Is it possible to prove I received an email at my old email address?
June 5, 2014 7:16 PM   Subscribe

A while ago I had a different email address and I received a couple of emails from someone saying that they owed me money (which they did). But I deleted the email account a while back. (I know- stupid.) I eventually reinstated the account, but obviously all the old emails are gone and now this person is claiming I never lent them money. I thought ok- I'll just use the emails as evidence, but oops.... I forgot I no longer have those emails. :(

Ok, so I realize this might be a shot in the dark, but I was wondering if there was any way to prove that she sent me those emails at this point? Maybe I've been watching too many of those CSI documentaries, but I figure there must be a way. Like would hotmail have a copy of the emails on their servers? If so how long do they keep them on there? (She sent me the emails 2 years ago). I suspect she still has a copy of the emails in her email account, but there's no way she's going to willingly share those. A friend of mine who has access to this person's computer offered to find the emails in her inbox for me and have them resent to me, but I told her that I don't think the evidence would hold up in court if she did that. What if my friend were to take a photograph or a video of the sent emails in his inbox (without her sending me any copies) Would that do anything? Is there any CSI whoopass I can dish out here to prove these emails happened?
posted by olivetree to Computers & Internet (8 answers total)
Peer pressure. If the friend snoops and finds the emails, the friend can put pressure on the borrower to pay you back.

I don't think the email providers hold on to emails that long, but you can ask. Forwarded copies or a video of her sent mail would be hearsay, generally not admissible as evidence, though judges (esp. small claims) will often be lenient--but the snooping will count against you more likely than not.
posted by payoto at 7:40 PM on June 5, 2014

If it's a Hotmail account, you are unfortunately SOL in recovering those emails if you deleted the account. Also keep in mind that having your friend do any sort of snooping is likely very illegal (IANAL) and evidence collected this way would almost certainly not hold up in court regardless. If you want to press a case against them in court, get advice from a lawyer before you do anything else.

In the future, I'd suggest that getting this sort of thing in hardcopy would be a good idea.
posted by Aleyn at 9:32 PM on June 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Oh I do have hardcopy of the emails because I printed out all the important emails before deleting the account. But someone told me that printed emails are easy to fake so judges will ask to see them in an actual inbox. That's when I felt really stupid for deleting the account. I have no idea if what they told me about printed emails not counting in court is true or not, but that's when I started wondering if there was another way to prove these emails were sent to me.
posted by olivetree at 9:45 PM on June 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm no expert but I don't think a soft copy is any more legally valid than a print copy.
More compelling would be a cancelled check made out to your friend by you. Then you have clear proof that you gave her the money plus the email to help support your claim that it was a loan and not a gift.
posted by metahawk at 9:59 PM on June 5, 2014

But someone told me that printed emails are easy to fake so judges will ask to see them in an actual inbox.

Is your friend a lawyer? because this sounds like some urban legend bullshit. Printing that kind of correspondence out and bringing it to court is a completely normal thing to do.

Not that i'm a lawyer either, but i've had to print stuff out and bring it to a judge before...
posted by emptythought at 10:32 PM on June 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

Keep in mind that oral contracts which lack any actual written form are also enforceable. The key is that in civil court (like small claims, or God forbid, Judge Judy) the standard is preponderance of the evidence.

This is a good time to write them a stern letter in which you quote from the e-mail and say that regardless of your friend's (?) memory you expect them to reimburse you. Say that you are prepared to take them to small claims court, and then of course, you have to follow through or you were just blowing smoke anyway.

All the folderol about the deleted account is really irrelevant here and you're allowing it to distract you from the basic issues.
posted by dhartung at 12:21 AM on June 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you're talking about taking legal action, you need to figure out whether you are under the monetary limit for small claims court, or whether you're going to need to proceed with a regular civil lawsuit, in which case you need an attorney.

In court cases in your jurisdiction, there should be some mechanism for discovery of evidence, which is the process by which each party has the right to demand that the other party turn over documents or other evidence that is relevant to the case. You should consult an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction if you plan to file a legal claim, and your attorney will know how discovery works in your jurisdiction. Your attorney will also know whether printed copies of emails are admissible evidence in your jurisdiction, or whether you will need some additional information or evidence to prove up the provenance of the messages.

In many jurisdictions, and yours may be one of them, accessing someone's computer or email account without the owner's permission, whether you do so to send emails or to videotape or photograph the contents of the account, could be a very serious crime. There are also federal laws prohibiting many types of unauthorized access to other people's computers. Colluding with someone else to commit a crime, in some circumstances, can lead to accessory or conspiracy charges even if you yourself didn't actually commit the unlawful act.

posted by decathecting at 8:01 AM on June 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you have the printed emails just show them to this person who owes you the money.

"See? Right here. You owe me money. Does this jog your memory?"

If they continue to deny it then consider it a lesson in not lending money without a contract.

As to email, if you have an old phone or computer that was linked to that account, there may be stored messages there. Did you use a mail program or web only?
posted by seanfkennedy at 7:37 PM on June 6, 2014

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