Gmail problem? Fraud? Phishing? What?
November 29, 2017 12:51 PM   Subscribe

Getting emails where accounts are registered with an alternate email address, but I am not registering them and when I call the companies that I'm getting emails from, they can't tell me what's going on.

You know how if you register firstname.lastname@gmail.com, you technically get ownership of firstnamelastname@gmail.com (with no dot) and if someone emails no-dot firstnamelastname@gmail.com, you will still receive it at with-dot firstname.lastname@gmail.com?

It has happened a few times now, where I will receive notices addressed to no-dot firstnamelastname@gmail.com from legitimate emails at legitimate companies (I have called the companies to check that these are legit email addresses mailing me). One of these companies is my bank, but referencing an account that is not mine and also a legit communications company in the UK, but I live in New York and do not use that service. It has also happened with a few other legit companies.

I have checked my credit report to make sure there is no fraud there and that looks fine. I have also changed my gmail password a few times, so it looks like I'm likely not being phished. So what is going on and how can I fix it, because every time it happens I get nervous but I seem to have no recourse other than reporting it to the companies, who never give me feedback. The problem probably started maybe six months ago. Halp?
posted by greta simone to Computers & Internet (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
It sounds like it's someone that shares your name and doesn't know their email address. My email address is firstnamelastinital, and sometimes I think everyone that shares my first name and last initial is too dumb to have email, because they seem to enter my email address into everything.
posted by amarynth at 12:56 PM on November 29, 2017 [20 favorites]


What amarynth said - there is an elderly lady in the UK, a teen in Florida, and someone I can't figure out in Australia who all consistently think they have my email address.

I get a couple randos sometimes too but about once a week something comes in that is clearly not for me. It helps that I ALWAYS use the dot and these people almost never do so I can easily see it was something someone else typed in.
posted by magnetsphere at 1:00 PM on November 29, 2017


If you're concerned about your email security, I would do more than simply change your password. Gmail offers a nice security check-up feature, so I would also make sure no other accounts are linked or forwarding emails, no one has been signing into your account from a place you don't recognize as yourself, and you have added two-step verification to your account.

That said, all this sounds like is run-of-the-mill idiots not knowing their own email address. People with common names run into this a lot, but all it takes is one idiot with your name who doesn't know their own email address. I had an Amazon account registered in my name and email address that wasn't mine -- and since it was registered to my email address, I was able to change the password, log in and see the credit card info. I could've just used their credit card and had stuff sent to me and they'd never see notifications of the orders since I was getting them in my email. People are very stupid.

I don't think this is a security issue, just a mistake. But I would still do some basic security things anyway, like two-factor verification.
posted by AppleTurnover at 1:01 PM on November 29, 2017 [11 favorites]


this has been happening to me all week long and i assume it is the belated fruits of the experian hack, as every new account attempt is quickly banned for non-email-related fraudulent activity on each site. i've removed that particular email address from all the related accounts (and from all others i could think of offhand which use that address) and changed all passwords, so hopefully that will do something useful.
posted by poffin boffin at 1:09 PM on November 29, 2017


I have a friend who registered his email address as first initial last name at gmail way back in the day. He keeps a running tally of people that have accidentally used his email address over the years. It's in the close-to-100 range.

That's 99% what's happening here.
posted by deezil at 1:10 PM on November 29, 2017 [1 favorite]


Yes. Ugh. Just today I got an email from Zazzle.com advising me about my ceramic tractor ornament shipping to Illinois (I live in Ontario). I've previously received order notifications from Marks & Spencer in the UK, from a Walmart layaway service in Wisconsin, and even someone from the Bulk Barn corporate head office intending to email a job applicant about setting up an interview.

I generally unsubscribe from their emails, and send a short reply to them (referencing the order number) advising that they've got the wrong email address. I honestly don't know how they'll fix it, as they probably only have the wrong email address as contact information... which is why I guess you don't get any answer from them.

The only time I got a reply was from the Bulk Barn interviewer, who was very thankful on behalf of the applicant that I had replied, so I do think it's worth doing.
posted by cranberrymonger at 1:12 PM on November 29, 2017


I've had the same Gmail address of middlenamelastname since Gmail was still invite only. I get a half dozen of these a week, sometimes several dozen a week. Going by the e-mail I get, I belong to a bridge club in Wollongong, Australia, I have a shed for sale in Durban, South Africa, I'm a member of a classic car club in Reno, NV, and I'm also a lawyer in New Jersey who owns a BMW X5 and graduated from Rutgers. Oh, and I'm on the Victoria Farm Safety Commission that meets somewhere outside of Melbourne. At one point an audio shop in Perth was putting schedule information on my Google Calendar and e-mailing me asking why I wasn't showing up for my shift, and I'm also a civil engineer in Iowa who was involved in a lawsuit against whatever county I live in there.

As others have said, this is 99% people not knowing their own e-mail address, and maybe 1% people thinking they know someone else's. But to be safe, turn on two-factor auth if you haven't, and just keep an eye on things.
posted by ralan at 1:15 PM on November 29, 2017 [4 favorites]


I thought it might just an idiot who doesn't get email because my name is entirely anglo-normal and boring, but the frequency with which it has been happening has ramped up in the last few months, enough to cause me concern. I'll try some added security measures just in case, but I'll stop worrying about it. Thanks for the help everyone!
posted by greta simone at 1:26 PM on November 29, 2017


I've had this happen more times than I can count at this point, due to similar circumstances: I'm mike.commonlastname@gmail, and have received not just messages from people who used the wrong address, but people who thought they were making up a fake address, or people who thought they were adding their manager's email address on an account.

