-ridden. I was *this close* to correcting it and sending it back with a bill for editing services, but then I remembered I do actually have some semblance of a life ...

Like aramaic, I don't think sending them a snail mail is going to do you any good and may set you up for further aggravation. Since this is becoming a daily problem, I guess all you can do is whatever will take you the absolute least amount of time/effort - at this point I wouldn't bother any more with anything done "just to be nice," since it seems they're not getting the message. I know you said you can't filter, but it may be worth thinking about any that could at least help - maybe set up one that catches anything containing the name of Florida You's real estate business, for instance? Beyond that, just delete or mark as spam everything else.

It sucks, but short of changing your email (and what's to say your new email won't ALSO be an idiot magnet?) there's not a whole lot you can do.
posted by DingoMutt at 10:00 AM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

It happens to me constantly as well. I call them the Other MaryLynns. None of them are anyone I'd even want to be friends with given the crap they sign up for. The only time I've emailed anything back was on two separate occasions when they got personal emails about funeral arrangements for a mutual relative. I emailed back saying they had the wrong MaryLynn and please correct their address book.

Otherwise, trash trash trash. Any site signup that doesn't use an email validation link is on my shitlist. NO, I didn't sign up for GodTube. Or prisoner personals. Or agree to go on any of these terrible sounding vacations one of them signed up for.
posted by marylynn at 10:29 AM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

I had this problem for years, with the person signing up for (among other things) dubious online gaming sites in notoriously scam-ridden countries. Then one day I got an email confirming that she was a finalist for a very prestigious sounding job in a lovely tropical location. The email requested to set up a final phone interview on such and such date, and could she please fax over some specific document or other, showing ability to work in aforementioned tropical location?

Since prior requests to fix the problem had failed, by this time I was thoroughly fed up. I responded to the interview request by telling them that this person had given out the wrong email address *again*, and that personally, I would not hire anyone with such careless attention to detail, not to mention a complete lack of consideration for others.

The hiring manager responded politely, and I never got another incorrect email meant for this person again. Apparently, losing out on a plum job finally got the message through.
posted by MexicanYenta at 12:48 PM on March 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

I take several approaches to this issue. My Gmail address (which I've had since 2004) keeps getting used by people who share my last name, and in the case of one guy on the east coast, my first name as well.

Step 1: If you can log in to an account, unsubscribe, and cancel the account. Most of the time this fixes the issue (but not the root cause). If you are getting email from a person rather than a company, contact the sender and ask them (politely) to have the intended recipient verify his/her email address with them.

Step 2: If you can't unsubscribe but can log in, change the contact email for the account. The individual will have to call to fix the issue, but at least you won't be getting their mail. If they keep changing it back to your email, this is often the best way to let them know that they are getting it wrong, especially if you change it to something like "i_dont_know_my_own_email_address@gmail.com".

Step 3: Contact the company and shame them into verifying email addresses before they accept them for contact purposes. If there is enough info given for the contact, try to call or snailmail the person to ask that they contact the company to fix the address. Let them know that the company is sending out personal information without verifying the recipient. I've gotten bills, delivery receipts, a resumé... enough info to pull an identity theft if I really wanted to. I mean, home address, phone number, etc. - I had all I needed, thanks to some dumb lack of validation on the part of the senders.

Most companies are pretty responsive, especially when I point out (politely) that they are sending personally identifying information to an unknown person. Many companies (Verizon, for example) have been appalled that they send billing info to the wrong person. Sony... It took me MONTHS to get Sony's Playstation Network to fix the issue. Well, they basically blocked my email from ever being used on the network, but I highly doubt that they ever added the verification step, despite the many, many, many emails back and forth with tecg staff and the phone calls I placed.
posted by caution live frogs at 3:00 PM on March 26, 2013

I have one of these! She recently was cc-ed on a long, involved email about reserving an event venue. I hit "reply all" and sent back a plea for someone, anyone, to tell her she's been giving out the wrong email address for months now. I got a snotty note back from her husband, but the emails have stopped, at least for now.
posted by sarcasticah at 4:26 PM on March 26, 2013

I have a similar problem, but I have been able to filter out most of the email because I use the first.last@gmail version of my name and the other me uses the version without the full stop. Gmail treats both addresses as 'mine' because it will ignore any fullstops in an address.

If you don't want to completely change your email address, but are willing to update it with friends/family/websites you could add a full stop to your preferred email address and filter out anything else.
posted by eclecticlibrary at 1:51 AM on March 27, 2013

I see Skwirl mentioned GMail's "canned responses." These are very useful. To enable them, you have to go into settings (click that gearwheel in the top right corner, then "Settings"), then click on "Labs," and then look for "Canned Responses," hit "Enable," then click the "Save Changes" button either all the way at the top or at the bottom.

To create a canned response, start composing a blank email. In the body area, craft your the standard reply you want to use. Then look for the "Canned Responses" link that should now be appearing just below the Subject field. A little drop-down menu will appear. Under a gray "Save," click on "New canned response...." A little pop-up box will appear in which you can give this particular response a name. (You can create multiple canned responses.)

Once it's saved, to use it in the future, just click that "Canned Responses" link any time you get stupid email and just select "Idiot" (or whatever you nickname it) from the top of the drop-down.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 8:55 PM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

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