back to article Um, I'm not that Gary, American man tells Ryanair after being sent other Gary's flight itinerary

Infamous no-frills Irish airline Ryanair has been accused by a tormented man from New Jersey in the US of bombarding him with flight itinerary emails intended for an actual passenger. "A lot of people seem to think that my email address is theirs," sighed Reg reader Gary, who told us how Ryanair's online customer service chat …

  1. Cynical Pie

    It'll never happen...

    .... but I'd love to see Ryanair on the receiving end of a hefty ICO fine.

    Failing to correct information you know to be incorrect is a contravention of the DP Principles, particularly repeated refusals to remedy the situation. GDPR and The DPA 18 are agnostic as to who can tell you if the data is wrong and the assumption is once you know you know, regardless of the source of the data.

    1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      Re: It'll never happen...

      I seem to recall onetime one of the budget airlines would charge you for correcting a spelling mistake on your name - even if they made the mistake themselves.

      You have to remember that the business model of these companies is to sell the bare minimum product at a rock bottom price and them hit you for any extras. Correcting mistakes is an extra....

      1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

        Re: It'll never happen...

        I seem to recall onetime one of the budget airlines would charge you for correcting a spelling mistake on your name - even if they made the mistake themselves.

        IIRC there was somebody who changed his name by deed poll because it was cheaper and less hassle than getting a budget airline to correct a spelling mistake.

      2. DontFeedTheTrolls

        Re: It'll never happen...

        There's a thread going on right now on Money Saving Expert about a wrong name issue with Ryanair.

        Claims that at least 44 people have been hit by a glitch where Surnames of travel companions stored in their Ryanair account were changed to the surname of the travel booker when a booking was made, then Ryanair demanded £115 per instance to correct the fault.

      3. spold Silver badge

        Re: It'll never happen...

        Emailing the privacy office contact ( incidentally)and threatening a GDPR complaint to the regulator SHOULD BE effective. If not follow through.

        It also follows that the true owner of these itineraries is not getting the emails (since they are going to this Gary not the other Gary). It's a little unfair but you can encourage other Gary to fix - since you have travel date and Airline locator code then consistently checking him in and moving the seat to the one next to the toilet should be a motivation (OK assumes he has paid for a seat selection lol).

        1. ukgnome

          If not follow through.

          How will shitting his pants help?

        2. d3vy

          Re: It'll never happen...


          There's a sure fire way to sort it.

          Go through the Ryan air password reset (one time pw sent via email).

          Log in to his account.

          Cancel the booking.

          Or just change the email on his account to

      4. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: It'll never happen...

        I've had an auto insurance company try to charge me to correct an error they made. They lost two customers over that and I'll never use them again, ever. Since I didn't pay the fee, they cancelled my policy which was the easiest way to handle it.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: It'll never happen...

          "I've had an auto insurance company try to charge me to correct an error they made."

          If you can prove they made the mistake and you've got the time, formal complaint and (if they're stupid and reject it) follow it through with the FOS (it'll cost them about £700 to have it heard - a few of them and they'll learn).

    2. big_D Silver badge

      Re: It'll never happen...


      That was my first thought as well.

      So, if Ryanair's support can't or won't do anything, just tell them you are escalating it to the local ICO in Ireland. That should get them moving, if not, the resulting fine serves them right - although that will probably result in everybody over 10Kg in weight having to pay a surcharge per Kg for their seat...

      * mines the one with a false lining with all my spare clothes and other luggage stuffed into it.

    3. ThomH

      Re: It'll never happen...

      I'm in the same boat as Gary re: possessing; only once so far has a European company been so persistent that I felt the need to invoke the GDPR, and even then all it took was a fairly passive "I'd be interested to know how you think your failure to respond to my notification that I am not the intended recipient of these emails and do not wish to receive them is consistent with the GDPR" to resolve the problem.

      I've also had a couple of times when bills went past payment for which somebody had given my email address as a PayPal destination to invoice; in both cases I let the companies know but in only one did they seem particularly interested. I often receive council meeting notes for a particular other person with my name, but they seem to come from America where the notes would be a matter of public record anyway.

      No incorrect contacts via my alternate address,, yet. Quelle surprise.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: It'll never happen...

        Isn't ICO/GDPR precisely the reason that they don't fix this?

        If some random Gary emails and asks them to change a customer data and they do - won't the real customer rain down fines and brimestone upon them?

        It's the sort of thing that means companies now require a letter from your lawyer signed by 3 popes before they will deal with you

        1. ibmalone

          Re: It'll never happen...

          Except random Gary is demonstrably in control of the email address they have recorded for deterministic Gary, they could verify this. Given that random Gary has now contacted them to tell him he is not deterministic Gary they should investigate a possible breach, possibly two actually: personal data related to deterministic Gary being sent to random Gary and holding and using random Gary's email address without a lawful basis for processing.

      2. Peter2 Silver badge

        Re: It'll never happen...

        I'm obviously being left out, what with having my own domain and all.

        1. Blake St. Claire

          Re: It'll never happen...

          > what with having my own domain and all.

          Well, me too. But rather than run my own IMAP server and have to manage the storage for all that mail (especially the spam) I just forward through SpamAssassin to gmail, where I have a FirstInitialSurname@gmail address.

          So I still get the random distant cousin ditz that arrives at their first year of college or where ever and has to cough up an email address, apparently for the first time in their life, and they naively assume that nobody will have taken FirstInitialSurname@gmail.

          Or the distant cousin who signed up for several things, and gave my gmail address. One of the several confirmation emails had her street address, so I looked them and called. I got the mother and asked her to tell her daughter to figure out her real email address and stop giving out mine. $stupid_mom said "oh no, she'd never do that." I told her in return that she would, and she did. Apparently she figured it out as I haven't had any that I can attribute to her for a while.

          The most recent was another distant cousin on the opposite coast who booked a hotel room on this coast. I sent a reply to the reservation confirmation asking to remove the incorrect address from their system. Instead they groveled through the mail headers or something and found my personal TLD email address and added that to the booking as well. After a couple emails were exchanged I was contemplating driving the three or so hours and checking in ahead of $idjit and having a hooker waiting in his room when he and his wife arrived. Luckily for him though the hotel seems to have gotten it sorted.

          1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

            Re: It'll never happen...

            A friend of mine had the same name as his father (Canadians\North Americans, but hey).

            He used to book hotels of one chain under his name but use his fathers loyalty card\express membership number in the booking (Upgrades etc) & providing photo ID etc on arrival.

