G-mail is letting another person's email get through--how to stop this?
April 27, 2016 6:41 PM   Subscribe

Someone out there has a Gmail address almost the same as mine, and I occasionally get his mails. What to do?

For the past few years, I've gotten e-mails on my personal gmail account that are not for me, but are also not spam. The mails are from individuals sending personal messages, party announcements, and the like to a person who shares the same first and last name as me. The only difference in our e-mail addresses is that I have a "." between my first and last name and he doesn't. But I still get his emails.

Why doesn't gmail differentiate between firstlast@gmail.com and first.last@gmail.com? I mean, it must, most of the time, or else we'd get each others mails all the time. But it's just a trickle every now and then, maybe once a month or so.

I've replied to a few people but it seems more an issue with Gmail. Should I just forward them on to the person? And by the way, how can I know if my emails are going to this non-dot person?
posted by zardoz to Computers & Internet (28 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
firstlast and first.last @gmail are literally the same email address. Assuming you have control of the Gmail account, all that's happening is that either the other person is entering your address by accident (this happens an incredible amount--theirs may actually be firstinitiallast or something) or that people trying to email them are.
posted by wintersweet at 6:45 PM on April 27, 2016 [17 favorites]


Gmail actually doesn't differentiate between them — it strips out the dot. So, as far as it's concerned, johnsmith, john.smith, and j.o.h.n.s.m.i.t.h are all the same address.

I was lucky(-ish) enough to get my name early on in gmail's life, and I frequently get email for my namesakes around the world (either because they threw out a 'fake' –i.e. not theirs– address to a spammer, or because they didn't know better).
posted by joeycoleman at 6:46 PM on April 27, 2016 [3 favorites]


(citation)
posted by wintersweet at 6:46 PM on April 27, 2016 [3 favorites]


If you want to get in touch with your other-email-person, reply to some individual one day and ask them to put you in touch 'in case they're getting my email too'. Their real address is probably something like firstnamelastname1983.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 6:48 PM on April 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


This happens to me all the time. I think lots of people think their address is johnsmith@gmail.com (mine) when really it's johnsmith86@gmail.com or similar. I just ignore it like spam - for whatever reason, most of it is UK and South Africa commercial emails.
posted by theorique at 7:16 PM on April 27, 2016


This happens to me too. All the time. Like daily.

The few times I've tried to run down the cause, it has turned out to be people who have a similar address and either give it out carelessly or give it to someone else who copies it down carelessly. Example: the other address is like mine except it has numbers appended to it, and the email sender left off the numbers for whatever reason.

In one case it was a village councillor in the UK who actually put my email address on his web page.

It's a super-weird situation, I agree, but I guess we're in for a lot of variations on the old-style wrong phone number as online contact options proliferate.
posted by Flexagon at 7:20 PM on April 27, 2016


Another thing that happens is you have johnsmith@gmail.com and somebody else has johnsmith@gmail.ie, or any other country code, and people type the dot com by accident. I'm pretty sure I've received email meant for most of my namesakes in Ireland by now.
posted by COD at 7:22 PM on April 27, 2016


I get a fair amount of this stuff (my Gmail account name is a not-uncommon combination of partoffirstname and partoflastname, by sheer coincidence), and I just have a standard email that sits in my Drafts folder:

"You have sent this message to an incorrect email address. The [insert name here] 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."

And then another one, in case they get agita about it (which happens a few times a year).

"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."

I cut and paste as necessary, and kerplonk. It is not worth my effort to check people's typing for them.
posted by Etrigan at 7:40 PM on April 27, 2016 [17 favorites]


Does Gmail differentiate on domain? I know that full stops don't count in addresses, and I know in the UK they had to use googlemail.co.uk or googlemail.com for a while because there was a trademark dispute over "GMail", but I've never tried emailing [my Gmail address @ googlemail.co.uk] to see if it reached me.

Anyway, I have this from multiple directions. For the transactional mail from online services (game signups, etc.) I tend to unsub ASAP. For personalish stuff, I've either ignored or made interventions -- I sort of suspect I know the identity of the namesake who was having his Uber receipts sent to my GMail address, and that creeped me out, so l I contacted Uber.

I'm stuck with whoever has me on the General Motors time-off notification list or the service records for his Ford F150 in Montana. I've tried.
posted by holgate at 7:43 PM on April 27, 2016


I befriended my counterpart Eyeballs McGee and I just forward her her e-mails when she, or someone else, mistypes her address. Periodically we exchange a few chatty lines of news during these exchanges. She's older (in her 70s now) and I don't think she's likely to stop sometimes mistyping her e-mail address. Takes me a few seconds a month to forward stuff on and she's good about fixing it when it's a commercial sign-up.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:52 PM on April 27, 2016 [6 favorites]


This happens to me. There's a not kitten magic in Ireland and I used to get a tonne of stuff for her. Once it was plane tickets and I called the local branch of the airline and they were super nice and said they'd contact her by other means. Another time was info about her broadband installation and that was pretty creepy as it meant i had her home address and her new number. I just ignored them and hoped the ISP would contact her by phone. I don't hear from IrishNotMe anymore.

