What to do about a nasty email sent to the wrong person?
May 20, 2015 4:50 PM   Subscribe

My mentally ill mother likes to send me super mean emails every once in a while, which I don't usually reply to. I just discovered today that she has accidentally been sending emails to a random person with a similar email address to mine. I'm not sure what, if anything, I should do about it.

Background item #1: My mom has a serious and unacknowledged mental illness which has led to me cutting her out of my life to protect myself and my kids. Part of the way her illness manifests is to send vicious and hateful emails to anyone who has pissed her off. Since I went no contact in that relationship I don't respond to her emails and I haven't for years.

Background item #2: I have a pretty common name and every once in a while I get an email intended for someone else with the same name due to simple misspelling. I just discovered today that my mom has sent at least two emails to another random person with almost the same name as me. I have no idea who this person is.

I only discovered this because my mom cc'd my husband on the email intended for me (which she sometimes does because it's important to her that he know what a terrible person I am) and he saw the incorrect but very similar to mine email address. He scrolled down the email chain and saw that this random not-me person had replied to an email forward from my mom 6 months ago by saying "please remove me from this list". That first email forward from 6 months ago was just anti-vaccine nonsense, but the second email from today was her classic vitriolic screed against me.

It's pretty embarrassing knowing this email is just floating out there in the ether. I'm a little worried as well that the person who got it instead of me will leak it publically for the lulz and the amount of detail in the email will make it pretty easy to identify me and my family.

So this is my question: should I email this person? My husband thinks I should leave well enough alone and not add to the drama by involving some random. I'm tempted to 1) apologize because I'm really quite embarrassed by this whole situation, and 2) advise them to delete and block to spare them any more crap in the future.
posted by thelaze to Human Relations (27 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm a little worried as well that the person who got it instead of me will leak it publically for the lulz and the amount of detail in the email will make it pretty easy to identify me and my family.

Are you a Kardashian? I doubt a rando who posts something about a disturbed person who emails them (if this person would even think about doing so...that would be an odd choice instead of deleting it) would cause such a stir that your family, unless you are famous in some way, would be identified.

Just leave it alone.
posted by xingcat at 4:54 PM on May 20, 2015 [7 favorites]


Drop them an email, do a quick explanation, and a profuse apology (yes, it's not your fault, but apologize on your mom's behalf). Explain that there's a mental illness, you can't control her email usage given her living situation, and suggest that they block your mom's email address.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 4:55 PM on May 20, 2015 [31 favorites]


I doubt a rando who posts something about a disturbed person who emails them (if this person would even think about doing so...that would be an odd choice instead of deleting it) would cause such a stir that your family, unless you are famous in some way, would be identified.

I could totally see meanoldwomanthinksimherkid.tumblr.com becoming a thing. Go with NotMyselfRightNow's advice, except don't chalk it up to mental illness. That stranger has no business knowing your mom's business. Just say something like "I am so sorry that my mother is sending you these emails. My email address is 'thelaze@yahoo.com' rather than your 'thislaze@yahoo.com'. Please block her (I can advise you on how to do that)."
posted by Etrigan at 4:59 PM on May 20, 2015 [8 favorites]


Hi. I have been no contact with my mentally ill mom for, oh, some 20 years now.

Why is your husband still reading these?

I guarantee you the not-you-person receiving them has already blocked or flagged your mom's emails as spam and hasn't seen the new ones. Your husband should do the same.

No good can come of letting her continue to harm you in this way. The less you know, the better. Please urge your husband to delete these and block your mom's emails in the future. (I suggest diverting them to spam or similar if blocking her will send the emails back as "undeliverable." You want to protect yourself, not accidentally interact with your mom, y'know?)

I'm very sorry you have to do this. Stay strong, be well.
posted by jbenben at 4:59 PM on May 20, 2015 [26 favorites]


You are not responsible for your mother's behavior, and you have absolutely nothing to apologize for. I'm sure they've already long since deleted and blocked your mother. The last thing this third party probably wants is to get yet another unsolicited email on this issue.

"I'm a little worried as well that the person who got it instead of me will leak it publically for the lulz and the amount of detail in the email will make it pretty easy to identify me and my family."

That's catastrophizing. Please take your husband's advice here. Hugs to you.
posted by hush at 4:59 PM on May 20, 2015 [23 favorites]


This person isn't going to leak it, especially not with your name. If this person did leak it, they'd be attaching their own name to this, which I doubt they would do, especially since their reply was to ask to be removed from the emails. If they wanted to get internet lulz, wouldn't they engage or egg on, rather than try to stop getting the emails?

