Getting misdirected gmail email
January 10, 2019 11:38 PM   Subscribe

I know this has been answered before, but have a hard time finding it: My email address has been for the past decade. Suddenly, I am receiving email for a woman with the same name under

I thought Google treats dotted addresses as aliases of undotted ones. Why is this happening and can I do anything to stop it? She seems to be a mom like me, but from the States, and I am getting signup lists for PTA activities and stuff like that.

I had to fight the urge to sign her up for three consecutive 8.30 am bake sales today (I didn‘t do it, but let me dream...) and feel it would be better for everyone if these emails stopped coming to me.
posted by Omnomnom to Computers & Internet (28 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Forgot to add: Thank you!!
posted by Omnomnom at 11:39 PM on January 10, 2019

She is incorrectly entering her email address.

Dots don't matter in Gmail addresses
posted by knapah at 11:53 PM on January 10, 2019 [24 favorites]

I thought Google treats dotted addresses as aliases of undotted ones.

It does. A simple way to test that is to just send an email to the address without the dots; you should receive that email in your inbox. What's happening here is someone has made a typo or misremembered their own email address or something. As someone who was able to get a gmail address that is my actual, not super uncommon, firstnamelastname, it happens to me all the time.

If you're fairly certain you'll never need to correspond to the sender of the email you can just set up a rule that will automatically send all mail from that address to the trash, skipping the inbox. If you're using web gmail there's an option under the three dots in a column towards the top right that says "filter messages like this" that should let you do this. I don't think(?) this is available on mobile, but not sure.

You'll have to do it for every sender which is a hassle and it's simpler, of course, to just mark it as spam, but that might impact that sender's ability to get their mail delivered to other recipients. For individual senders, I won't mark as spam, but I figure big companies have enough pull that they aren't going to be affected by a lone report.
posted by juv3nal at 11:53 PM on January 10, 2019 [2 favorites]

I have and routinely get email for at least three other people who share my name. I think several of them just aren't very good at remembering their actual email. I mostly ignore it. If it looks time critical, or the sort of thing where an actual human might read a response, I reply to the sender and say "hey, I am a firstname lastname but not your firstname lastname. Might want to check on your address book." A couple of people have replied to thank me for that. If it's a mailing list, I just unsubscribe. Sadly namespace collisions are enough of a thing that there's no escaping it unless you have a really unique name.
posted by Alterscape at 11:54 PM on January 10, 2019 [14 favorites]

I wouldn't be surprised if her actual email address is something like and she just typoed it on a form. Or she physically wrote her address on the PTA signup sheet only to have it mistranscribed later. Or maybe she actually believes that it's her email address... it's surprising how many people seem not to know what their own gmail username is.

I thought Google treats dotted addresses as aliases of undotted ones.

Indeed, you should receive mail sent to and any other dotty permutation thereupon, or even for that matter, since everything after the plus is disregarded as well.

I'm afraid your only hope of stopping the emails is to either contact one of the senders and let them know they've got the wrong email address for her, or look for context clues that would help you discover her real email address and contact her directly.
posted by mumkin at 11:59 PM on January 10, 2019 [2 favorites]

Read the Settings: unfortunately gmail accepts addresses with dots, but it does NOT see the dots. Thus I get email and spam for several other women.
posted by Cranberry at 12:39 AM on January 11, 2019

In the same boat. There are at least four other people who share my name on gmail. In all cases they or their friends have erroneously entered my email address. It’s usually impossible to find out what their real email address is so you can only deal with the sender. It’s annoying, especially when your namesake signs you up to new things at least once I week. Does she ever wonder why she doesn’t get the email? Who knows.

