Someone has been using my gmail address as their own, what to do?
October 17, 2022 5:40 PM   Subscribe

For nearly a decade, someone has been using my email address ( as their own. The crucial difference is that they've been separating the first and last name with a "." like This, of course, doesn't make a difference and I've been getting their hotel reservations, e-commerce orders and random mailing list sign-ups for years. What should I do?

I can only imagine their confusion about not receiving these messages themselves. A few of these emails have included their postal mailing address, but of course, no valid email address.

I'd love to resolve this for my sake (and theirs), and have considered sending a postal letter, but can't, for the life of me, figure out what to say without seeming incredibly shady. Any ideas on how I might try to convince them that I'm not scamming them and really just want them to figure out what their actual email address is so I stop receiving these emails?
posted by steve.wdc to Computers & Internet (47 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I had this problem a few years ago for a year or so, when two separate namesakes in Australia repeatedly used my long-standing gmail address. In my case I was receiving sensitive and important information such as pension and employment records for one, and everything from bank info to car rental contracts for the other. In each case I wrote to several of the senders of clearly unique info and explained that they had the wrong address and that they should check with their client/employee for the correct one. Worked quickly in both instances.
posted by senor biggles at 5:56 PM on October 17, 2022 [14 favorites]

I get misdirected emails for at least three different people, including a midwestern dermatologist who can afford much nicer cars than me and a minor English noblewoman (I received an invoice for her child's birthday party). I think these people know their correct emails perfectly well; they're just likely to leave out an extra number or middle initial when they're not paying enough attention when typing their email into a web form.

If it's anything urgent or sensitive, I write back to the sender saying "You have the wrong email address, please double-check your records or find some other way to get in contact with the person you're trying to reach." Otherwise I just ignore and unsubscribe.
posted by Jeanne at 5:58 PM on October 17, 2022 [1 favorite]


I have a gmail address which is the name of a common plant. I get all SORTS of misdirected email. I just do what the others do, and write them back politely, saying that they have the wrong email address.
posted by spinifex23 at 5:59 PM on October 17, 2022 [2 favorites]

I get a ton of these and I usually ignore it unless it looks really important, in which case I'll reply and tell them they have the wrong person.
posted by primethyme at 6:05 PM on October 17, 2022 [5 favorites]

Yeah, I also need clarification. They have to know that is not their email address, because gmail wouldn't have let them register it if already existed. Is there some likely misspelling?
posted by mr_roboto at 6:06 PM on October 17, 2022 [2 favorites]

Gmail doesn't care much if there is a '.' In addresses, I think, so the dotted version is your email address as well (and theirs is something different). But it will happily filter on such addresses: if you tell it everything to that email should go to some junk label and (most importantly) skip the inbox, you will never have to read it. Doesn't work for Bccs and spam emails quite so well, unfortunately, but it will improve matters.
posted by How much is that froggie in the window at 6:06 PM on October 17, 2022 [14 favorites]

I had the same issue for a while. It turned out their email address was

I was also a bit wary of sending a letter to their home address so I ended up having to wait years until perfect scenarios occurred. The first was their friend sent them some e-card for their birthday and I was able to reply to their friend through the website and she provided their correct email address. I emailed them but they didn't respond so I think they might've thought it was some sort of scam.

Recently they sent a personal e-mail reminder to themselves and for some reason CC'd me and I was finally able to Reply All, clarify the issue, reference the e-card, and was able to forward years of emails I had been saving for the occasion.

I still get random emails though. I guess the extra "1" is really easy for them to forget.
posted by simplethings at 6:06 PM on October 17, 2022

