What should I do with my Gmail account and other people sharing my name?
July 2, 2015 4:05 PM   Subscribe

There's at least one other person in the USA who shares my firstname, lastname combo. I signed up for my Gmail account 10+ years ago. It's firstname.lastname so it also works with out the ".". I've lately been getting more email intended for this other person.

It does not appear that he is trying to take over the account. I've got my personal cell affiliated with the account so I think it is secure within a reasonable degree. Today he signed up for a new account on ebay and I now have his cell number. What to do? Try to contact him and sort out where I should forward his email? Leave him alone?
posted by ericales to Technology (22 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Previously. (related tags: wrongemail, mistakenidentity)
posted by heatherann at 4:12 PM on July 2, 2015

I'd leave it alone.

My gmail, from the early days of rare gmail invites, is a regular english word and I get all sorts of mail meant for other people. If it's personal stuff sent by a human, I reply. If it's promotional stuff sent by a piece of software, especially all the signups (I've snapchat, facebook, instagram accounts, a few jobs sites, a number of stores, a few travel confirmations, 3 dating sites, and lately an Indian porn site account), I leave them alone.

Okay, well, actually, forward them to a friend of mine after munging the links and adding a comment.
posted by Sunburnt at 4:13 PM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have the same problem, so I keep two emails in my draft folder for use as necessary:
You have sent this message to an incorrect email address. The person that you intended to send it to is not at this email address. I do not know another email address for that person. I have deleted your email and any attachments. Have a pleasant day.
On the few occasions the sender presses:
I do not know another email address or any other contact information for that person. I am blocking your email address and will not receive nor be able to respond to any further emails from you. I hope you will be able to find that person's contact information. Have a pleasant day.
However, I did the same thing when I finally got some contact info and it wasn't just another random subscription (cable bill, I believe) -- I called the guy (his gmail is mine-plus-"S") and said, "Hey, this is a thing you might actually need, so you'll want to correct that with the cable company." I've had to use my draft emails less frequently since he realized that someone with his gmail-minus-"S" existed.
posted by Etrigan at 4:26 PM on July 2, 2015 [5 favorites]

Yeah, I have occasionally received email for my first initial last name combo. I agree with Sunburnt above about replying to personal stuff... it just seems polite.

The benefit of this is that sometimes you get really great emails. I once received a photo of dog poop in a smiley face shape with the subject line "Look what Baxter did today!" or similar. It was just the person's daughter sending a chain email of her dog's poop. Classic. Good times.

If it bothers you, though, just send an email and ask them to try remembering their actual address when they sign up for stuff.
posted by papayaninja at 4:29 PM on July 2, 2015

Best answer: I have a very nice relationship with E.McGee@hotmail.com who accidentally types in E.McGee@gmail.com from time to time. I forward it to her if it's something important like plane tickets or utility bills and she corrects the e-mail; otherwise I just ignore it. I first e-mailed her like 10 years ago when her son had entered her information incorrectly for some wedding vendor contacts for the son's wedding; I saw her hotmail address somewhere earlier in the e-mail chain and took the 10 seconds to e-mail her. She thanked me profusely and has forwarded me the occasional mistaken e-mail that goes to me at hotmail.

It's sort of like Christmas cards. "Hey, Eyeballs, got this for you today, hope your family's doing well! -Eyebrows" "Thanks, Eyebrows, fat fingered it here. I'm a grandma! Thanks again. -Eyeballs."
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:32 PM on July 2, 2015 [24 favorites]

Best answer: Eyebrows McGee: "I have a very nice relationship with E.McGee@hotmail.com who accidentally types in E.McGee@gmail.com from time to time. ...

It's sort of like Christmas cards. "Hey, Eyeballs, got this for you today, hope your family's doing well! -Eyebrows" "Thanks, Eyebrows, fat fingered it here. I'm a grandma! Thanks again. -Eyeballs."

I have the same sort of relationship with someone who is one letter away from my gmail account. I love EM's description of like Christmas cards. I will send important stuff like her son's school emails to her and one's that are clearly important. "Congratulations, your son aced his math test. How are things in Boise?" She always replies with a thank you and asking after my family.

If I get things like a subscription or confirmation for new Amazon account. I mostly just ignore. Once in a while I will claim the account and then close it as a sign that whomever signed up for that needs to start again.

If it were me, I would text him from a number you do not care if he has and let him know he needs to correct his email for ebay or risk losing the ebay account. I would say it succinctly yet nicely. His reaction will then guide the rest, if any, of my interactions with that person.

Then again, I was somehow added to some school in Spain's email list that included emails with tuition owed, permission slips and other personal type information. I wrote a you have the incorrect email address, translated it into Spanish and sent it. It was not helping. I finally sent "Unsubscribe" in about 5 different languages and they seem to have stopped.

