I use the email address firstname dot lastname at gmail. I estimate that some two hundred individuals share my first name and last name globally.

About once or twice per month, I get an email that is clearly intended for a name-cousin of mine. I've been signed up for college alumni newsletters, have been sent offers for house repairs, reminders for soccer practice, bills, receipts, sign-up confirmations, and even have received a job application.

What is the proper etiquette in handling such an email? Should I just delete them or would it be appropriate to reply to the sender explaining the address mix-up? What can I do when my email address was used to create an account?

  • 2
    It looks like there are quite a few situations and questions in this question. Asking about automated emails (ie: newsletters/reminders/bills/offers) doesn't seem to apply to the realm of interpersonal skills since there's no human involved. We also can't tell you whether or not to "just delete" or what you can do, as "What should I do?" questions are off-topic here. I think the case where you have a human written email accidentally addressed to you and you've decided you want to respond to try to clear up misunderstanding is an interesting and on-topic case however if you focus on that.
    – scohe001
    Jan 24, 2020 at 19:36
  • Always ask yourself if this really is a message meant for someone else or could it be spam / scam? Such trash is sent to thousands of addresses, senders want you to click/open malicious links or attachments or become active in some other way.
    – puck
    Jan 26, 2020 at 8:36

1 Answer 1


It doesn't happen that often to me (I have a rather uncommon first name), but for the one or two mails a year which are addressed to me by accident:

  • if it's a personal email sent only to me, I'll reply. That might be in self-interest; a few months ago I received an invoice for a name-cousin; if I hadn't replied, I'd probably got a reminder a couple of weeks later. Instead, I got an apology and wishes for a nice weekend.
  • if it's a newsletter or like, I'll hit the mandatory 'unsubscribe' link and indicate I didn't sign up for it (if the site asks for a reason why). Most of the times, the sender didn't put much effort in curating the distribution list, so you're not required to spend any effort either.

I haven't encountered a situation where somebody signed up with my email address, but I guess I'd ignore it; most of those confirmation mails contain a sentence like

If you didn't initiate the sign up, simply disregard the email.

  • 3
    "I'll hit the mandatory 'unsubscribe' link": wouldn't recommend doing this because that's the best way to let spammers know the email exists and is used :/ or, at least, warn OP ;)
    – OldPadawan
    Jan 24, 2020 at 21:06

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