Somebody mentioned to me a long time ago that this is a feature in Outlook, but I never needed it so I'm not even sure what it's called.

I've been getting more and more mis-directed email lately, particularly from credit card companies and other corporations. It isn't spam: other people have mistakenly signed up for these services with my email address. For example, every month I get a statement notice and payment confirmation from AmEx for a guy who shares my last name and first initial.

Is there any way to reject emails like this? They aren't spam, per se, so I'm reluctant to mark them as such and wind up having legit email flagged because of it. I've tried letting them know that they have the wrong address for the person, but big companies like this don't make it easy to respond to their emails.

If I can't reject them, what's the best way to deal with this? Filter to delete mail from that sender?

  • I'd just create filter rule if you know what mis-directed e-mail you get. Just move it to some folder, I wouldn't delete it in case you filter out something you did want.
    – slhck
    May 6, 2011 at 19:46
  • 4
    I have the same problem, I wish there was a way to 'bounce' the emails so their mailserver gets a response. Something that makes it annoying enough for the other party to take action.
    – Ryan Doherty
    May 7, 2011 at 2:50
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    @Ryan that sounds like a nice idea, but usually the best way to fight against fire is not with more fire. Doing what you suggest has a huge potential of back-firing! :P
    – cregox
    May 8, 2011 at 5:14

4 Answers 4


There are currently 3 basic ways to reject unwanted messages in gmail:

  1. Mark as Spam

    Unlike your belief, you can safely mark anything you consider slightly annoying or unrequested as a spam. And you should do it. I've marked mails directly from my primary contacts as spam, and never lost any important mail because of that. Just to illustrate to your specific case, gmail even offers an automatic unsubscribe feature for some lists if you click on Mark as spam. Should the worst happen and you find legitimate messages on the spam folder, there are fixes for that, such as adding their e-mail to your contacts or using filters.

  2. Filter

    If you can come up with a simple enough rule that will work for your sample, you can safely create a filter. If you have any doubts, instead of throwing stuff to trash, set a label and archive the message, so you can review the filter later on. Simple stuff.

  3. Priority Inbox

    That's even more magical. In my case, it was almost useless because I've been using the first two features and activating it didn't help much. But it's great nevertheless. Just set it up, try it and see if it's a fit. The whole idea behind it is exactly what you've requested: reject unwanted messages that you don't want to send to spam or trash. Maybe it's a mail list you subscribed yourself. You can rank it as unimportant, if gmail didn't already did it, and it will stay on your inbox for further review.


I find the best way to use filters is to filter stuff you want, adding new filters as you get new contacts. What's left afterwards stays in the inbox ready for a quick eyeball before hitting the delete.


Gmail has good facilities for building rules to move mails to other folders or the trash. If you filter to the trash - it doesn't get deleted immediately, but does after a period of time (30 days?), but as suggested another folder might be safer so you could check it to make sure you haven't overlooked something important.

To get started with rules in gmail - click settings, then filters, and create a new filter.

The hard part is how do you determine it's an unwanted mail - if you filter from a sender, then if you get legitimate mail from them, it'll follow the rule. In the case above, if you never get a mail from amex, or you can set a rule to also match something else in the email (perhaps they list a partial account number).


Filter it. Simplest way to clear stuff from the inbox. While filtering just check the skip inbox checkbox and add a New Label. You can click on the label any time you want to check for a legitimate mail.

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