Can you find them on facebook?
posted by latkes at 6:10 PM on October 17, 2022

If not the result of basic spelling errors (missing digit, missing middle initial, etc.) the problem probably isn't directly with Gmail - it's with other companies' systems that do differentiate between addresses with and without periods. Ebay, direct tv, at&t, and others do differentiate - and allow accounts to be registered with that address. I know, lord knows I know, because I get those people's emails and I have been for years. It usually resolves itself after a while. Cold comfort, I know. I have spent many hours on calls with these companies that seem not to understand the gmail period problem and the last straw was when the ebay CSR said to me "I understand what you are saying and can see both your accounts, but this problem will not go away until one of you changes your address or deletes your account" and I took that as permission to log in (via password reset, because, well, it's my address) and delete the guy's account. No regrets shutting down someone basically stealing my identity. Reply-all also works well when it's medical and/or legal emails. I have participated in epic group-emails where, despite my using what I thought was clear, unambiguous language - someone was unable to grasp the concept of "an incorrect email address". I've literally been emailed back immediately "hey P***** someone is using your email address!" and I just hit reply-all again.
posted by niicholas at 6:15 PM on October 17, 2022 [10 favorites]

I have been on the other end of this. That is to say, I was working tech support for educational software used by folks training in the medical field, and one day, when I sent out welcome emails to new users, I got an automated response that was kind of like this:

My name is Anna M. Banana. I am not the Anna M. Banana you are looking for. For years now, this other Anna has been entering my email address as theirs in various systems, including their bank and school. Given this gross level of incompetence, I have no idea how this person could have made it through medical school, but somehow they did. I do not have their correct email, but just letting you know you've reached the wrong person.

Of course since we were small potatoes and there was a human (me!) reviewing all emails coming into the Support queue, I was able to flag this, write to their school coordinator, and get the record corrected in our system.

So sometimes it works out! But if the emails are all auto-responses by bots, then I don't know. You can probably at least setup an email rule and auto-response for emails coming into that specific email address!
posted by tinydancer at 6:34 PM on October 17, 2022 [17 favorites]

I have an email address of firstlast. I get a lot of email for a woman who has firstllast. I have her email address and like her so I just forward that on. I also get a lot for firstlast1 where either she or the person typing her name in from the form miss the 1.
posted by notjustthefish at 6:41 PM on October 17, 2022

My gmail "twin" is a dentist in San Bernardino (which I know because I get his emails including a bunch of dental spam) and I have fantasized about showing up at his office and demanding that he fix this and stop using my email. I don't even know what his correct email is. And can't figure out what to do short of actually showing up, and I don't think that's a good idea.

He's the main one, but there's someone in Australia as well and for a while I was on a family vacation planning thread that I kept trying very politely to get off of, and then just blocked them all when I couldn't get through. On the upside, I guess, someone in Texas used my email to subscribe to HBOMax, so now I get HBOMax for free.
posted by gingerbeer at 6:42 PM on October 17, 2022 [24 favorites]

For those unaware, dots don't mean anything in gmail addresses. So
f.i.r.s... etc

All go to If you have a gmail address and have been including dots in it, it's not necessary.

So, "Email them" and "you have their address" are not correct.
posted by dobbs at 6:47 PM on October 17, 2022 [19 favorites]

Google could have fixed this issue ages ago by simply disallowing dots in Gmail addresses. Why they didn’t/don’t is beyond me.

What I don’t quite understand, though, is what happens to account owners when they log into Gmail? Just a big blank Inbox? They were able to register the account, yet (supposedly) they’ll never get mail, right? Or, does Gmail route mail addressed to to both and namename Gmail accounts?
posted by Thorzdad at 6:57 PM on October 17, 2022

Thorzdad, I don't believe gmail will let you register fname.lname if fnamelname is already registered. Why would they possibly do that? The two are equivalent.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 7:02 PM on October 17, 2022 [10 favorites]

I have been dealing with a trio of not-mes in Brazil, England and Australia. One of them even managed to get my Instagram account deleted by trying to create a new account with “our” email. I unsubscribe from newsletters and promotional emails but don’t otherwise engage with these idiots.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 7:03 PM on October 17, 2022 [2 favorites]

This happens to me, and my solution has been:

…if it seems important and it’s not their mistake (eg: a clerk may have mistyped) I try to contact the sender.

…if does not seem important I delete it.

…if it seems like THEIR mistake, I delete it unless it is an account registration email. In that latter case I fire up a VPN to Bosnia and hijack the account, resetting the password to something unguessable. Now they get to try again with the account creation process, yay!

