I’ve had my GMail address for several years now; I don’t really use it for anything more than legacy accounts, logins, or as a spam trap. For the most part it just sits there in the background, silently passing on any messages it receives to my “proper” account, which is email with a custom domain hosted on Fastmail.
Over the last 12-18 months, I’ve been receiving a slow-but-steady stream of mail clearly meant for someone else: newsletters mostly, but occasionally something personal, and the odd booking confirmation. At first I put these down someone mistyping an email address now and then, or something to do with how GMail has fun with dots (“.”) in email addresses1. Whatever the cause, at first I would just delete them as soon as I realised they weren’t intended for me.
Over time though, it became apparent someone genuinely thought my GMail address was theirs. The nature of the emails became more personal, and there was an increasing variety of individuals and organisations mailing the address, and increasingly with information you wouldn’t want to miss. I’m guessing from the nature of the mail that they are older, but that’s just a guess. The profile I’ve built up is (I’ve written some details more vague than I know them to be, and excluded others):
- They live in an area of North London
- They are a member of a residents committee
- They have an elderly/sick family member or friend they wanted to keep up to date on
- They used to use Eurostar semi-regularly
- They recently decided to get their garage converted
Where before I used to just delete immediately, now I have taken to responding to certain mails, to let senders know they have a wrong address – in the hope they can let the intended recipient know they’re giving out the wrong address. Beyond this, I don’t know what to do… it’s not like I can email them to say!
- If you didn’t know, you can place a dot anywhere in a GMail address, and it will still resolve to your address. Another tip is you can “extend” your email address with a plus (“+”) and anything you like which gives you potentially unlimited addresses for the price of one. For example, email@example.com will resolve to firstname.lastname@example.org. I would use it for potential “throwaway” addresses ↩