            This was all very fine & not very confusing, until he got a phone call in his room while staying in one hotel to verify his identity & asking why he (or rather Dad) was trying to check into another hotel, while he was at another as the system wasn't accepting his Dad's check in with the loyalty number.

            He had to pay for his own membership after that.

        2. irrelevant

          Re: It'll never happen...

          I own my own domain.. It's a single word ".com" that is somewhat daft. I received emails to it from the day I registered it (in 1996.) Every so often I re-enable and view the flood of website registration messages..

          Not as bad as having the home phone number appear on a list of fax numbers for G4S.. Had some very interesting offender information faxed to us every few weeks. ICO were very interested! Luckily the courts have moved away from faxing these things now.

        3. Number6

          Re: It'll never happen...

          I get lots of emails to my own domain that are clearly for other people. Usually people who've signed up to receive information about medication, or are clearly interested in places to use said medication.

        4. CanadianMacFan

          Re: It'll never happen...

          I have my own domain also but a couple of times a year I get email that's meant for someone at a Canadian research council because the two domains differ by one letter and someone has mixed them up.

        5. jaysel

          Re: It'll never happen...

          Don't be so sure....I have my own domain name & own the .com &, but am always receiving emails for the domain.

          I've had 6 job applications in the last 4 years.

          I often reply that they have failed the job application, as they are unable to distinguish the domain of the Australian company that they are apply for a job, from my domain

      3. Uncle Slacky Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: It'll never happen...

        A fellow early adopter here (thanks to a contact inside Google when Gmail was launched) - as I download my mail via Thunderbird I've set up filters to delete anything of the form (I insist on the dot). I had to set up a special one for some nutty woman in the US who seems to be in some kind of weird passive-aggressive-narcissistic relationship (probably why the guy made up an email address) who used the "dot" form but who I didn't want to have to argue with. I sometimes see random messages on the rare occasions I use the browser to check email, they're mostly medical appointment reminders for some guy in Florida.

        In its early days I even wrote to "" to cancel the subscription of a young girl (I think) using my address, as there was no other way to contact them via their site at the time. After several months, I actually got a (very polite) reply, possibly (from the sound of it) one of the founders.

        I'll bear in mind GDPR, though, if I see anything relevant in future (most spam seems to be American/non-EU).

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: It'll never happen...

          > I even wrote to "" to cancel the subscription

          I (usually) don't even bother to go to that level. I just login to the account after resetting the password and change the email address on the account. If I can I close the account for good measure.

          There was an Irish women's clothing site that I couldn't do that on though. I tried repeatedly to get them to remove my address and they assured me over and over that I'd been removed. Until they did their periodic restore from a backup and I'd start getting spammed with ads again.

          1. Martin

            Re: It'll never happen...

            I (usually) don't even bother to go to that level. I just login to the account after resetting the password and change the email address on the account. If I can I close the account for good measure.

            The problem is about this, you are logging into an account that isn't yours. it's probably illegal, at least in the UK.

            1. dave 81

              Re: It'll never happen...

              Probably is illegal in the UK. Because a bunch of thick elected idiots in parliament made laws about something they don't have a clue about. And judging by the emails responses to the infeasibility of outlawing privacy (breakable encryption) from my idiot of an MP, the current lot are just as thick, and unwilling to listen to anyone with a clue.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: It'll never happen...

              The problem is about this, you are logging into an account that isn't yours. it's probably illegal, at least in the UK.

              If one of the things that identifies the account is _my_ email address then I'd have to say it pretty clearly is _my_ account.

              If I'm not doing anything with intent to defraud then, well, I hesitate to say I'm not breaking any laws because there probably is a law on the books that an overly zealous district attorney could find to charge me with.

              Bad laws deserve to be disobeyed. Over here we call that civil disobedience.

              And I'm not in the UK. (And your Border Force hasn't pulled me aside any of the times I've entered the country. Yet.)

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It'll never happen...

        No incorrect contacts via my alternate address,, yet. Quelle surprise.

        Don't count your chickens. I share a name with "only" around 400 other people in the UK (supposedly, see link below), and one has a social network that occasionally think my @blueyonder email address is his. My own email inbox is quite boring enough without having having somebody else's domestic trivia sent my way. I wonder if Theresa May gets any "confused identity" emails, they might be more interesting.

        See how unique (or otherwise) you are here:

        1. Sgt_Oddball

          Re: It'll never happen...

          It doesn't even bother for me.... I'm aware through other means that there are around 2,500 individuals in the world with my surname but only around 20 with my first name (none if I include my middle name)..

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: It'll never happen...

            >>>It doesn't even bother for me.... I'm aware through other means that there are around 2,500 individuals in the world with my surname but only around 20 with my first name (none if I include my middle name)..

            Presumably their is one, if you include your middle name.

            That would be you wouldn't it?

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: It'll never happen...

          > Don't count your chickens. I share a name with "only" around 400 other people in the UK (supposedly, see link below)

          According to that site:

          "Ian Lavender, you share your name with around 10 people in the UK. This means about 53% of UK adults have a more unique [sic] name than yours."
          All I can say is, if 53% of the population have a name that is common to fewer than 10 other people then your "only 400" must mean that you have a really, really common name!

          1. Vincent Ballard

            Re: It'll never happen...

            @"Ian Lavender", their data quality is awful (or GDPR has meant that the Open Register has only a very small proportion of actual names on it). They tell me that I share my name with around X people in the UK, where I know that back in the late 80s I shared my name with at least X people registered in the Kent library system.

            1. PM from Hell

              not unique

              I share my name with my son ( a family tradition) but the site didn't find him. Having said that my name is very rare and as the forename is reserved for eldest sons the combination does seem to be limited to no more than 3 or 4 in any branch of the family (one each apparently in the UK, US and India).

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: not unique

                **** ***** you have one of the most unique names in the UK.

                In fact you're so unique, we can't indicate how many people might share your name.

                Not sure to be pleased or disappointed....

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: It'll never happen...

          Count yourself lucky. Someone has my firstname-middle-lastnane. And date of birth.

          I found this out when bailiffs came after he'd not paid court fees for a motoring offence. They wouldn't believe me, because in some (presumably human) transcription someone had assigned MY national insurance number to him. So to HM courts we were the same person.

          That took several days to sort out - I had to convince them I'd never even been to {location} or driven a {vehicle}.

          Funnily enough Mr Bailiff did later admit to me that he thought I was not who they wanted by my initial surprised response.