Also, those of you with investment accounts, be aware that Schwab does not have an email verification loop, so be really damn careful what email you give them. Same goes for basically all of the mainstream motorcycle insurance providers in North America, the Texas DOT and almost all car dealers (turns out they’ll send your tax files to pretty much anyone, you best pray it’s me because I don’t want to know your SSN or bank numbers but some people sure do)
posted by aramaic at 7:15 PM on October 17, 2022 [4 favorites]

When a guy in South Africa bought a Toyota Hilux truck, with financing and an immobilizer, I started getting emails from at least three entities (the dealer, Toyota's lending arm, and the immobilizer service). I tried hard to get the dealer to fix it, but they gave zero fucks. I thought about doing a hostile takeover of the guy's account with the immobilizer service just so I could remotely shut his truck down, but that seemed like less of a comeuppance and more of a potentially dangerous crime. So I just set up a filter in gmail and sent all of his email to the spam folder. I got the statements on his loan every month for like three years.

I also set up filters in gmail that just auto-delete everything that wasn't sent to my addresses as I format them (say I have firstname.lastname and somebody uses firstnamelastname without the dot, that gets trashed automatically). I check the trash folder periodically to make sure that no legitimate mail ended up there by mistake, but it's incredibly rare. If I see something in the trash folder and I can tell the sender is actually a legitimate business, I may try to use their unsubscribe function or support form, but people tend to be confused when I say "somebody gave you a bad email address." So most of the time I just let the filters take care of it. Sorry not sorry, person in Chicagoland trying to refinance one house and buy another. Sorry not sorry, different person in Baltimore who seems to be looking for hardship refinancing on a house. Sorry not sorry, college student who tried for hours to sign up to play a video game. Not at all sorry, guy who seems to have donated to Republican candidates for office.

At this point I'm done trying to be sympathetic. You can't remember your own email address long enough to sign up for something online? Fuck you.
posted by fedward at 7:32 PM on October 17, 2022 [7 favorites]

Someone ordered business cards with my email address on them! I tried to call him but his voicemail was full haha
posted by catquas at 7:38 PM on October 17, 2022 [13 favorites]

I have a first name + initial Gmail address and I get spam for probably dozens of individuals. I ignore mass mails and receipts entirely. If something is coming from an individual I'll typically reply politely to encourage them to check their records. If you can deduce or figure out the actual email you can also try passive aggressively forwarding the email. Though some people fail to get the hint.
posted by potrzebie at 7:45 PM on October 17, 2022

I have a name sake who has FirstMSurname, where I have FirstSurname. He would constantly give people my address by mistake. I eventually found his true address in an email chain and contacted him. We had a pleasant exchange and after that I'd forward his emails to him, or write back to the senders (he still gave out the wrong address quite often).

So maybe you could do that - somewhere you'll be able to find the correct address?
posted by Pink Frost at 7:56 PM on October 17, 2022

I ran into the exact same problem at about the same time; I also got a firstname[dot]lastname Gmail address briefly. I didn't use it much, I only got it as it seemed useful.

The hell of it is, at first Gmail DID differentiate between firstnamelastname and firstname.lastname configurations. And then, one day, it decided it wasn't going to do that any more.

The GOOD news, for the other person, is that they are ALSO getting all the email that's going to you. You're BOTH getting their emails. And, it's likely you're BOTH getting email sent to YOUR address as well. This is, of course, dumb and frustrating as fuck because Gmail is not differentiating between the name WITH a dot and the one without.

In my case, I was getting copied on the emails to a wedding organizer in Virginia or something. I tried at first to alert her friends and family and whoever was sending her email that they may have the wrong address; I was politely told once that "thanks - but we checked and she said she did get our last email to her as well." Then when one of the emails I got was a slightly naughty email from her husband, I completely abandoned that particular email address since I wasn't using it much anyway and got something more unique.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:59 PM on October 17, 2022 [1 favorite]

I feel like an asshole now reading some of these responses, but I used to play secretary/detective, in like the early 2000s, but it’s 2022! I ignore and delete. I’m not their secretary, I’m not risking my identity or my security hygiene, I’m not or clicking links or contacting businesses I have no business with.