I unsubscribe to what I can and if it’s personal I respond to let the sender know it’s the wrong address etc. In most cases this leads to a reduction of traffic.*

*I just have one dim bulb namesake who uses my address everywhere despite me responding to mortgage brokers/day care centres/potential employers/employers/pole dance class instructors/church choir organiser in desperation asking them to tell her she’s giving out the wrong address. (I know everything about this woman. Except her email address.)
posted by BAKERSFIELD! at 12:40 AM on January 11, 2019 [13 favorites]

I tend to try and fix the ones that are a smallish organisation (think the PTA) or when I once got invited to a birthday party. (I would have gone if it were closer but flying to Vancouver wasn't in the budget.) If it is a signup for some larger company where it would be a minor inconvenience for them I simply change the passwords and the important details to "I don't actually know my own email address" and essentially lock them out. (Think dating sites and store accounts) I did once edit someones profile more as a warning to the potential employer that this employee might not actually be that good.

What I haven't done yet, but am thinking of doing is starting to cancel their signups for things like their mobile phone plan or if any banking information comes my way.

Basically I start off small trying to get the person to remember their correct address, but slowly ramp up the "penalty" until they are actively harming themselves by my summarily closing their accounts.
posted by koolkat at 1:42 AM on January 11, 2019 [4 favorites]

I did once edit someones profile more as a warning to the potential employer that this employee might not actually be that good.

To the asker: don't do this. In general using someone else's credentials to access a service is a bad idea, no matter how you came to be in possession of those credentials.
posted by tillermo at 2:46 AM on January 11, 2019 [10 favorites]

My name is fairly common and I've had since the early 2000s. I get a lot of misdirected emails. People mistype their own address, other people's email clients store the wrong address, etc. I keep a standard reply saved as a canned response and send it when I get an email from an actual human. Otherwise, I unsubscribe/report spam/just delete as needed.
posted by neushoorn at 3:03 AM on January 11, 2019

This happens to me too. One time I was able to contact the work email of the other me as it was in the email chain. That worked well as it wasn't her error but all three of us ended up emailing so he knew his error, graciously stood by his drinks invite and other me and I emailed a bit in awe about having someone with the same name (not a common name). Good fun.

The other one was awkward as it started fairly minor until I was given her home address due to her being set up for broadband (I got a lot of notifications) and then I got a bunch of her e-tickets for an upcoming flight. I'd considered sending her a postcard saying, hey, you are giving out my email' while trying to be non-creepy , but the plane tickets gave me an option - I rang the airline's local to me office and they were very nice and said they'd contact her by phone. I think they did follow up as I finally stopped getting her email.

So if you can contact the sender - easiest when it's an actual person - hopefully they can pass the message on and get the correct person baking cookies.
posted by kitten magic at 3:35 AM on January 11, 2019

When Gmail first got started, I thought I'd be clever and get

Let me tell you.

That was a mistake.
posted by pomegranate at 4:03 AM on January 11, 2019 [103 favorites]

She has just given out your address by mistake. Maybe one letter is reversed or something like that. The dots have nothing to do with it.

There is not much you can do, except perhaps replying to the people who emailed you, and explaining clearly the difference in the emails, and asking them to convey that back to the woman in question.
posted by 0bvious at 6:07 AM on January 11, 2019

Yep, not much you can do about it. I used to get ALL KINDS of email for my name twin, and then, one time, I got an email about her son (who, weirdly, has the same name as my son, though appears to be about a decade older) from his teacher, and it was extremely uncomfortable because the email was about how he wasn't doing certain work and could they set up a conference, etc. I emailed back RIGHT AWAY saying that I was not the person they were trying to reach, that they had the wrong email address for her, and to please let her know. I get many fewer reminders now - but I still get cord blood banking invoices.
posted by devinemissk at 6:49 AM on January 11, 2019

For a few years I got pictures from birthday celebrations, etc. from a kid's doting grandmother. I e-mailed her millions of times to let her know, and finally she figured it out. I didn't mind because the kid's mom was a cake/party savant and did these fun, elaborate themed do's.
posted by Don Pepino at 7:12 AM on January 11, 2019 [4 favorites]

When I get a misdirected email like this, and it looks legitimate, I reply with this boilerplate:

"I am not the person you intended to send this to. Please double check the email address. If my address is on a mailing list, please remove it. Thank you."
posted by Flexagon at 8:20 AM on January 11, 2019 [3 favorites]

