To me or not to me, that is the question.
April 25, 2006 11:11 PM   Subscribe

Can you solve this mixed-up email mystery?

I recently advertised a couple of items for sale on a local website using an email name and address I reserve for this purpose at my ISP. I just got a reply to the ad at my old name and old ISP. I still receive a few messages at the old ISP, but can no longer send from that address. There is no reference to that name or address in my ad. What gives? How could this possibly happen?
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium to Computers & Internet (19 answers total)
 
My guess is that it's a friend of yours trying to play games with your head.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 11:22 PM on April 25, 2006


I am 99 percent sure this is not the case here, Steven.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 11:33 PM on April 25, 2006


It looks like a mistake. How about someone monitoring or filtering my emails making a mistake? Is that possible?
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 11:37 PM on April 25, 2006


What's in the email headers?
posted by aubilenon at 11:43 PM on April 25, 2006


Did you happen to register on the website using your old email address? I'm thinking the email might have been generated through a messaging system on the website (like eBay's "ask the seller a question") and is automatically forwarded to your registered email address rather than the address you put in the advert. Could that be the case?
posted by harmless at 11:51 PM on April 25, 2006


No. All the previous responses to my ads have been sent correctly. There is no reference to the receiving address in the headers, only references to the address in the ad, which is the address it should have gone to, but didn't. I'm now thinking glitch in the Matrix.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 12:03 AM on April 26, 2006


Try googling for your name -- can you trace your name from the new email name and address?

It's possible that someone could have done that, found an older email address, and sent a reply to that address by mistake, without thinking..
posted by provolot at 12:18 AM on April 26, 2006


Someone is letting you know that they know who you really are, regardless of the new address you are using to sell your Lithuanian porn collection (or whatever else it might be). There are only two guys in town who know anything about Lithuanian porn (or, of course, whatever else it might be), and the other guy knows it's you.
posted by pracowity at 12:20 AM on April 26, 2006


No, this response is from a local guy who left all his credentials, business card style, at the tail end of his inquiry. It looks legit. I'll phone him tomorrow about the items I'm selling, which are a washer and dryer. There is no, repeat NO link between the email names, except they both exist in my mail program. No Googleable connection. I keep them completely separate. No illegal, or even quasi-illegal activities, other than MetaFilter :^)

How could something come to an email address without that address in the header?
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 12:42 AM on April 26, 2006


Dissection of the email headers here is an obvious step. First would be finding out whether this went through the local website's email program or directly from this other guy to you.
posted by onalark at 12:56 AM on April 26, 2006


What program do you use to read your email? If it knows about both addresses, I'd blame a glitch in your email program before a glitch in the matrix.
posted by hades at 12:59 AM on April 26, 2006


That is to say, your email program may be lying to you about the headers, or at least the "To: " header. Your buyer probably sent mail to the address you gave in the ad, your email program took that message and, for whatever reason, substituted the To: header from a previous message. If you use IMAP instead of POP, try reading your mail with any other mail program, and see if it's still addressed to the old account. If you use POP, it's probably too late to figure out what happened.
posted by hades at 1:03 AM on April 26, 2006


Did you use your own name in the ad? Perhaps the person, local as he is, had your old e-mail address in his address book for some reason and used it?
posted by insomnus at 4:25 AM on April 26, 2006


Did you register the domain with the old email address? Someone might not have noticed the new address on the web page and just emailed the person who registered the domain, as reported by whois.
posted by landtuna at 5:44 AM on April 26, 2006


How could something come to an email address without that address in the header?

As a trivial example: Bcc:.

There's zero binding relationship between the To, From, and Cc headers of an email message and the real sender and recipients, except that they tend to match for the convenience of the humans reading the messages.

What you do want to look at (in full-header mode) are the Received: headers. Those will show what mail servers the message passed through (in reverse order; each mail server adds its received header to the top of the message).
posted by mendel at 6:13 AM on April 26, 2006


Is it possible you still have this old email address set as a reply-to address in your email program, or you sent a reply to another respondent with this address in the header somewhere? It is possible the person got the ad info and your address not from the ad itself, but forwarded from another person you had already replied to, with this old address buried somewhere in the header?

Also, are you the domain owner of your new email address? If so, if they sent to your new address but had a typo in the username, it may have redirected it to a catch-all account, which you may have set up as your old address.
posted by Yorrick at 8:06 AM on April 26, 2006


To add to what mendel is saying... email has two sets of addresses. There is the 'envelope', which is what's used to actually deliver the mail. You generally don't see that.... even seeing all the headers, you have to sort of guess at the original envelope.

The mail itself also contains TO and FROM lines, but those don't have to match in any way, shape, or form. I don't really understand what the thinking was in uncoupling those, but uncoupled they are. Normally, the envelope is generated from the fields in the main email body, but it doesn't have to be.

For us to help you, unfortunately, we'd probably need to see the full headers, which would mean you'd lose your semi-anonymity. Posting them here might not be a good idea... you'll probably get spammed if you do that. If you want to copy and paste them to the email in my profile, I'll be happy to try to decipher them for you. I can't guarantee anything, of course, but I'll try to help.
posted by Malor at 8:08 AM on April 26, 2006


You guys are great. I sent Malor the headers.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:32 AM on April 26, 2006


Problem solved with the help of Malor and my ISP tech guy. I had an extra address (new) sitting in the old address settings, so I could read the new account mail from the new or old account, whichever was open at the time. It was all happening in the Accounts setup. The mail was not actually going to the wrong address. Thanks, again, all.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 12:19 PM on April 26, 2006


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