          Would you believe - yes, you would - that if all happened again 3 years later. By then I knew enough to ring them up and tell them where the fuck to go. By them, I mean bailiffs, court officials, and traffic sods in Wales. Ain't wasting days on it twice.

          By the way, I did consider that the other me may never gave known about the original alleged offenses if they're that incompetent. Or if I'd been his lawyer, that would have been my defence. He can't be that bad, he's got my name and shares my birthday!

          Officialdom at its most twattest.

          1. Gimme Badge

            Re: It'll never happen...

            Indeed - I have a similar problem where an alternate Gimme Badge who happened to be born on the same day as me has been leaving a trail of bad debts & more recently illegitimate children around the country & the CPS appear to want me to pay for them - in the end I had to get my Lawyer to talk to them & suggest that they double check next time before sending me the "Pay in seven days or else letter" plus the entire court transcript including all the details of the complain made against alternate Gimmie Badge in quite a lot of detail as I was really quite sure it wasn't me & I would have remembered doing all that with a Swedish lady I picked up in a pub one night.

            Sadly my life has not been anything like as exciting as alternate Gimme Badge's appears to have been.

          2. This post has been deleted by its author

      5. PapaD

        Re: It'll never happen...

        I have the exact same problem with some fellow in the USA somewhere - i'm regularly getting emails from the garage looking after his car, the school that his children go to, the various organisations that he is involved with.

        If it's not an automated or mass mailing, i generally try to email back and let them know that I got the email, not the person they are trying to talk to. It's more than a bit annoying tbh, but there doesn't seem any way to fix it - we have the same email address before the, with the exception that one of us has a dot and the other doesn't

        Fortunately, we are thousands of miles away, though tbh i've had an email from some bible camp complaining about one of his children considering some school based formal activity as more important than some random weekend event for the bible camp that made me very much want to slap the sender (self righteous religious person thinking that making the kid stand on the side of some event and clap was more important than something they had made actual commitments too. But i'm biased, being an atheist and all)

        Pretty sure the other fellow is deep in bible belt USA somewhere, but can't remember exactly where.

        Wish there was some way to fix it (if anyone knows how, let me know, will be a great help)

        1. hammarbtyp

          Re: It'll never happen...

          Same thing happened to me. Kept getting emails from the states about someones car. Needs Service, etc. For while it was amusing, but then I started getting fault reports and i thought what would I want to do in that situation? So I decided tp contact the provider to indicate a mistake had been made.

          1 problem. No contact email address. So instead I put a sarcastic tweet with the companies handle. It worked and they messaged me. Great I thought, getting somewhere. So i told them the issue, they said they would sort it. Finally I thought.

          Until yesterday

          "Dear Tonya, Car VIN number, model number has low pressure in front left tyre"

          So I contacted the company again. The response was. Sorry about that. Can you give us your pin number and we will sort it....<Sound of banging head against wall>

          It makes you wonder why you bother

        2. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

          Re: It'll never happen...

          Easy way to fix it:

          Write an email filter to dump emails with any of the variant TO: addresses into the deleted folder. Problem (for you) solved!

          At some point, the holder of the similar email will twig to the fact that he is missing a lot of emails.

        3. kiwimuso

          Re: It'll never happen...


          "Wish there was some way to fix it (if anyone knows how, let me know, will be a great help)"

          Well if you know the email address of the other person, then why not email them and suggest that they get in touch with their garage or whoever and correct the mistake.

      6. Ghostman
        IT Angle

        Re: It'll never happen...

        I had the same problem and it kept getting worse.

        i was sent private information on loans (house and car) for many different people using gmail accounts similar to mine, confirmation on reservations for the cross channel hovercraft (I live in mid georgia US), meeting notes from a large financial company, interview requests from companies for one of my 'clones",

        AA meeting details, confirmation of porn site registrations, photos of relatives (replied and let them know they didn't get to the right person, a full list of all the female obama supporters on the University of Cincinnati-with phone numbers and dorm rooms, e-mails for a professor at same college, service updates on my Caddilac in NYC (I own a Ford truck), bills for another clone in California, and a link for one of my clones to see the Christmas Eve celebration going on live feed from the roof of the birthplace of Christ.

        I changed over to my and haven't had that problem. I still get all those e-mails to the original one though.

    4. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: It'll never happen...

      This is the same old RyanAir. Their first answer is always NO. As is the second, NO. Eventually they might say ...'well we can change it but it will cost you...' with a cost that is probably more than what you paid for the flight in the first place.

      I agree that the ICO should give them a huge fine just to make an example of them.

    5. Cynical Pie

      Re: It'll never happen...

      A thumbs down... Michael, is that you lurking?

  2. MJI Silver badge




    The Gary gang

  3. Nick Leaton

    Start cancelling the flights.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Start canceling the flights...

      Just tell them once that they have the wrong person & ask them to fix it. If they refuse then write a script to paste the email to FB with a "Will the Gary whom ordered this please fix your email? You are not me but I'm getting your email. Thanks." style addendums. If $Company complains then point out that you tried to tell them they had the wrong address but they refused to correct it. If the other Gary complains then point out that such situations could be avoided in the future by using due dilligence in double checking the email address entered as their contact data. Don't want your private life splashed all over FB? Then don't use someone elses email address. Take the second or two to LOOK at what you've written & make sure it's accurate. Flubbed the spelling? Correct it before you hit submit. Too much work? Tough shit. You choose not to double check, you choose to get your private life splooged on the internet.

    2. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

      Start cancelling the flights.

      A bit extreme. While it would be effective, you don't know why the other Gary has booked that flight and how much he would suffer if he turned up at the airport and got turned away. Imagine if he was travelling for a family funeral, or some other event.

      I had a similar experience years ago when (long story) I was the accidental/unintended recipient of some material relating to someone who was being held in custody - material for his defence solicitor came to me in error. By rights I could have gone ballistic on a data protection crusade, but I had to think about the guy,possibly innocent, sitting in a police cell waiting for his brief - my first action was to make sure that the correspondence got to its rightful recipient

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Imagine if he was travelling for a family funeral,

        Well at least the star participant wouldn't have minded if Gary didn't get there.

    3. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge

      Nah, just ask for help with a wheelchair and your portable IV drip and get confirmation that you can get someone to empty your colostomy bag.

    4. Stevie

      Start cancelling the flights.

      Hah! In the bad old days our phone number was almost the same as a local wood yard. The last two digits were reversed on a five digit number.

      My dad would answer and say "You have the wrong number."