The best was when a I got copied in on a reply about catching up on drinks for a NYCNotMe. The friend had tried to reply to her personal email but the original email trail had her work address. I emailed other me and the friend and we had a nice laugh about it and he gallantly invited me along too. I'm on the otherside of the world but I might say hi next time I'm in town.

I never did find out what numbers or letters those contacts are missing. If there's no clear way of contacting them then there's nothing you can do. Just delete and move on.
posted by kitten magic at 7:52 PM on April 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


It might also be a case of nickname vs full name. I occasionally get email at my "davidlastname@me.com" address that should have been sent to some English guy who has "davelastname@me.com".
posted by Rock Steady at 8:03 PM on April 27, 2016


They are effectively the same address, however, you can set up a rule in gmail to forward emails with the "." to the Trash. This is what I've done and it saves me from dealing with the Hot Rod Magazine newsletter, Uncle Maloy and his wacky email forwards, Ohio church bulletins, and similar nonsense. I'll skim the trash every couple of days and if there's something that looks actually important I'll respond, but otherwise it's very easy to ignore.
posted by clockwork at 8:44 PM on April 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


Surprisingly there is more than one Myfirstname Mylastname in the world, and many of them seem to think that their email address is myfirstnamemylastname@gmail.com. It's getting to the point that it's kind of comical. If it's an automated message I just delete it. If I think there's any chance that there's a person on the other end I respond with glee, usually something along the lines of:

Hey, I don't know what Myfirstname Mylastname's email address is, but it sure isn't this one. If you have any alternate contact information I suggest you reach out using that instead. And hey, if you get a hold of them, ask them to stop using this email address, would you? Thanks!

Your friend and mine,

Myfirstname Mylastname
Mycity, Mystate


Often times on emailed receipts there's a phone number. I usually send a text message which I guess for them appears to be totally out of the blue. This I do only because it amuses me, and then sometimes they respond and I get to make them feel bad that I got their lawyer's email about the estate, or their Jiffy Lube receipt.

And man, if I were of the criminally-inclined mindset? I could know a lot more about these people than they wish, that's for sure. I've seen home addresses, phone numbers, purchase histories, reports from their children's summer camp counselors - even some SSNs. It's ridiculous.

oh hey I almost forgot to answer your question:

"What to do?"

Nothing, apparently. If me having multiple conversations with Mr. Myfirstname Mylastname in New York City hasn't fixed his dumb habit of using my email address, nothing will - and he's only one of many. You can ignore it like theorique does, or react with cold politeness (leading to borderline hostility) like Etrigan, or reach out to every single one of these dodos like I do just to see what happens.

... but none of those approaches will actually stop the flood.
posted by komara at 8:58 PM on April 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


My Gmail doppelganger leads quite an exciting life. 'Come camping with us at [amazing place]!' say a group of very attractive young ladies who seem to attach photos of them hanging around being very attractive in amazing places to everything. 'Your new BMW is ready for pickup!' 'Thanks for playing in [prestigious local golf tournament]!' These people are usually quite relaxed about receiving a 'sorry, you have [doppelganger]'s much less exciting counterpart on the other side of the globe' emails. Ha ha, they say! You should come camping anyway. Maybe one day, I say.

However, doppelganger seems to be involved in the hospitality industry, which means I sometimes get weird requests for reservations, and then increasingly hysterical replies as I insist that no, really, I can't get you a table for six on Sunday near the window, because I live in another fucking country, that's why.

I once got an email from somebody selling mead. Wrong guy, I said, but I do like mead. Cover the shipping and I'll send you some for free, he said! Americans are such generous people.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 9:28 PM on April 27, 2016 [10 favorites]


I've given up on sensible methods of getting people to not use my address, so now I reply enthusiastically to all the emails.

Last month I got a meeting request for a team meeting at a chain hotel and offered to bring the tequila and an inflatable camel.

Just now I got consulted on the new pet occupancy rules for a condo board and asked them if my pet camel Algernon would be acceptable, along with my theories as to why camels make ideal apartment guests.

I find that this kind of camel-related activity gets their attention and they stop emailing me pretty fast.
posted by w0mbat at 9:29 PM on April 27, 2016 [15 favorites]


Etrigan, you want Gmail's canned responses.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 9:47 PM on April 27, 2016 [6 favorites]


As an early Gmail account holder, I get this all the time as well. Some lady in Florida sends her flight confirmations, photo album invites, and medical prescription orders sent to my email. When it's some sort of account (like the photo album one), I used to request a "change password" email, changed the password to something even I don't know (button mashing) and hope she gets the hint the next time she tries to sign in. Considering she hasn't changed her behaviour (get it together, Miriam!) now I just send them to the trash.
posted by like_neon at 1:36 AM on April 28, 2016 [3 favorites]


I get these all the time and have generally deleted without responding to any of them because I'm too lazy to be bothered. I once even received nudie pics from one doppleganger's mistress apparently...which was followed by an email from that doppleganger offering to buy my gmail address.
posted by juv3nal at 4:16 AM on April 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


My gmail twin's ACTUAL email address has her full middle name in it, but for some reason she seems to forget this and I get email for her about once a week. She lives in the UK, is planning a wedding, and signs up for a lot of store emails. She once tried to recover my account but obviously couldn't, and that's how I found her real email address. I contacted her and said hey this is my account. She apologized but she continues to be confused.