I for sure have flaked on my own address, and when I didn’t get that confirmation email/receipt/invitation I was expecting, I handled it myself.

Most importantly, you’re not likely to be able to get them to stop if they’ve been doing it all over town for ages. I agree a letter won’t land well and I’ll add it’s also too much effort on your part.
posted by kapers at 8:01 PM on October 17, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: What OP is saying is that this mystery person is wrongly using OP's email address as their own. The period thing is irrelevant (and OP knows this). If OP had, this is the equivalent of this other person also using and thinking it's their own address.

OP can't just email this person because these emails are going to OP's own email address. They don't contain any indication of what the mystery person's actual email address is.

What may be happening here is that someone close to the mystery person is mistaken about what their address is. Much of the misdirected email I get is of that nature.

Unless you get an email from an actual human looking for John Smith and can write back and explain you're not the right person, and could they pretty please tell you what his actual address is so that you can forward him some stuff he probably really is looking for, then I think a postal letter is the best option. Maybe print a couple of emails that you've gotten as proof. Yeah, it would seem weird to get a letter like that, and maybe John Smith will just ignore it. But you're obviously a thoughtful person, and you want this nonsense to end, so you can give it a shot!

Another possible option: Create a filter to filter out emails that are sent to the version with the period. I don't know if you can actually do that (or if Gmail's filters will treat both email addresses the same), but you can easily test it out.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 8:40 PM on October 17, 2022 [8 favorites]

I'd would not spend anymore on this than a single postcard+stamp. Just say that is your address, not theirs, and they should be more careful about the spelling when they give it out. If they think it is a scam, you are no worse off than you are now. Maybe they will look into it and figure out the issue.
posted by soelo at 8:44 PM on October 17, 2022 [1 favorite]

My main one is Australian and I get receipts for their tyres and hotel reservations as well as "the Invitation to our Armidale Dumaresq Lions Club Youth of the Year Function to be held on Wednesday 2 November."

Since they're Australian I want to laugh with them so I respond with stuff like:

Hi Judith,

Can you please remove the email address ****** from this list? Someone there in Australia assumes it’s theirs’ and I get emailed receipts for their tyres but I live in Portland, Oregon, US. Also, my passport has expired and so I’m going to have to RSVP an apology that I can’t join you at the Function. :)

All my best,


Hi JAX Tyres & Auto & Nicola,

At least one person in Australia is using my email address as their own - James is. There’s another Aus using it who every year books a weekend in a hotel there that an Australian friend calls a shithole. It could be James. Watch out for James, he seems shifty.

- Portland, OR, USA

posted by bendy at 9:45 PM on October 17, 2022 [3 favorites]

The same thing is happening to me. I have the email address

I get so many emails not meant for me. I can't work out how many namesakes I have, but it might be three.

Sometimes I reply back to let them know that they have the wrong email address.
posted by kinddieserzeit at 10:00 PM on October 17, 2022

I get what feels like a LOT of "same name, wrong email" emails, many of which I simply ignore. For stuff that seems important, I have in the past found the person on Facebook (one person was grateful, one was...weirdly accusatory, so I just delete her shit now) and tried to get stuff straightened out. There's another woman who was trying to reset her AOL password with such a fervor that I eventually CALLED her because I was getting so many emails and said something like "Hi, FirstnameLastname@gmail is not your email address, it's my email address, and for your own security going forward, you should be more careful. I'm a nice person and not interested in your personal passwords and stuff, so don't worry, but there are a lot of bad actors out there. Please take care of this for your sake." She seemed grateful! I had to repeat this process with her a few months later, but ehhh it was fine.
posted by Charity Garfein at 12:26 AM on October 18, 2022

I get rental car return emails from Europcar periodically for a person who has the male version of my first name and my last name.......and apparently, they just scroll down the list of customers and my email address comes before the other person's in their this may or may not be the may also be a clueless customer service person not checking things properly.
posted by koahiatamadl at 2:36 AM on October 18, 2022

Within the last while I have received a scan of a passport, a full mortgage application including months of bank and credit card statements, two other sets of house purchase negotiations (in the UK and in California) an email from a child at a private school in Pennsylvania telling his parents how classes are going, a number of invoices for Australian boat rentals, an invitation to a wedding, and other such things from at least five different people who have a similar name to mine -- I have a common-ish name, I guess, and my last name is a homonym so if people say "X" but don't confirm the spelling I expect that lots of people write down my name, "Y".