      My dad was a bit "sudden", and people would often respond "What number is that" to which he would say "You must know, you dialed it".

      Some people got very angry when he told them they had the wrong number, and insisted they had the right one. He would then say that Mr Woodyard had decided he didn't need their business after all, and if they didn't like it they should come round in person to discuss matters.

      Not one for de-escalation, my dad. I miss the old bugger.

      1. VikiAi

        Re: Start cancelling the flights.

        My office number is similar to one of the big local pharmacies. I always know when their tills' receipt printers need cleaning!

        1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

          Re: Start cancelling the flights.

          My old UK phone number, used to receive calls asking for the helpdesk. Trying to get the information out of them as to whose helpdesk it was they were trying to call usually ended in failure.

          The soon to be Mrs Outgoing Scorn initially thought these calls were genuinely for me (While I'm at work 200+ miles away)

          1. CliveS

            Re: Start cancelling the flights.

            Many years ago one of my business phone numbers was very similar to that of a local massage parlour (last two digits swapped). Used to receive some very "interesting" phone calls asking what services we could provide. Managed to disappoint quite a few callers when letting them know that while we couldn't provide "bareback full service", we would be able to offer some data warehousing consultancy instead?

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Start cancelling the flights.

              My landline last 6 digits is the same as a garage in a nearby town. For a while I was regularly getting wrong numbers, and if the people seemed genuinely apologetic about it (one old lady in particular) I went the extra mile to ensure not only did she realise that it was a wrong number, I let her know what she needed to dial to get a hold of the garage.

              On the other hand, if I got a rather demanding induhvidual on the phone, I quite happily took the booking to get his Mercedes serviced - then did nothing with it.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Start cancelling the flights.

                There was a Jack Dee joke, where his number was confused with a Chinese takeout and he would gets lots of calls. He would have so much fun taking orders, and was very disappointed when they went out of business six months later

              2. Test Man

                Re: Start cancelling the flights.

                "My landline last 6 digits is the same as a garage in a nearby town. For a while I was regularly getting wrong numbers, and if the people seemed genuinely apologetic about it (one old lady in particular) I went the extra mile to ensure not only did she realise that it was a wrong number, I let her know what she needed to dial to get a hold of the garage."

                Ah, the old lady still used to dialling numbers sans local area code I bet! :D

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Start cancelling the flights.

              There must be some geeks who would be far more excited by the data warehousing

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Start cancelling the flights.

            The soon to be Mrs Outgoing Scorn

            Confused - you getting married or divorced????

            1. MonkeyCee

              Re: Start cancelling the flights.

              "Mrs Outgoing Scorn"

              Married I guess. Plenty of outgoing scorn then :D

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Start cancelling the flights.

        With me it was a Chinese takeaway - mostly hangups when it went to answerphone. When I managed to answer it, itwas just one person as they stopped after that.

        Think I mentioned this before - but since then when I've had a give out a phone number to any one that I didn't want to speak to, I "accidentally" swap the last two digits!

        1. VikiAi

          Re: Start cancelling the flights.

          This thread has now bubbled up an ancient memory from my childhood, with the family phone (wall-mounted with a rotary dial!, in the hall near the front door) would ring at least 3 evenings a week with a request for "Kentucky Fried Chicken" (this was back before they rebranded as just 'KFC', which probably says a lot about my age!)

          1. Ghostman

            Re: Start cancelling the flights.

            our first phone number after we got married was that dreadful one last digit different form the local housing authority (In the US they handle the low rent, public housing.). Calls would come in about broken plumbing, heater not working, light bulbs blown, all kinds of emergencies that people call about between midnight and 3 AM.

            if it was an elderly person, or someone who explained without a dozen scattered expletives in each sentence, particularly if it was a woman with children and something was really an emergency, we would give them the correct number. Those with an attitude, or a silly request such as the blown light bulbs, would be told that help should arrive in about 30 minutes.

            Then again, you get those who can't understand they dialed a wrong number and fuss at you about the problem.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A good start to my New Years Resolution then

    Which is to slowly move the 300+ accounts I have registered to my (held since 1997, so it's genuinely hotmail account.

    Quite aside from the MS lax attitude to email contents, the calendar is buggy as hell now[1], mail connections are regularly erroring, and it's impossible to disable MS "helpful" junk filtering. Meaning I have to check my junk email at least 5 times a day.

    Done the 10 most used already.

  5. This post has been deleted by its author

  6. Graham Butler

    I have the exact same issue with Gmail, being an early adopter and getting the fullname version. Although the most prevalent cocker-upper is an actor with the same name as me. I got copies of Penny Dreadful scripts a couple of years ago. And Banforth season 2 ones last month. The production assistants who send them out are always a bit mortified and I promise to delete them but it's still a pain in the arse that he can't get it right.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The production assistants who send them out are always a bit mortified and I promise to delete them but it's still a pain in the arse that he can't get it right.

      Just reply either criticising or correcting the script, or turning it down out right - "thanks, but this isn't one for me".

  7. benjya

    EasyJet will correct things like spelling mistakes for free within 24 hours of the booking (you can even cancel a flight, I believe, within 24 hours without major cost).

    On the other hand, in a previous job (for a company employing around 20k staff in the UK alone) there were 3 of us with the same (not especially common name). We'd forward E-Mails intended for one of the others on the rare occasion they arrived, although when I got a redundancy notice once it was slightly concerning until I realised it was for one of the other guys...

    1. VikiAi

      In my previous job I shared both a cubicle-well and a job position with a namesake. Plenty of calls included "Oh, you need the other Vicky."

    2. KittenHuffer Silver badge

      In a previous position (UK) I had a nearly identical name to an employee in Canada. One day one of their colleagues decided to email them a 'secret' document, which they should not have done, and then decided to pick my name on the internal directory.

      Much fun was had following this incident by the security wombles on both sides of the pond. The ultimate end was that all equipment that the email passed through (and was stored upon) in the UK was taken away and crushed.

    3. MonkeyCee

      Same as boss

      I had one job in a small (20 person) company were I had the same name as the MD.

      In practise I used my married name (to avoid confusion) but it still took a moment each time when someone said "oh hi Mark, must be busy if you're answering the SD phone" and when I explained I was the other Mark, they'd say "oh, so not Mark XXXX" (my actual name) and I'd have to say no....

      The boss did get me to handle sales calls, on the basis that I wasn't lying when I said I was Mark XXXX at company Y :D

      LinkedIn can't tell us apart either, so I just leave that company off my CV.

