I'm having a problem that started out being annoying, but is rapidly becoming concerning to me.

I was an early GMail tester, and have "first initial/last [email protected]" as my email address. Lately, I've gotten bombarded with a large volume of email that is meant for other people with similar names and addresses.

At first, I was getting a lot of:

  • Real estate agent emails from cities thousands of miles away
  • Car dealer quotes
  • Party invitations
  • The occasional "sexting" message/pic.

Lately it has stepped up a notch, and I'm getting stuff that's more disturbing or personal:

  • Airline e-tickets
  • Password resets from brokerages
  • Complete VPN/user/password/email information for a user at a government agency
  • And the latest, a video from a driver-cam of a bus driver suffering from a seizure and rolling a bus full of passengers.

I have similar email addresses on other big commercial email systems, and have never had a problem like this elsewhere. My theory is that people get confused and don't realize that if they mistype "[email protected]" instead of "[email protected]" (i.e. the email they registered), email will be delivered to "[email protected]" for some odd reason.

The concern that I have is that I'm getting things with information that I should not possess, with no way of contacting the person who should be receiving it. (I cannot imagine explaining this to someone at an airline call center.) What's the best way to handle this? Just ignore it?

  • One rather annoying reality is how many companies will accept an email from someone without verifying that its actually their email address. Commented Jun 16, 2011 at 13:53

2 Answers 2


Gmail actually doesn't differentiate between [email protected] / [email protected] / [email protected] - they all get delivered to [email protected].

Having said that, if you have no way of contacting the actual recipient, just delete them. Since most of the mailers come from automated accounts, replying to them is of little use.

  • That's true most of the time, except for the case where you actually register the [email protected] email address! Seems like a bizarre UI decision to me, but that's how it works. Commented Jun 7, 2011 at 19:56
  • @duffbeer703 - hmm I didn't know about that, Commented Jun 13, 2011 at 12:10
  • @duffbeer703 - are you sure? I was under the impression that once [email protected] was registered, gmail prevents the registration of [email protected], or any other variant with more than 1 period. Commented Jun 16, 2011 at 13:52

If I received "Complete VPN/user/password/email information for a user at a government agency." I would be contacting either the head of security at that agency - or a national newspaper if I thought that the former wouldn't investigate properly.

Someone deserves a very large "kick" if they're using gmail for something like that.

(That said, it might not actually be what it appears to be .. could be a spammer trying to make you go places you shouldn't ... but I wouldn't want to investigate that myself).

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