I set a rule to auto-delete the email from the truly junky stuff (car dealerships, Internet subscription services, boat rental invoices), send a cheerful note to the invitation-type things ("hello, I'd love to attend your wedding, but as I live in Canada it might be a bit of a trek and I don't think I know you" / "congratulations on a great term at school, I am either not your father or in for a huge surprise, but I'm glad classes are going well") and a stern note to the people sending me really stupid stuff like financial documents and passport scans.

Then I tweet my "Today in Alternate ____ News", which turns it into a fun story to be shared, and usually gets me a few replies from people who have similar issues, which is fun.

I don't bother trying to track people down otherwise. Reply to the wrong ones that seem to come from a human, set auto-delete rules in Gmail to deal with the rest. It's vanishingly rare that the people I personally reply to make the same mistake twice, but my name is apparently so common that there's a bottomless well of people who will make this mistake over and over again, so I just try to have fun with it.
posted by Shepherd at 3:25 AM on October 18, 2022 [4 favorites]

I have an automated response template that lets people know the email is wrong, I use that liberally, and then I delete and ignore. Doesn’t seem worth spending any more of my time on than that.
posted by Stacey at 4:33 AM on October 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

I'm on the other side of this. I agree this is most likely an issue of the vendor/sender having the wrong address through misunderstanding or mistyping some other part of the email address, and that responding to the sender with an automated response is a nice thing to do but not required. I assume you're already filtering the emails.

I have a common name spelled in an uncommon but not entirely unique way. Let's say my name is Elisabeth Smith and my gmail is There are TONS of situations where I have to verbally my email to an insurance agent or Lowe's or whatever, and it's a pain in my ass to triple check each time that they've spelled my name and therefore my email correctly. Reader, they often do not. And some understandably annoyed no doubt gets my homeowners insurance info, my cabinet order, or whatever. I even once wrote to that email address with a blanket apology and explained what I do to keep it from happening. And when I don't receive expected emails after having to give it out verbally, I always follow up to find the error.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 5:31 AM on October 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

I was an early Gmail adopter with a fairly common name and I experience exactly the same problem. When an email seems to come from an actual person, I use Gmail's canned responses feature to reply with "You sent this email to This is not the email address of the person you're trying to contact." That almost always resolves the issue. Occasionally there are repeat offenders who don't verify what email address their phone or computer is auto-completing, but in those cases I just use the canned response again and again until it sticks.

When an email comes from a company or government, I just delete it. I really don't think there's a way to truly stop this from happening. I know it seems bizarre, but some people just aren't good at remembering their own email address.
posted by neushoorn at 6:24 AM on October 18, 2022 [2 favorites]

This happens to me all the time. There are a few classes of this mistake -- like, the Aussie voice actress whose email is one letter off from mine, I recognize when I'm getting her stuff and redirect it. She's never doing it, it's always just a mistake on the part of the sender. If it looks sort of important or like someone would not want to miss it, I will just reply to the sender and say, "I"m sorry you have the wrong party." Most people fix this right away.

If it's an account for something, like let's say Amazon Prime or some such thing, I go in and change the password to something absolutely atrociously hard to guess using as many letters / numbers / symbols as are allowed, and that effectively kills it. They can't log in, they can't reset the password, I'm in control of that portal now, and they don't do it again.

For truly sensitive emails, sometimes there is a phone number and I have successfully texted people to stop using the email address, though once someone did get shirty with me about it. Then again, they were lucky I'm a good person because I had their whole SSN, so. In one case I was getting sensitive information about a child, and it was through a service, so I called the assistance number for the service and had my email removed that way. If there is no phone number or other way to contact the actual person, I just delete it.