Start out nice, check their reaction, then act accordingly.
posted by AugustWest at 4:45 PM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

I also have this relationship with a poor punter who doesn't quite understand how email addresses work, and I see it as a chance to do some minor good in the universe. I forward whatever is worth forwarding. Oddly my guy also signed up for Ebay and I uncharitably though for a while about buying him something as a lesson to be more careful, but of course in the end I did nothing so uncouth.
posted by StephenF at 4:49 PM on July 2, 2015

Hello! I also have a firstname.lastname gmail account and have ALSO had an uptick in this lately.

There was one very persistent person who did set up several accounts to which I then had all the login information. I'm a terrible person, I logged in and changed the password to something very, very complex to disable the account. This was an account where things could be purchased. I also changed the email address to something verifiably fake like "noone@xyz.com." I had tried in the past to contact this person, and had no luck, so in order to NOT have access to her personal information, that's all I could think of to do, really. As long as the email address was mine, I could always get the password.

There is at least one women in Australia whose mail I get every now and then, and she and I are oddly sort of friends now? Because I once got some vacation photos or some such and figured out to whom they should go. However, mostly I just unsubscribe, disable where I can (Mircosoft allows you to say, never use this email address for an account again), and redirect when possible. I have a couple of stock responses.

I usually don't do much unless there is as above financial information or personally identifiable information present, and then I want to cut off my access to that PDQ. I try a lot harder to solve those situations because they make me very uncomfortable.
posted by Medieval Maven at 4:49 PM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I now have his cell number. What to do? Try to contact him and sort out where I should forward his email? Leave him alone?

I'd text and be all "Hey you seem to be using this email address to sign up for things. Have a real email address I can forward them to?" Like Etrigan, I have a few canned replies that I send to people who seem to be sending email to the wrong address, many other jessamyns just forget sometimes to use the rest of their email.
posted by jessamyn at 4:54 PM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

I get this ALL THE TIME. There's the job-searching lady in New Jersey who signed up for a whole bunch of job-alert emails one day, all with my address (I tracked her down through LinkedIn and told her), there's the lady in Ohio who has been giving my email address out for a couple of years, and who often buys ugly clothes from the clearance section at Chico's... I've actually had a few email conversations with her husband, because she used to give out my email to EVERYONE, so I got all of the group emails to her family (and all the replies, too) and quite a lot of personal stuff. I was polite up into my inbox got slammed with a bajillion emails discussing the venue for an upcoming reunion or something, complete with contracts, financial info., menues, etc. By that point, I had already emailed her husband asking him to please tell her that she was giving everyone my email address, and he had said he would. I was grumpy about it, so I hit reply-all and sent a plea for someone, ANYONE, to tell this woman what her actual email address was. And that solved everything but the store email lists and order confirmations, which still come to me.

Anything else, if it seems important, I reply to the sender with a "Hey, I think you sent this to the wrong person, figured you'd want to know!" My mom has actually been friends for years with a woman whose elderly mother used to send emails for her daughter to my mom by mistake all the time.
posted by sarcasticah at 5:01 PM on July 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I've been replying to emails from his business contacts letting them know of the error. This is the first time I've had a reliable avenue to get back in touch with my doppelganger. My better 3/4's, who tends to be rather cagey, also thinks this is a reasonable idea so it looks like I'll be getting to establish at least some limited contact.
posted by ericales at 5:06 PM on July 2, 2015

I picked firstname + last initial for my gmail handle, which didn't seem like a likely candidate for trouble, but it turns out my first name is a common enough last name that I get all kinds of correspondence for Clarence Weston and Christine Weston etc etc.

I do pretty much what Eyebrows does -- if it looks important, I try to find out where it should have gone, or reply to the sender and let them know their request for graduate school recommendation letters didn't find its way to the right place.

If it's an update on their RedBox account rentals, I kindof enjoy snooping on what they're watching. Just a little.

Other stuff usually just gets deleted, but it's a little fun to have built up a small collection labelled "misaddressed."
posted by weston at 5:16 PM on July 2, 2015

If the email looks important, I respond with "you have the wrong email address, sorry." If I were reasonably confident of my doppelganger's real email, I might ping them, but I am not yet sure what their real address is.
posted by zippy at 5:17 PM on July 2, 2015

That has worked for me. There are a few people out there who have very similar emails and if it's something important like health insurance info or flight plans - I forward them to the right party. I'm on pretty good terms with most of them.

But there was one man - let's say he is just a bit earlier than the boomer generation - who seriously did not understand that he could not have my email address. He told his friends and family to email him at my email address and eventually he tried to take my email address by linking it to one of his own. Then I got pretty pissed and sent him a terse email explaining that he was not to try that again and set up the 2 step verification. I was pretty sure my would-be email stealer would probably not be able to figure out how to get around that given our past history.

