Every single day someone somewhere is violating your email privacy.  The violators might not even intend on penetrating your cone of silence, but their carelessness can lead to no other end than virtually bleeding you out.  You might think your email address is secure, but if someone has access to your private information and then includes those personal markers in a misdirected email intended for you, but sent to someone else — any sense of security you have worked to protect is inherently broken.

I am not dead yet, but I sure do get a lot of email sent to me that ends up in the dead end of my Trash folder.  Here are three examples — from just the last few months — of vital email wrongly sent to me instead of the correct person.  I have protected the information of the innocent intended — I have no interest in protecting the bad behavior of the email sender.  Perhaps this article will serve as a warning to them to shape up their carelessness.

Remember, I don’t know any of these people and there is no reason my email address should appear in any of their address books.

In the first example, you can see an email from 24 Hour Fitness.  They’ve included login information, contracts and payment information for personal training sessions.  Every few months I get updated versions of this mistaken email and every time I reply and tell them they have the wrong person and that I deleted the email and attachments.  No reply is ever given to me and when the innocent intended “re-ups” — I get the email confirmation.

If I had a meaner bone, I could easily login to the system and transfer these paid for sessions to a local gym nearer to me for my use.

In the next example, it looks like someone is trying to teach someone else a lesson about paying Geico car insurance. 

Yes, that’s an important lesson to teach and learn — but shouldn’t you first make certain you absolutely have the correct email address of the one you are trying to admonish for lackadaisical behavior?

I replied to the sender that she had the wrong person and that I deleted the email and attachments.  I received no reply in return.

In our final example, you will meet Kerri who used to send me email, invoices, and other highly sensitive information at least twice a week for six months.

Each time she would email me, I would be horrified by the highly sensitive nature of the attachments and I would always reply and tell her to remove me from her address book because she had the wrong person.  I also told her the email and attachments were removed.  To this day, I was never sent a reply or even an apology for clogging my Inbox with her repeated mistakes.    

I believe I have finally been removed from that endless email loop because several other people in that company with Kerri also emailed me sensitive documents and, after I replied to them, too, about the mistake — I haven’t been in the circle.

These are but three examples of email sent to me that was never intended for me and I really feel rotten for the poor people who were supposed to get the email but likely never did. 

I’ve had divorce papers sent to me from lawyers’ offices in several states, full mortgage applications have been “faxed” to my Inbox via the internet and all kinds of funeral details found me, along with lots of approved applications for credit.  None of it was for me.  I deleted all of it.

Be wary of not just what you’re sending, but WHO you’re sending it to.  Double check the email you’re using is valid and connected to the right person.  If you aren’t getting a reply from a person you email, pick up the phone to make certain they received what you sent.  Don’t assume you are being ignored or stuck in a Spam trap.  Be aggressive to confirm no mistakes were made in the addressing or in the delivery — and if you make a mistake and someone replies to you and tells you of your error, reply to them with a simple “Thank you” to finally let the right person know you got the message.


  1. Wow, David. You beat me to this. I have gotten so many emails that were meant for other people with my first name (mostly English) including some that have family photos, classmates.com registration information, Toyota servicing information along with the address of the person to whom the Toyota belongs…

  2. Ok, guilty as charged.
    I sent an e mail to my immediate boss once that was meant for a client – both of their name started with the same letter and I made a mistake of choosing the wrong name.
    The email returned to me within two seconds with a –one-word-reply. “Misfire.”
    I was glad that it was not the other way round – and I LEARNT my lesson. Now I double/ triple/ quadruple check before hitting the “send” button.

  3. You should write up your own article on this matter, Gordon! It’s an important message to get out there and the more examples we can provide, the better we can help heal the problem.
    It’s a fascinating problem that the wrongful senders don’t seem to care to fix.

  4. Ouch! That is horribly painful. I’m glad the only response was “misfire.” Heh. What really annoys me is the person using Outlook who then sends a massive email blast with confidential information and then spends the rest of the day sending emails to revoke the message that has already been received.
    Gmail has a nice Labs feature that will let you set a “recall” time of 10 seconds or so — so if you realize you sent the email to the wrong person, you can actually “Undo” it and get the email back before it gets sent.

  5. Whew! Will get right on that today. 🙂
    I’m so glad for Gmail having the undo. I mark things as spam sometimes by accident. I did that in Yahoo once — deleted 100 emails instead of 1 and it drove me crazy trying to find them all.

  6. Cool! Put the article in one of the other blogs that hasn’t been updated in awhile so we can spread the news.
    Yes, the Gmail Undo is great. You get into a pattern of mindless clicking and then when your eye catches an error — it’s usually too late to fix it. Now, with the Undo, we at least have a little chance…

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