  8. Blacklight

    I've had this, for a similar named person to me, and their flights.

    And someone else crime report, with number (direct from the police)

    And something from HM Government.

    And home building plans, and insurance.

    Normally I do get a "sorry" in most cases, but STA (re: the flights) took a LONG time to sort it, and I did consider cancelling the flight....

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ignore it

    or tell them to cancel your flight.

  10. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    Cancelling Flights

    A couple of commentards have suggested cancelling the flights. I suspect that might come under the category of "Fraud".

    1. ibmalone

      Re: Cancelling Flights

      Not certain about that one, is it fraud if not done for gain? One for the courts. (Would be extra fun if cancelled *after* telling Ryanair they had the wrong person. Think they'd have a hard time arguing it wasn't entirely their fault.)

      1. DavCrav

        Re: Cancelling Flights

        "Not certain about that one, is it fraud if not done for gain? One for the courts."

        No, not fraud, but it is tortious interference.

        1. veti Silver badge

          Re: Cancelling Flights

          Since you're knowingly using someone else's credentials to make changes in a private system, it's at the very least "unauthorised access". Could even be described as identity theft.

          1. ibmalone

            Re: Cancelling Flights

            Could be argued they've used your credentials and identity, particularly if you are worried somebody else is trying to use your identity to fly. "Unauthorised access" might still fly, as it doesn't depend on them being someone else's credentials, but would seem a lot weaker after Ryanair have been told about the mistake and refused to remedy it.

        2. ibmalone

          Re: Cancelling Flights

          No, not fraud, but it is tortious interference.

          Thanks, thought there'd be something, but that turns out to be very interesting :)

        3. Mr Dogshit

          Re: Cancelling Flights

          Interfering with a tortoise?

          1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

            Re: Cancelling Flights

            Interfering with a tortoise?

            I did that, and got put on a government register.

            Also had to shell out a load of money in fines.

            It was a turtle nightmare.

    2. JohnG

      Re: Cancelling Flights

      I have cancelled hotel bookings made against my email address. My worry was that I had an account with the reservations website concerned, using the very same email address and I didn't want my credit card billed for someone else's bookings.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I keep getting emails - with my correct address - intended for some bloke in the Mericas. So far I have had confirmations for 3 hotel bookings, several alerts for waitlist openings for apartments somewhere in the USA (can't remember where exactly). The hotel chain responded and it all went quiet for a while but I still get the crap from time to time. The estate agent was less forthcoming but seems to have shut up now. I also got confirmation of a table booking for 230-Fifth, a swanky rooftop restaurant somewhere in New York, but had a quick and friendly response from them.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Last year I had an incident with Scottish Power. A property with an address that looked a bit like mine was thousands of pounds in arrears according to their accounts. They decided to add the debt onto *my* account because of a perceived similarity in the address (mind you, the actual street names differed). I spent months trying to get them off my back for that one. It's easy enough to provide proof that you do live somewhere, but have you every tried proving that you *don't* live at an address?

    1. paulf

      Scottish Power really are the most monstrous bunch of cockwombles (YMMV and I'm sure there are others just as bad).

      I moved house about 6 years ago; we bought a house from the Smiths who moved to a house sold to them by the Jones. The Smiths were with SP so had to connect to them initially until I could sort out the move to a decent energy supplier. SP were completely unable to set up my account because they thought the new occupiers of my house were the Jones (exactly how this happened was never explained - a possible mess up by the Smiths? - but once notified of it they should have been able to rectify it quickly). It took multiple phone calls over several weeks to get this sorted (eventually my call was picked up by someone who knew what they were doing and was able to sort it) and once connected I was able to shift to another supplier.

      Then out of the blue three years later I got two sets of new final bills. One set claimed they owed me £45. The other set claimed I owed them 2p. Both completely overlooked I had already settled all the final bills in full long ago. Not wanting to get involved with them again (even for £45 which I knew they likely didn't owe me and would likely want back if they realised) I opted to pay the 2p bill at the post office in cash thinking that would cost them the most in processing charges.

      Thank ${DIETY} I never heard from them again. From @AC's post it sounds like not much has changed since.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Basically SP backend DB systems are a mess and depending on the system the householder was first registered on depends on how easy it is to move or change owners.

    2. PhilipN Silver badge

      Proving a negative

      Yup - cannot as a matter of logic be done. Although I cannot prove that ....

      Can’t wait for AI to take over and eliminate humans completely, because after all this is what this article and commentary prospectively is all about.

    3. MonkeyCee

      Not at this address

      "but have you every tried proving that you *don't* live at an address?"

      Yeah, see my identity theft story up a bit :)

      So far I've used "I hadn't been in the country for two years" which worked pretty well. The other was getting them to look at streetview (or a map) to see that 88A was one property (where I lived) but 88B-A was an apartment in the building behind 88A, so it wasn't a typo and they were different properties. And at the relevent time I lived elsewhere, and was on the lease.

      If I hadn't been on the lease at various places it would have been quite a bit harder.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I had a similar problem with a power company.

      Moved into a council flat, the power was on and I called the company when I eventually found out who they were and told them I had moved in on day, date and what the meter readings were.

      The power company told me that I hadn't moved in there as the previous tenant would have let them know he had left and if I kept trying to cut off his power they would report me to the police.

      Result every couple of months for the next 3 years I got a power bill for the previous tenant, I rang the company and got the same run around. I refused to pay the bill because the previous tenant was £1,500 in arrears when he left. After 3 years of this the power was still on and unpaid, the council decided to demolish the flat and I moved on. I assume the now vacant block is still getting bills and visits from bailiffs

  13. Paul Cooper

    SImilar names within an organization

    In the organization I used to work for, the default email address was initial.surname@company. I was one of the very few who got firstname.surname@company because the initial version was already taken. However, there was also an address-munging system that would attempt to match any reasonable attempt at an email to a real person, so the other person and I routinely got each other's email. I did once get one promising me a rather large amount in expenses; sadly it only took me a minute or so to realize the money wasn't for me! There were several A Smiths; I presume they had the same problem, but of course don't know how they coped with it!

  14. Tom Melly

    EE Shenanigans

    Not quite the same, but EE have me down in their system with a misspelled surname ("Welly" instead of "Melly"). Everytime I speak to them, and they address me as "Mr Welly", I laugh and correct them, and they confidently assure me that they've just updated their system and fixed it. This has been going on for bloody years (yes, I've been an EE customer for years - I'm an idiot).