Good luck this is a very annoying problem.
posted by Medieval Maven at 6:53 AM on October 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

This has been happening to me since the first days of gmail - I lucked out and got firstnamelastinitial and there are currently at least a half dozen people, if not more, who think that's their email address. I have a filter that looks for the word "unsubscribe" to deal with all the mailing list crud, and unless it looks very important I just delete everything else quickly and without thought. Maybe once a month I'll reply that they have the wrong email if it looks really important.

The number of people I've had applying for jobs with my email is astonishing. And I'm getting legit responses back from companies. I'm sorry, but if you can't even get your email address right you're not getting the job.
posted by cgg at 7:18 AM on October 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

I get this from time to time on my firstnamelastname@gmail address. It used to happen a lot, and I'm also assuming that people with a similar gmail address were getting my mail, because on one occasion I didn't get an email about a flight change, which caused some disruption. Another time I got details from a bank in Australia with security information relating to opening an account. I wrote back immediately and told them they'd got the wrong person, that the email had been deleted and with confirmation of my professional status from my employer's website (which, peripherally, is connected with banking security) so they could be reassured I was legit.

Every now and again I'm included in a round robin of people in the Midwest, and I always email back and say "This is the other [name], so I won't be at Applebees this evening ...".

In the end I abandoned that email for every day use and established and I haven't had any issues with important mail reaching me on that one.

I'm not convinced that it's people putting in the 'wrong' email address. I think it's a gmail thing where it randomly misses punctuation of any kind in the address, so it's hit and miss whether gmail will send the email to the correct person or someone else with the 'same' email address but for a period, hyphen or underscore.
posted by essexjan at 7:44 AM on October 18, 2022

I feel your pain. My name-twin in Australia has done this for several years. (Why are so many of them in Australia?!)

I contacted her utility company to let them know why I couldn’t help with her past-due bills, and I politely responded to a post-interview job rejection email to suggest they communicate the rejection in some other form. (I wasn’t above letting them know she’s made a habit of this; they’d already rejected her, anyway.)

Anything automated from a “do not reply” address just gets deleted. I was able to find her on LinkedIn, but settings didn’t allow me to message her. Her profile gave the overall impression that she might not be much of a “details person.”

Over time, I’m seeing less of her correspondence, so it’s possible people are getting back to her and she’s taking the hint.
posted by armeowda at 8:46 AM on October 18, 2022 [2 favorites]

Another possible option: Create a filter to filter out emails that are sent to the version with the period. I don't know if you can actually do that (or if Gmail's filters will treat both email addresses the same), but you can easily test it out.

I've had filters doing exactly this for years, so I can confirm that it works. It doesn't help when your Doppelgänger uses the same format you do, but if they use a wrongly-dotted version of your address you can filter all those messages automatically.
posted by fedward at 8:46 AM on October 18, 2022

I need to read the responses to this closely because it’s still happening to me. I even get his temp paystubs lately. Yeah, what the fuck, right? And I have a very specific last name.

I’m so confused why they keep using my email. Even for sensitive stuff like this. It makes me paranoid they somehow can get into my two factor authorization gmail…. But based on all the emails I get, they are not smart. I went so far as to change the PW on an Amazon account they kept getting free iPad apps on hoping they’d get the message to quit it.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 8:48 AM on October 18, 2022

Yeah, I also need clarification. They have to know that is not their email address, because gmail wouldn't have let them register it if already existed. Is there some likely misspelling?

It isn’t gmail doing it. It’s the one other person in America with my first and last name putting MY EMAIL on stuff. Without the period between first and last names. I know there’s no way they can have that because Google doesn’t care… but apparently, they do not mind having anything and everything sent my way. I could’ve turned off their electricity, internet or steal their full identity by now thanks to all the crap they keep having sent my way.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 8:52 AM on October 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

OnTheLastCastle, I was told once when I called the service to unsub from the kid-related emails that people just like, do not have an email address, and do not understand that you can't just put anything - so they'll put something they know will get accepted just to move through a process. They don't have an email address, they are not tech savvy, they do not understand that what they are doing is going to send some stranger their SSN. This was generally the (angry) feedback I got from the woman who had all her car leasing details sent to my email address -- she didn't use email and didn't care to, she just wanted to lease a car and they required an email so she gave them one.