And let's say this did leak: if you have a common name, no one still knows who you are. Of all the Jane Smith's in the world, no one will know it's you. The email address in the "to:" field would not be yours.

Personally, I'd just leave it alone. This person can set up a filter to get rid of your moms emails. Your husband could reply to the person and explain the sender is a mentally ill family member who is sending the emails by accident, and that person should just block mom's address, but honestly, the recipient can figure out how to do that on their own anyway.
posted by AppleTurnover at 5:00 PM on May 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


If you email the not-you-person, make up a similar to your name sockpuppet gmail account. Don't check it after the one time use. Forget it and the password, delete it from your browser login chain.
posted by jbenben at 5:01 PM on May 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


Oh gosh, I have one of the most common names ever (and the corresponding Gmail account), so I get email for people-who-are-not-me all the freaking time, and I only blame that person when it's clear that they themselves have signed up for whatever. Don't sweat it. We all have crazy relatives.
posted by unknowncommand at 5:03 PM on May 20, 2015


One email from a crazy rando is a simple mix-up; a second email from the intended recipient with apologies and advice about blocking them is somebody else's family drama reaching across the internet to draw them into a situation they surely want no part in. Just leave it alone. The chance that they will exploit this for lulz is extremely unlikely.
posted by prize bull octorok at 5:03 PM on May 20, 2015 [22 favorites]


My advice is to not contact this person. If I got a vicious, personal email directed to someone who is not me, I'd be very weirded out and embarrassed by proxy. If I got two, I'd put the sending address in spam and have a lingering sense of seriously weirded outness. I think you might be projecting your mother's mental problems onto this person; they're unlikely to want to humiliate you to gain attention for themselves
posted by 3urypteris at 5:07 PM on May 20, 2015 [7 favorites]


Your husband is right. No random person is going to leak obviously misdirected email as a joke. They just delete it and move on. Don't draw them in further.
posted by jeather at 5:17 PM on May 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


You could always correct the address with your mother to let the stranger off the hook and then block all mail from her (your husband should do the same!).
posted by cecic at 5:18 PM on May 20, 2015


I wouldn't contact the person. Not only because it adds an extra layer of weird for them, but also because they might respond to your mother's next email with "You've got the wrong email address. THIS is the correct one."
posted by ocherdraco at 5:19 PM on May 20, 2015 [21 favorites]


If this were 1999, the person might engage a bit (like I did once, with a request from Nigeria sent to my hotmail account ["sorry, you must be mistaken," I said). No one worries over that kind of thing anymore, though - habits have changed, it's nothing to block. And yeah, you have a common name (lucky you). The person is really more than likely just going to block your mom. I.e. nth don't bother.
posted by cotton dress sock at 5:21 PM on May 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


If I recieved misaddressed abusive emails from some random person's mum, I would just block them. Chances are that this person has done the same.

Do nothing, tell your husband to block your mum, forget about this and get on with your life.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:01 PM on May 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


Y… eah, the peeps from MeFi are being a little too adult about this. Maybe you'd have to be into the tumblrs to know how bad this could go - hell, 4chan would think this was HEElarious - but you are quite right in thinking that if this landed on the wrong person, they would indeed find some lulz. Public lulz.

Go with the script upstream, leave out mental illness, say you're sorry.
posted by Nyx at 6:10 PM on May 20, 2015 [6 favorites]


I don't think some random woman probably hangs out on 4chan and posts shitty emails for the lulz. 4chan is a vocal small pocket of (generally male) assholes, but it does not represent humankind as a whole, sorry. And if this person were a 4chan troll turd, an email from OP apologizing would just be cause for extra lulz, not "oh gee, let me re-evaluate my behavior before I share this with the internet." I still say to leave it alone.
posted by AppleTurnover at 6:12 PM on May 20, 2015 [11 favorites]


"No random person is going to leak obviously misdirected email as a joke."