I've seen a handful of actual door-knocking attempts, though. I suspect most of them came from the time when I had a domain name registered but didn't realize my registrar was publishing my address and phone number publicly.

For a number of years, about every six months I'd start getting phone calls and email messages about an auto insurance quote I never requested or a message saying my payment had been declined from a legitimate merchant -- those cases might have been someone trying to correlate a credit card number they'd stolen from someone else with my name attempting to find contact info that'd validate. All of those requests had my legitimate phone number (which hasn't changed in over a decade) and an address I lived at in the mid '00s. I file them in a folder marked "identity theft?" in case I need a paper trail some day, but it's never come to that.

For marketing messages I unsubscribe, and for personal correspondence that seems important I'll sometimes reply to let them know they've got the wrong contact information. I'm guessing the Mike who is remodeling his kitchen in the UK might find the quote on new countertops more useful than I would.
posted by mikeh at 1:38 PM on November 29, 2017


There seem to be at least three people who really insist my e-mail address is actually theirs, and have for years. One is a young lady who, judging from the e-mails I've received from her schools, has been giving out her incorrect e-mail address since middle school (she now seems to be in college). If I had any idea what her actual e-mail address is, I'd let her know. She does it all the time.

More recently, I got put on several faculty-only distribution lists at a major university when a professor put in my address instead of hers. A quick e-mail to postmaster at their domain got that cleared up.

Then there's the former major league baseball player and later college coach who shares my name. He knows his own e-mail address, it seems, but people send me his mail anyway. I used to get his hotel reservations (apparently, he stayed a lot at particular company's properties, and I had also stayed at one of those, and the reservation agents assumed he and I were the same person) and so had a pretty good handle on his travels. It is a hoot, anyway, knowing there's a baseball stadium in Arizona with my name on it.

So this is entirely normal. Out of the 7.6 billion people on the planet, it is inevitable that at least one will not know what their own e-mail address is, and confuse it with yours.
posted by kindall at 1:41 PM on November 29, 2017


Nthing this is annoyingly very, very normal. I have an awesome [firstname][last initial]@gmail.com address, and I get this *daily*. Seriously, the number of people who don't know their email address is staggering. Today I had someone reach out and hope I was ok given the volcano eruptions in Bali... I'm in Canada. I've had shipping notifications, pictures of grandkids and weddings, job interviews, bank statements, and many many "alternate email" setups from google. I get a staggeringly high monthly AT&T bill for an account I do not own (that I have tried repeatedly and unsuccessfully to get my email off of, but, well... AT&T), and so much more. The list goes on and on. I cant even attempt to count the mailing-list spam - I have these all filtered out (helpful tip - filter out anything with the word "unsubscribe") and every now and then go and unsubscribe to a bunch, but I just cant keep up.
posted by cgg at 1:52 PM on November 29, 2017 [3 favorites]


I’ve had it all, but a special shout out to the woman with my first name last name in Denver who asked a guy she was seeing to send her special saucy pics - I really wasn’t expecting that.

It’s totally normal. I used to chase them up just in case but now just bin them.
posted by ozgirlabroad at 1:59 PM on November 29, 2017 [1 favorite]


This is a daily thing for me, and has been for years. I conclude that people are mostly just very bad at giving out their email addresses. The rest of the time it's people who have been goaded into giving an address they don't want to provide, or so I imagine.

In at least one case, it happened because someone has an address like mine except for some random digits tacked on the end, and they had given it out forgetting to include the digits.

I have a common name for a Gmail address, and I assume that there are a lot of people whose addresses are very close to mine. One of them was / is a member of a local UK town council who mistakenly displayed my add on his official web page.

Sometimes I'll get something that looks like it could be serious business and I'll try to run it down—not as often as I used to.
posted by Flexagon at 2:09 PM on November 29, 2017


I'm not so much concerned with getting the random direct email from a stranger (which of course I have also gotten), it's more automated notifications involving financial institutions and official things like utilities where false accounts could hurt my credit. Again, thanks for the help everyone.
posted by greta simone at 2:21 PM on November 29, 2017 [1 favorite]


I hear you. I have bellman [at] gmail (yes, I got in early) and I get a metric crapton of what looks like very important email for Barbara Ellman, Bob Ellman, and every hotel luggage desk on the planet.

It's not my work address, so I've stopped worrying, turned on two factor (with this, which I love) and learned to let inbox sort it out.
posted by The Bellman at 2:55 PM on November 29, 2017


It’s increasing for me (also common first.last@gmail) in the wake of Black Friday and other holiday shopping, FYI.
posted by deludingmyself at 5:18 PM on November 29, 2017


Regarding false accounts: to my knowledge, no credit monitoring institution uses email as an identifying feature. I'd only be worried if you saw something that indicated they used your email address because they had something that does tie to you, and not just an email address: postal address, phone number, an actual credit card number, bank account, an social security number
posted by mikeh at 5:01 PM on December 1, 2017


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