It blows my mind but there you have it.
posted by Medieval Maven at 8:54 AM on October 18, 2022 [11 favorites]

Honestly, sending a postal email isn't going to resolve this, because it *is* going to feel creepy to the recipient, because you got their postal address by reading "their" email, even though it was sent to your address and you might have opened it not realizing it was for them, not you. Even though it's a lot easier to open an email than a postal letter. Sorry.

I have 18 years of experience with this, having a mildly desirable email address. I have gotten EVERYTHING. Requests for homework help. Bank and tax records. Purchase records for items mundane and intimate, small and MORTGAGE size. Requests for donations. A series of emails expressing concern that the recipient wasn't more concerned about the fact that their son was failing algebra ("because you keep emailing me and not the kid's actual parents, FFS, they probably don't even know there's been a problem for the last couple of months!"). The most efficient way is to just block or mark-as-spam the senders as you encounter them and move on. Not your circus, not your monkeys.

If I'm feeling particularly charitable (or irritated, whether because this is the Nth time this has happened with a particular sender, or it's sensitive information), and it looks like there's an actual person on the other end (it's not a one-way send-only email address), I'll email the sender and tell them they need to call this person to get the right email address, and to please remove my contact information from their database if it's clearly not a personal email ("because I did not sign up for it," if I've gotten multiple emails from them, with vague litigious undertone). But at this point, I bounce the vast majority of them to spam, especially commercial senders because so many of them make it impossible to unsubscribe yet don't require proper email verification on the front end, and they freaking deserve what they get.
posted by Pandora Kouti at 11:36 AM on October 18, 2022 [2 favorites]

I’ve faced this for many years. Gmail isn’t my primary address but I do have it, and people with my name in the eastern US, Australia, and Ireland are using it as their own. The only time I got anything real and sensitive, I replied and let the person know.

But otherwise it’s staggering that I know someone with my name’s profession, the car they drive and get serviced (and where), and what they buy at Harbor Freight - all because they think my address is theirs.
posted by hijinx at 12:25 PM on October 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

I have the email of "" and I sometimes get mail meant for "" I figured out their actual email address through email context (location, profession) and some google sleuthing. Nowadays I delete anything spammy but I'll forward them things that look important where someone mistyped the address.
posted by CarolynG at 4:32 PM on October 18, 2022

Best answer: I'm really enjoying all the shared personal experiences, but I want to politely note that many responses have strayed from the actual question the OP asked:
I... have considered sending a postal letter, but can't, for the life of me, figure out what to say without seeming incredibly shady. Any ideas on how I might try to convince them that I'm not scamming them and really just want them to figure out what their actual email address is so I stop receiving these emails?
I think the key is to acknowledge that it's a weird situation for both of you. Something like, "I'm really sorry to bother you. I haven't written sooner because I worried I would be invading your privacy by contacting you, and I hoped that the problem might resolve itself. However, I ultimately concluded that it would be a worse invasion of your privacy to continue receiving these emails without telling you. If you don't take action, I will of course delete any emails meant for you as soon as I realize they were sent to me by accident. But I'd be grateful if you'd stop using my email address for personal activity. I think it would be a win-win for both of us. You would actually get the emails you expected to receive, and I would get much less unwanted mail in my own personal inbox."
posted by yankeefog at 2:53 AM on October 19, 2022 [2 favorites]

My response is usually something like, "I received your email message by mistake. I am Mo Nickels, but I am not *your* Mo Nickels. My email address is Your Mo's email address is probably very similar, perhaps with an initial in the middle or numbers at the end. Please double-check! Sincerely, Mo Nickels in San Diego (not in {Your City})."
posted by Mo Nickels at 6:57 AM on October 20, 2022

You could also print out one of the emails you received intended for the person to show them you're legitimately receiving their emails. You could do an innocuous one where it looks like they're trying to sign up for a service that has a qualifier link, or something more serious which may make them worry you're getting sensitive material.
posted by dobbs at 8:43 AM on October 21, 2022

« Older Do carrier unlocked Android smartphones get...   |   Keep my trunk organized Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.