No decent person is going to leak obviously misdirected email as a joke. We've seen time and time again that there are plenty of people on the internet who do not fit that description.
posted by komara at 7:01 PM on May 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


Also, regarding:

"I don't think some random woman probably hangs out on 4chan and posts shitty emails for the lulz"

OP didn't state their gender nor the gender of the unintended recipient. I am a guy with a 'first initial, last name' email address and I get plenty of incorrectly-addressed emails to people of all genders. Making the assumption that the recipient is probably a woman and therefore all this is totally copacetic is not the right way to go, in my opinion. I agree with everyone that says: contact, apologize, instruct on how to block.
posted by komara at 7:04 PM on May 20, 2015 [7 favorites]


Any asshole who was going to leak the emails for the lulz -- something which is amazingly unlikely because family drama is generally much less boring if you aren't part of the family -- isn't going to be deterred by someone sending a further email apologizing for their crazy parent.
posted by jeather at 7:38 PM on May 20, 2015 [9 favorites]


Yeah. Unless your mom sent details as specific as your address, SSN, your kids names and names of schools they go to, or something REALLY revealing, I would just let it go. The recipiant has probably already blocked your mom a long time ago.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 7:42 PM on May 20, 2015


Any asshole who was going to leak the emails for the lulz -- something which is amazingly unlikely because family drama is generally much less boring if you aren't part of the family -- isn't going to be deterred by someone sending a further email apologizing for their crazy parent.

But it may stop someone who's giggling at it from sending to a few friends, one of whom may post it somewhere; or it may clear things up for someone who's not tech-savvy and thinks their email has been hacked and sends the letter to their son for "tech support"; or it may calm down someone who thinks the OP's mother is somehow threatening or targeting her and who may, again, forward the message to who-knows-whom to ask for help in figuring out what's going on.
posted by jaguar at 7:44 PM on May 20, 2015 [8 favorites]


By the not-you's "please remove me from this list" comment, it's pretty clear he or she doesn't think your mom's emails are amusing, just aggravating. As such, the chances that this person wants to share these emails with the world are exceedingly slim. And as others have mentioned, I'm sure your mom's emails are being blocked or sent to the spam folder by this person. There's no point then in getting in touch.

Your husband should mark her emails as spam too. Sorry that your mom is such a source of distress in your life.
posted by Leontine at 8:09 PM on May 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


If I were in a trolling mood, I can think of much, much more intertesting replies to your mom than "please remove me from this list". If you're in it for lulz, you engage the crazy person, which is not what happened here.

I would not worry about this. I also wouldn't contact the person.
posted by ryanrs at 8:19 PM on May 20, 2015 [5 favorites]


Honestly, this person may or may not care if you send an email explaining what's happening, but I think most people would appreciate it. I say this as someone who receives emails intended for all sorts of katemcds who are not me. I usually reply to the senders letting them know they have the wrong email address, but if I received something like this, I'd probably delete it & hope for no repeats. Yes, she can block your Mom's email address, but if the emails are as vitriolic as it sounds, it may be reassuring to know that they are definitely not meant for this person.

I don't think you need to worry about them being leaked publicly. No one wants to stoke the ire of someone who seems unstable. Also, receiving an apology/explanation is further insurance that the person will be understanding rather than vindictive. I see no harm in sending a brief, bare-bones email.
posted by katemcd at 9:42 PM on May 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


Thanks all for the advice and support. I think the most likely situation is that the not-me person has blocked and deleted and moved on with their life. I will probably just leave well enough alone and not worry about the infinitesimal chance that it will end up on 4chan. It I do decide to email it will be super brief and I will leave out any mention of mental illness.

As for me or my husband blocking my mom, it's something I've thought about occasionally over the years, and I know it's a part of being properly no contact with her. It still feels wrong to me for a few reasons (although they may not be particularly good reasons). When I first gave her the ultimatum about how she could behave around me and my new baby I got a lot of nasty emails that made it clear she in no way took my ideas seriously and seeing those emails kind of firmed up my resolve in the midst of a very difficult decision. I've gotten a lot of guilt from another family member about my decision and the occasional horrible email makes me feel justified and less guilty. It also feels like I would be completely closing the door to her accepting my ultimatum and finally getting some help if I close off this one last way that she has to reach me. I no longer engage her in protracted email arguments like I did in my 20's so it feels like she's not getting the drama she wants if I never reply, although I can't deny that it stings a bit to read her stuff. Finally, probably the worst reason is what I think of as "picking at the scab", ie, dwelling and picking at something painful just cause it lets me feel something about her at all. Somehow that feels better than just disappearing her completely.

As for my husband blocking her emails, that feels moot because ultimately I would be showing him her stuff anyway. He's been my biggest supporter in all the drama with her over the years and backed me completely in my decision to go no contact so it's not like she's ever going to harm his opinion of me.
posted by thelaze at 4:32 AM on May 21, 2015 [5 favorites]


I would think there is more danger that the person receiving the email would send abusive emails back than to publish, the danger of the former being that it might look like it came from you, leading to drama. So I also think an email to explain might be helpful.
posted by biffa at 11:16 PM on June 8, 2015


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