Since the emails I get that are intended for her are mostly commercial in nature, I just unsubscribe and don't even bother contacting her. I mean if you can't tell the difference between FirstnameLast@gmail.com and FirstnameMiddlenameLast@gmail.com there just isn't much hope of getting through.
posted by misskaz at 5:22 AM on April 28, 2016


Yeah, no one else is getting your email. The other you is just giving out the wrong email address, or the other you's associates are typing their email address incorrectly. No worries.

If it bothers you, you should respond and tell them you aren't Other You. We invited a guy to our holiday parties for probably a solid year before he responded and said he wasn't our cousin. The problem was fixed that day, and we didn't bother him again, although amongst ourselves we still joke about inviting "the other TJ" to Christmas dinner.
posted by chainsofreedom at 5:52 AM on April 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


This happens to me all the time. My email is fishbones @ the G and my counterpart is fishbbones but people regularly forget to type her middle initial. Hilariously, we're both lawyers. We've befriended each other and just forward the mixed up emails without further comment.

I also have an email of boneslaw @ the G from when I was looking for jobs, and somebody else is fboneslaw. I get an absurd amount of his email, including confidential settlements, and I reply all to those since somebody is just getting lazy fingers on that one.
posted by notjustthefish at 8:42 AM on April 28, 2016


One of the people who does this to me constantly (gives out my email address as my own) had the gall to suggest I change my email address to something less obvious (I have firstinitiallastname@gmail and he suggested i do firstinitialmiddleinitiallastname@gmail, though I doubt that would be available). Given my email address, I get many emails for many other people (current count: about 10?), and when it seems important I either email the person back and tell them they have the wrong email address or if I happen to know the right email address, forward it.
posted by freezer cake at 11:56 AM on April 28, 2016


You're all a lot nicer than I am. I just start blocking emails from these individuals. I have a similar situation where I have catch-all email for my domain, that is [anything]@mydomain.com will go to my email inbox. Recently I've been getting emails for a company that has mydomainplusanotherword.com and nothing was able to prevent them from using it, so I've just been blocking them as they come in now. It isn't my responsibility to fix the problem and these days trying to correct the issue tends to be seen as meddling or somehow my fault, so I'd rather just opt out of the problem altogether as much as possible.
posted by Aleyn at 1:37 PM on April 28, 2016


I just received someone's loan papers for a $2995 loan he took out for flooring in my gmail account. Like, personal financial stuff with his name and signatures on it. He used my email address with a dot. I grabbed his street address off the paperwork and sent him a snail mail postcard as an FYI, pointing out that I got his street adress from his loan papers and that he needs to be more careful.

(I thought I wrote this question myself, because I just had to google the answer yesterday!)
posted by bendy at 3:03 PM on April 28, 2016


I just received someone's loan papers for a $2995 loan he took out for flooring in my gmail account. Like, personal financial stuff with his name and signatures on it. He used my email address with a dot. I grabbed his street address off the paperwork and sent him a snail mail postcard as an FYI, pointing out that I got his street adress from his loan papers and that he needs to be more careful.

This reminds me of a recent instance of these emails.

My home insurance policy was coming up for renewal, and I got an few emails from an agent saying that my policy was almost ready and asking a few questions. For the first couple of messages I thought it was actually about my policy.

I eventually responded asking which property address this was referring to, because something seemed "off", and it transpired that this was one of the cases under discussion here: the agent responded with a completely different address (but in the same state, interestingly). I replied saying that you've got the wrong guy, that's not my house, and heard no more from her.

It's typical that senders of official or financial information scatter when you tell them that they've been sending confidential material to an erroneous email address. Family and friends are more likely to go clueless ("well if this isn't my grand-niece's email address, then what is?" "I'm sorry, I HONESTLY HAVE NO IDEA.")
posted by theorique at 2:53 AM on April 29, 2016


I just got e flurry of emails and a calendar item for a flight. If there is a human sender, I'll reply to let them know, but only once.
posted by theora55 at 9:58 AM on April 29, 2016


Yes, this happens to me too. My email is first.last; I occasionally get emails meant for first.m.last (which I found out when someone cc'd both addresses). It's rare enough that it amuses me rather than annoying me. I just forward them along and we chat a bit. Usually I'll also reply to the sender (if it's a human rather than an automated service), explain the mixup, and give the right email address. They are usually super apologetic.

Oddly enough, it turns out our husbands both have the same (not incredibly common) first name. The first misdirected email I ever got was congratulating them on their first child; it freaked me out good to read "You and [my husband's name] must be over the moon! You'll be such great parents!" when I was definitely not even pregnant.
posted by snowmentality at 4:39 PM on April 29, 2016


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