    I can only assume that they're updating a node, and the central db keeps 'correcting' the update. Or maybe they're just a bunch of wazzocks who can't find their arse with both hands.

    1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

      Re: EE Shenanigans

      Bad customer service - time to give them the boot

    2. paulf
      Paris Hilton

      Re: EE Shenanigans

      Quite odd wazzocks at that, IME. Once I called them about an account problem, explained what it was to the agent that picked up (in the UK - it was about 2002) and got the response, "I've been a very naughty boy." I gave a perplexed response as I wasn't expecting that and got the same again and he hung up. To this day, what he did, and why, remains a mystery!

    3. d3vy

      Re: EE Shenanigans

      I have to remember when I speak to BT that they think my date of birth (security question) is two years earlier than my actual date of birth...

      Every time they ask I tell them "it's xxx but you think it's yyy" they say they can't change it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: EE Shenanigans

        My mum has that with one of her bank accounts, the problem being that she doesn't know what they think her date of birth is because, of course, they aren't allowed to tell her.

        So every time she phones them or tries to log in online and they ask for her date of birth as a security question, she's unable to answer "correctly" and has to go through a lengthy rigmarole with the security team to get access.

        She's so far had no luck persuading them to fix their records.

        1. d3vy

          Re: EE Shenanigans

          Interestingly I know what BT think my DOB is because they told me after a particularly long call trying to work out why I couldn't get through the security checks!

          I also have a Santander account that I intermittently cannot access because I get asked one of three security questions... On of which is town of birth.. I've never told them where this is and I don't know where they think it is... Whenever they ask that question I have to clear cookies and refresh and hope that it's a different question comes up next time.

          1. Is It Me

            Re: EE Shenanigans

            From the GDPR:

            "Rec.39; Art.5(1)(d)

            Personal data must be accurate and, where necessary, kept up to date. Every reasonable step must be taken to ensure that personal data that are inaccurate are either erased or rectified without delay"

            So you should be able to hammer them with GDPR now to get them to correct the information.

            1. d3vy

              Re: EE Shenanigans

              @it is me

              I did think about complaining and making them change it... But if anything the account is more secure now.

              No amount of dumpster diving/I'd theft will get you my imaginary date of birth!

  15. MonkeyCee

    Common names

    While I've had more than a few experiences of this, email isn't usually to bad. It's not often legally recognised, so wrong ID is a pain, but isn't going to mess your life up.

    My problem is that I rented a house that was number 88A. 88B was an apartment block (40 odd) that helpfully used letters for it's apartments.

    Someone with the same first and last name as me lived at 88B-A. He was responsible for fire damage at a previous property, and the insurance company was after him.

    Every year (until I moved) an insurance "investigator" would "find" me again, and I'd get a demand notice (for 30 grand) from the insurer. The first time it took a little convincing, but demonstrating that I had a different middle name, birthdate and was renting somewhere else when the fire occurred got them off my backs. Each time after that it was a lot quicker, mainly because there were some notes on the file.

    Apparently the "investigator" got paid for each person he located, even if was clearly bollocks. After the third time I made a formal complaint, and after that I could just contact someone directly at complaints.

    Then I found out that my credit had been downgraded due to this bollocks. Which took a lot longer to sort out, as once I'd got this guys unpaid debt on my record, various other agencies decided that we were in fact the same person.

    Sometimes I really wish it was just email....

    1. EBG

      Re: Common names

      Similar problem. The answer was to threaten to sue for harrasment if I ever heard from them again, and I if ever heard from any organisation they had passed the details onto.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    All. The. Time

    I have pretty much the same issue as Gary here. I used the first-initial-last-name combo when I signed up for Gmail years and years ago, and regularly get receipts, travel itineraries, reminders that my auto is due for service, to pay my ISP bill, etc., for various individuals from several states in the USA, a couple of provinces in Canada, South Africa, UAE, and Australia. Yet none from Germany, despite having a rather German last name. I've informed a couple of individuals directly by phoning (as their personal info was available in the email and their number was in country); I've even signed up for a few websites *just* to prevent others for misusing my email (and nothing else). I think I'm going to crib Gary's email for use in the future...

    1. Baldie

      Would have spoiled a good brand name

      Ditto. I will modify it a bit to include the fetishist / naturist photos, the heart breaking email from an ex lover and the guy who signed up to just about every dating site in the western world.

  17. hellwig

    Not everyone likes a +

    I remember when GMail first came out and supported the + sign, not every web form allows you to enter a + sign. Apparently whatever idiot programmed those forms just went with what they thought were the rules, without bothering to look them up (on a related note, I've never come across date-related code in my profession that correctly computed a leap-year, so sad).

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Leap year

      "I've never come across date-related code in my profession that correctly computed a leap-year"

      I've done it often enough. On the other hand, I only guarantee the correctness of my date verification code between 15-10-1582 and 28-02-4000 (including those limit dates).

    2. LateAgain

      Re: Not everyone likes a +

      There are a LOT of websites that made up an email "validation" without actually checking what a valid email address can be. Dammed irritating when one rejects the <email>+<website>@.... since that is a wonderful way to track who sold the address list.

      1. David Nash

        Re: Not everyone likes a +

        Slightly off-topic but also these email validators should automatically strip out trailing spaces, since they are just put in there by my phone keyboard auto-suggestion.

      2. Swarthy

        Re: Not everyone likes a +

        ... rejects the <email>+<website>@.... since that is a wonderful way to track who sold the address list.
        And I think you just nailed down why so many reject the '+' in an e-mail address.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not everyone likes a +

        One advantage of having my own domain is that my email server interprets both . and + as the subaddress marker (it actually maps one onto the other). Fortunately, every website accepts . in email addresses as so many companies use it.

  18. jake Silver badge

    This kind of thing probably happens all the time.

    I get SMS "emergency" messages from Dominican University of California. I have never been enrolled at, have never worked for, never visited, nor in any other way been affiliated with Dominican. I'm not even certain where their campus is, other than somewhere in San Rafael, California.

    I've tried to convince them to stop sending them to me, but they say that because I can't prove I'm the person that requested them, I can't turn them off. (WTF? It's my telephone getting them ...) When I asked them to provide me with the contact details of the person who listed me as the recipient, they can't because "privacy". So I asked THEM to contact that person, to tell them that they made a mistake in the recipient details. They say don't have a procedure for that.

    Insert something about "mod cons" here ...

    1. Hollerithevo

      Re: This kind of thing probably happens all the time.