Haven't heard a peep from him or his friend Larry since. So if it annoys you - I would recommend letting the person know that he/she needs to be more careful.
posted by rdnnyc at 5:17 PM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

I also have this problem, and one of the things I've done to help combat it is to get myself an account on just about every service that exists. Every time someone signs up for [exciting new thing], I log in as them, delete their account, and then create my own account on that service, using my email. Obviously you still have to get the first notification, but there are, it turns out, enough Meghan Millers out there that doing this has dramatically reduced the amount of misdirected email I get.
posted by MeghanC at 5:28 PM on July 2, 2015 [3 favorites]

I have an address like yours and get accidental mail for someone who shares my name. I've had to write her book club and her parents (she was very embarrassed!) to make them update to the correct address. That and other stuff, I've forwarded to her. I just treat it like the mail we used to get for the house on the next street that had the same number as us... hand their mail over.

I've also had some kid sign up for a bunch of websites using another of my email addresses, and for that I just went behind and closed the account or changed the password/settings as soon as it was opened. It stopped.
posted by zennie at 5:33 PM on July 2, 2015

I had this happen recently. It was maddening and I spent way too long trying to figure how to solve it.

I started changing the account passwords with a generated password and uploading a message to the account saying that they might want to use a different address. It worked for Instagram, and when she finally opened a twitter account, I was able to contact her through that.

It's been a few weeks, so I don't know that it's solved-solved, but it's no longer causing grief every time I open my email. Ymmv.
posted by msamye at 7:19 PM on July 2, 2015

"Hi there, you've reached a different Common Name than you intended. Perhaps your Common Name includes some extra letters or numbers in her Gmail address? Because email sent to commonname@gmail.com or common.name@gmail.com will not reach her. If she gave you one of these email addresses, you'll want to call her, or ask in person, for a better way to get in touch. Have a great day!"

I only intervene when something's at stake, e.g., a headmaster's assistant asking about scheduling a job interview.

I guess it depends how common your name is. It would take me hours a week to track down everyone who accidentally/mistakenly gives out my email address.
posted by unknowncommand at 7:27 PM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I too have this problem. I have not one, but at least 4 other people (that I can identify) that think they own my email, which is firstNameLastInitial@gmail.com. I've replied to and even had actual conversations with many people, including grandmas and aunts, church groups, elementary schools, girl guide leaders, the post office, and even a person offering one of my namesake's a job interview (that one I'm not proud of -- I had had a really bad day and replied back saying personally I wouldn't hire anyone who didn't know their own email address...). I even get an AT&T bill every month that I cannot get rid of due to some bizarre AT&T rules... I tried. I unsubscribe from at least 1-2 email newsletter type things A DAY. I have considered getting a new email address many times, but dammit it's mine, I got it right when gmail was in first beta and i'm not giving in to the dumbnuts!

The only thing I can suggest is to make darn sure you have 2-factor auth on your gmail account and with every other service that offers it that might be associated with this email address.
posted by cgg at 8:11 PM on July 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

I have zero sympathy for the kevin.omara in [city name redacted] with whom I have personally communicated and confirmed that he knows without a doubt there's a 1 or a 2 or whatever other number at the end of his email address and who yet keeps just typing kevin.omara@provider_hostname.com into every web form he finds, and apparently also says it out loud over the phone to people ("oops lol"). It's maddening, and I now delete all erroneous emails on sight instead of politely forwarding them as I used to do.

I can not even begin to combat the legions of people in India and Indonesia for whom komara is apparently a common surname.
posted by komara at 9:23 PM on July 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The Gmail Labs "Canned Response" feature makes it easy to store standard replies explaining that your email address doesn't belong to the person the sender is trying to contact. (The Canned Response menu isn't available in Inbox, but you can see your canned responses in the Drafts folder there.)

I receive a lot of erroneous email, and my policy is to reply once when it looks like the sender is a single person; I've replied to real estate agents, potential employers, people organizing church activities, etc. If the email comes from a company, I just ignore it.

I probably have enough info to contact at least one or two of the people who thinks my address is hers, but I don't think I would do it. I don't want to make it easier for them to contact me directly; I assume they're all nice, reasonable people, but you never know.
posted by neushoorn at 10:29 PM on July 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

- Seems like something important (someone once printing my email address as the RSVP on wedding invites) - reply and tell them they have the wrong email.
- Some sort of proper commercial mailing (i.e. not random spam) with an unsubscribe link - try and unsubscribe.
- Some sort of proper commercial mailing with an unsubscribe link where I've already tried to unsubscribe (and it didn't work), or no unsub link - flag as spam.
- Some sort of social network "new account" message - reset password, then log in and try and delete the account. Failing that, flag as spam (because fuck you if your website doesn't verify email addresses before creating new accounts)
posted by EndsOfInvention at 6:09 AM on July 3, 2015

« Older More self-confidence for approaching games and...   |   Date these sugar cubes Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.