In the same boat as everyone who got the preferred, only reaching out to the sender if the misdelivery would be of consequence. The most extreme case was when I was informed I'd made a Canadian Winter Olympic team. Thought the coach better get the guy's email straight.
posted by bendybendy at 8:25 AM on January 11, 2019 [15 favorites]

I reply with this boilerplate

Exactly what I do. There are a few other jessamyns out there and one of them is notably more famous than me. I have a canned response that I keep in Gmail and let people know they have reached the wrong person and oh by the way here is her address.
posted by jessamyn at 8:54 AM on January 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

There's a good explanation here: Wrong email! The GMail "dots issue"

The comments that follow are kind of a mess but the article is good.

Like others, I reply with a canned response when I think it will be helpful. If not, I delete and move on. I got a Gmail account fairly early and it appears there are people all over the world that would like to have it for their own. The amount of personal information I get is alarming ... but I did appreciate the cute baby pictures I once got from Jamaica.
posted by maurice at 10:05 AM on January 11, 2019 [2 favorites]

The most extreme case was when I was informed I'd made a Canadian Winter Olympic team. Thought the coach better get the guy's email straight.

I got informed that I had been accepted to Harvard Business School! (I also told them they had my email wrong.)

posted by Countess Sandwich at 10:17 AM on January 11, 2019 [3 favorites]

of the three people who have the same first initial / lastname as me:

1) one has an address on yahoo, but drops gmail in now and then
2) one has an email addy of lastname first initial, and occasionally swaps it
3) one goes by first *name* lastname but forgets and uses their first initial and really likes knives and guns and conservative politics

after a few years of trying to get email to the right people, I now just use gmail's nice "unsubscribe" feature. except for the conservative politics stuff, which i respond to by saying i've decided to support ocasio-cortez.
posted by zippy at 10:51 AM on January 11, 2019 [7 favorites]

I have a pretty uncommon last name (as in, I've never known of anyone with that name that I'm not related to) and my initial.lastname@gmail address regularly gets misdirected emails. At least a half-dozen people with my first initial and last name who have their email address wrong.

It used to never happen (I've had GMail since the beginning) but it's really ramped up the last few years.
posted by neckro23 at 12:07 PM on January 11, 2019

Also, once you send an email to the wrong address, gmail and other mail clients set you up to autofill that wrong address again when you start typing "firstname" in the "to:" field.
posted by bendybendy at 12:35 PM on January 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

I have an extremely persistent gmail name twin who will not stop signing up for pandora and instagram (among others) and I suspect we now somehow share a petco points program.

posted by Space Kitty at 1:50 PM on January 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

I have a that is a very common name (my name assigned at birth I no longer use) and OH EM GEE let me tell you I have received a lot of privileged communication for several divorce and and child protective services cases and I'm somehow also on some Scottish Heraldry mailing list where people share alllllll kiiiinds of personal family medical maladies that I really don't wanna know about.

At this point the email address is more about "what do all the other first.lasts in the world deal with?" and I've just largely given up trying to deal with it.
posted by nikaspark at 2:01 PM on January 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

I have this problem too. My doppelnamer has:
- had somewhat sensitive Canadian Armed Forces information emailed to me
- signed me up for school notices including their child's teacher sending me information about their kid (Billy needs help with math)
- something about church something
- signed me up for various mailing lists

It's annoying as heck.
posted by biscotti at 3:24 PM on January 11, 2019

I may misunderstand the situation, but is it possible that since she has the same name as you, people are searching for her name and somehow finding your address instead? And perhaps google is helpfully stripping the unnecessary dots when presenting the search result to them?
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 3:33 AM on January 12, 2019

Thank you! I marked the one that helped me understand the issue best, but I really enjoyed all of the answers!
posted by Omnomnom at 7:50 AM on January 12, 2019

« Older I think my cat is bored.   |   Driving from Munich, Germany to Cortina D'Ampezzo... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.