      It is in San Rafael and is a charming, old-fashioned campus and a great outdoor swimming pool outsiders can pay to use. But they are ditzes, even when paying to get in to use the pool. Much uncertainty over everything.

  19. Insane Reindeer

    I have the same problem

    I have had emails from, I calculate, nine other people with the same name as me. Those emails have been from the NHS (UK), Australian companies that make and maintain the sails, ropes, lights and radios on yachts, prescription glass companies (UK and Canada), flights (internal UK and internal Australia), job offers (London, Bristol, Cardiff (UK), Perth (Aus) and Toronto (Can)), legal proceedings concerning car crashes, house sales, house purchases, apartment rentals, wills and compensations for unfair dismissals (all UK). I have had new job contracts, notifications of payments for one off contract jobs, wages and other similar regular payment details. And so on and so forth.

    The worst people I have ever had to deal with in terms of getting them to contact the correct person and obtain the correct email details have been estate agents, especially ones in London. I actually had to phone one very annoying lady in a London agency and explain to her how the Gmail email addressing system works after she accused me of stealing, yes stealing, all the gmail address' associated with my combination of first name and surname. It was only after speaking to her boss that the boss was able to get her subordinate to accept that the email address that they had for a very promising client was wrong. Not fake, I always stress that (even more so since President Trump came to power) just wrong. The best ones to contact have been solicitors and other legal offices. They always apologise, clarify that they have indeed been given the wrong email address, ask me politely, very politely, to delete the emails and notify them immediately if I receive any other communications from parties in the proceedings before they can change the email address.

    I have been called by several of the people who have got their email address' wrong over the years. They have all been adamant at the beginning that it is me who is up to no good and I have been accused of hacking so many times I have lost count. When I explain to them that I think I was the first person to use that combination of names to get a Gmail address and didn't use any other letters or numbers and explain to them how, by their forgetting to include what ever other character or number, the emails will come to me, they start to understand. One man even phoned me to apologise after I had been sent the details of not one, but six, medical related issues in the space of about ten days and after I had contacted each and every sender apparently one them had contacted him and pointed out, in no uncertain terms, not only the issues he had left himself open too medically speaking but also the various legal issues that could of arisen from his mistake. Alas that man still makes the occasional mistake but those are confined to getting his car serviced and or washed these days.

  20. Stevie


    Oh man, I never realized how common my First name, Middle Initial and Last name were until my place of work linked a bajillion small email empires in one humongous ldappery.

    Wrongly directed emails from people became endemic, and some contained very sensitive info. I ended up writing a mailbot to deal with persistent offenders, though after a particularly annoying exchange with the other me, in which I attempted to enlist his help avoiding the problem in the first place and he belligerently and persistently refused to understand the problem, I removed the logic that forwarded the mis-directed mail to him and replaced it with a boilerplate "your mail was sent to the wrong person and has been deleted unread" return-to-sender message.

    Half the problem was the exchange mafia who didn't put very much info in the exchange "address card" and refused to allow people update permissions on their own info. Their solution, when asked to add one line to my card pointing out my location in a different city to the other me, was to offer to change my email name. They densely refused to understand that this would solve nothing and add a further complication that now no-one who knew me and needed to mail me would know what my address was. It was maddening.

    One persistent mis-mailing person was in charge of a small staff, each of whom - for whatever reason - felt inclined to respond to any email from her just to show they were paying attention. She would send out a mailing to "all" (including the wrong me) and include a metric clucktonne of attachments (all eyes-only, sensitive stuff). Said staff would then reply to all, including original attachments.

    I went home one Friday evening, and at eight o'clock my teenytiny mailbox crashed with the overload from one of her missives and it's echoes. I came back on Monday to find eleventy thousand mails from the exchange boyos yelling that my mailbox was full (though how they thought spamming me every five minutes with their mails over a weekend was "helpful" I don't know).

    So I wrote a special bot for her and her cabal. Each email I got from someone on her "reply to all" list got their email and attachments back at them, with a copy sent to the original offender.

    "Alice" would send me a mistaken mail with four or five phone book sized attachments. My bot would send it and its payload right back with a "Wrong Stevie again, Alice" cover letter, and delete my copy. Then a veritable hail of incoming mail c/w 4-5 phone books would begin as each of her staff members would say something like "Me too" or "I agree" or some other totally worthless observation. I would bounce each one back to the sender along with its payload, and send a copy to "Alice" - with payload. There were about ten people on her staff, so each time she initiated hostilities she would end up with eleven distinct sets of phone books, all the same, which would collapse her mailbox and cause eleventy thousand emails from the exchange quango to swamp her mailbox over the weekend.

    It still took three salvos of tripe before she started being careful about which Stevie she claimed as a subordinate.

    Any time someone says "I know where you live" in a threatening manner, I respond "I bet you don't" and let them harass random not-mes they found using Google searches. This does not work with police officers standing in the rain while holding my driver's license I've discovered.

    Then there was the time I got a call at home from a lawyer wanting to sue me over my driving an ambulance I do not own into a vehicle I had never seen in a city I had (at that time) never visited en route to a hospital I had never heard of. It took another lawyer to explain that lazy database searches on name alone were not the basis for a sound lawsuit, even in New York, nor a reasonable basis for slanderous accusations of criminal liability.

    But that's a tale for a different thread.

    1. Woodnag

      a tale for a different thread

      Pretty PLEASE tell us now...

  21. jsimon0

    Me too

    This is happening to me all the time with companies in Africa, mainland Europe, and the UK. Most recently, I'm getting receipts for some person's Taxify trips in Uganda. I've also apparently been renting a storage unit in Surrey and buying natural gas in Brussels. I live in New York and have no business in any of those places.

    1. lglethal Silver badge

      Re: Me too

      ... and have no business in any of those places.

      Ahhh me he thinks he doth protest too much...

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Same here

    I got appointment details for my Chevy, and apparently a paid up membership of the Sierra Club.

    Tried to get the Chevy dealership to stop for 2 years; in the end I started booking expensive fictitious cars in for servicing and then they stopped.

    Sierra Club got a polite email, followed by one full of FLWs, nothing from them since.

    Still doesnt beat the little old lady who phoned me up one day, accused me of stealing her phone number and said she was setting the police on me.

    I had been getting calls from various social services departments for her for several months, she had been swapping 2 digits over when giving out her number.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Same here

      > Still doesnt beat the little old lady who phoned me up one day, accused me of stealing her phone number and said she was setting the police on me.

