Received flight itinerary, not my booking - ignore or report?
May 19, 2023 8:38 AM   Subscribe

I received a copy of an airline flight itinerary for a booking I didn’t make. Should I ignore it, or is it worth contacting the airline to alert them about possible fraud?

On the surface the itinerary PDF seems legit. Same logos as on the corporate website, grammar is good, flight times and codes are real, six extra pages of standard terms and conditions. The fare was paid for over a month ago on a corporate credit card (no numbers listed) that fortunately isn’t mine, and I don’t have this email address linked to any bank accounts or credit cards anyway.

The red (or at least yellow) flags include:
* I’ve never flown with this airline, a small regional carrier. No idea how or why they would’ve gotten my email address, I don’t have it out there as primary contact info. It’s different from my professional email handle (that I still use after being retired), which is publicly visible and gets plenty of spam.
* The listed passenger’s name is similar to mine (e.g. if my name was “John Williams” the name on the form might be “John Wilson”)
* No contact info other than name is given - the passenger email and phone numbers are absent from the itinerary PDF
* The outbound leg was two weeks ago and this is the first message I’ve received. The return flight is today (Friday).

My first instinct is to just ignore it like any other probable spam, and I’m not particularly interested in playing Internet Fraud Detective. But I’m concerned that if either the airline or the company whose credit card was used for the ticket purchase decide there was fraud, they’d first come after me as the only contact they have (my email address).

I looked through r/scams on Reddit but nothing similar came up, and I don’t have an account there so I can’t post. But I’m (naturally!) biased towards the opinions of the Hivemind, so what say you?
posted by hangashore to Computers & Internet (8 answers total)
Best answer: The listed passenger likely made a typo when they entered their email address. Perhaps they made two: the first went to someone else, then they realized their mistake, tried to fix it, and screwed it up again.

As a firstletterLastname@gmail address owner, this has happened to me a few times. Took me months to explain the problem to United. At one point they actually refused to remove my email address from the other person’s account, because I didn’t know them (?). I had to start forwarding them the mistaken notifications, as well as an explanation of how gmail ignores periods, capitalization, etc for them to actually fix the problem.

Next time I’m deleting as spam unless/until the number of flight notifications starts to overwhelm my inbox. I’d suggest you do the same.
posted by nat at 8:45 AM on May 19 [5 favorites]

Best answer: It feels more like this could be a legitimate flight booking for someone, who accidentally entered the wrong email address (yours) to receive a copy of his itinerary. Is your email address one that could feasibly be a couple of letters off from one that would make sense for John Wilson to have?

Even if it were fraud, I can’t see any scenario in which you could be held responsible for receiving and ignoring an unsolicited email.
posted by staggernation at 8:45 AM on May 19 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I've had this happen, and it could have been fraud, but it could also have been a simple spelling error on the email. I let it go, figuring that if it was fraud I didn't want to engage in it, and if it was a mispelling, it was up to the intended recipient to figure it out.

It wasn't very charitable of me, but I had it before that I tried to fix someone else's problem, and the powers at be very much decided to make it my problem.
posted by Capt. Renault at 8:50 AM on May 19 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I had a similar thing happen a few times with someone with a similar name who seemed to not know their email address. I did contact the airline about it and they said "there's nothing we can/will do."
posted by obfuscation at 9:03 AM on May 19 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Nth this is just some person having entered their email wrong when they made their booking. Sucks for them but nothing you can fix or need to worry about.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:29 AM on May 19 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Wow, thanks everyone for your advice. Although this isn’t a type address, it’s a nickname based on my first name so I agree with your consensus that it’s probably a simple typo and not some sort of elaborate identity theft scheme. I won’t bother with making it my problem, but I’ll definitely file the message and be on the lookout for any recurrences.
posted by hangashore at 9:36 AM on May 19

Best answer: This happens to me too. I have a firstletterlastname gmail address since gmail was in beta. My advice is to not even open a .pdf file that you were not expecting. Remove the small chance there is a malicious script in the file.

I did become internet friendly with someone whose name is similar and whose fault a lot of these things was not their own. Think johnnygunn v. jonnygunn@ or johnygunn@. They would sometimes email me asking if I got x email.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:33 AM on May 19 [1 favorite]

There was a weird case on Reddit recently, someone swore their Google Wallet suddenly had a flight shown up, from a city on the other side of the country, of an airline he doesn't use, and he had no email in any inbox that shows such a ticket, nor does it show up in any of his credit card.

It would make a lot of sense if Google's gmail intercepted the message that was directly to the wrong inbox, but somehow made it into his Google Wallet? Now I'm confused. :D
posted by kschang at 9:54 PM on May 20 [1 favorite]

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