      Please tell me you asked her what number she called and what number she was calling from?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Same here

        I had caller ID, so could see the problem and tried to explain; she wouldnt have it.

        The number and area code were basically the same 3 digits repeated, but the middle set were reversed, that was the set she was getting confused with.

        Ré Reused lines, I still get that, more than 6 years after getting the new, reused number; that is nothing to snail mail though.

        Back in 1988, our family bought a building belong to a 90-odd year old woman going into a care home; we are STILL getting a Christmas card for her from Canada every year.

        Last year I received a letter for the previous owner of my house containing a dividend cheque for £14k; I bought the house in 1999.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Same here

      My grandmother many years ago had a similar problem with her phone number. She was fine, but people trying to call the UK Atomic Energy Authority establishment at Harwell would often swap 2 digits and get my Granny instead. She got to speak to all sorts of people that way, giving out sage advice on cake recipes...

      When I moved house once and got a new phone number from BT, I soon learned it was a recycled number originally assigned to a local business that had gone bust. I started getting calls about overdue VAT from HMRC on my answer machine. I ignored these, confident that it was pretty unlikely that I'd suffer anything worse than a worn out ansaphone. One day I was in when they called and I explained who I was and they were quite pleased that someone was being helpful. Never received another call from them.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Variation on the theme (was: Re: Same here)

        40 years ago, my brother bought a house in Ukiah, California. Somehow, he managed to keep the telephone number that the prior owner had owned ... something about limited numbers at the exchange. To this day, he gets occasional snail-mail advertising and telephone calls addressed to the original owner. And that's from the old, unconnected world!

        Kind of makes me wonder how long the data facebook, google, ms, amazon, apple, etc. is going to be valid (and sell-able!), especially after a fair percentage of it becomes staler than last month's bread. Methinks a good deal of it is already quite stale ... What's the critical percentage of stale to valid before it's useless? Or do marketing "geniuses" care about that kind of thing?

  23. Stevie


    Back in '96 I bought a nice new Windows 95 computer with a voiceview modem and fax software. The first weekend we had it the phone rang at some ungodly hour and began to squeal at me, so I went downstairs, made some tea while the PC booted up and I started the fax software. Sure enough, some pages of lab work from a doctor's office oozed out of the printer, along with the cover containing the source c/w land line phone number.

    I phoned them and dropped down the rabbit hole.

    "I think you just misdialed your fax machine."


    "Please check"

    "No need! We don't make mistakes!"

    "Okay. Let's think about that. I say that you've misdialed your fax machine. You say that coincidentally, some joker has randomly called you up to accuse you of sending him a fax by mistake at the exact same time that you are sending a fax containing the lab results of Mrs Notatallwell's blood work. Which situation sounds more likely?"

    "I'll check the dialing then"

    "And I'll destroy the paperwork you sent, shall I?"

    "Er...yes please"

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hi Gary !!!!!

    /waving at the monitor

  25. Lee D Silver badge

    Same problem.

    There's a guy with my name with a Littlewoods Ireland account who obviously never pays his bill. I tried a few times to correct them, now I just send them to spam. Had the same with RyanAir and Paypal and a couple of others.

    I have in the past written a nice letter to another guy (also in Ireland, my surname is apparently quite common there but I've never been there myself) who signed up for a Paypal account, added a credit card and then got a friend to send him loads of money. I could quite easily have confirmed the account, changed the passwords and spent such money and there'd be little they could do about it (for a start, they wouldn't be able to get back into the account!).

    But I'm a nice guy. I wrote a nice letter (all I had that I was sure of was a postal address), got a nice one back, the account got closed a few days later.

    But it happens regularly. Plenty of people sign up for things thinking that my email is their email. I don't even bother to chase it now. I just bin them. They're nothing to do with me, and I'm not going to go logging into people's accounts playing pranks in case it gets classed as fraud by misrepresentation.

    The funny bit is that not once have I ever used the real underlying account for anything - everything I do is forwarded from my own domain name to a mailbox that just acts as a convenient collection point. And I use a different alias for every company that I deal with.

    As such, just binning anything from Littlewoods or RyanAir or similar that arrives in my account without having been forwarded from my domain name is very simple.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I have my own domain and everything to that domain gets lumped into one mailbox. For a while, someone had an ebay account registered against <name>@<mydomain>.<tld>, along with the associated Paypal. I briefly considered a password change, but decided against it...

  27. irrelevant

    A street I lived on some years back (early 90s) had another person with the same surname some numbers up. We had the phone ex-directory. They didn't. I often wonder just how many people looking for us got them. I know my dad ended up speaking to them...!

    Forward a bit, I notice that the various doctors at my GP surgery all have addresses, except for the one that has Apparently a lot of people write to her namesake..

  28. tfc

    Talk about security!

    I booked a holiday with by phone, when I gave my email it was read back to me, but they added a dot which was not read out, fortunately that account did not exist. As I have used them before I had my reference number and was able to login and correct the email address. But the email contained all my details for my holiday including the answers to all the security questions they ask! So I phoned pointing this out and asked how they would prevent the 'other' person from impersonating me and logging in even though I had changed the email address, as the login details were in the email, i.e. reference number. my surname and date of birth? Also how did they know I was not the impersonater?

    The software department said it was impossible, I had to tell them the only item not mentioned on the email was my credit card number, guess what ? They could not default to using that, nor could they change the reference number

  29. Charlie van Becelaere

    I never realised

    just how fortunate I am, I suppose.

    In fact, I was just lamenting having to type my whole because it's so blasted long.

    Now I think I'll stop complaining and count my blessings, one letter at a time.


  30. Martin Summers

    Now, I get the same as people mentioned above, but how about this. Not only do I get email from my namesakes around the world there is a 'me' in my own home town and even he gets his bloody email wrong. I have had his house sale details and all sorts. More disturbingly recently I got an email from a solicitors with a subject line of "The estate of" and my own father's name. Now he died about 20+ years ago so I was a little bit freaked out to say the least. That email was also meant for the guy who lives in my town...

    I've seriously considered checking another namesake in for his hotel stays to save him the bother but eventually got the hotel to deal with it. I'm not sure I'd go as far as others suggest and action anything on someone else's behalf as you could get them and yourself in hot water.

    It's a nuisance having an early adopter email address but it's sometimes quite funny and an insight into how the other half live. I got an email from Bianca Jagger once asking if I wanted to go to a charity fundraiser. Well not me but my much wealthier London counterpart. I of course wrote back and told her she'd got the wrong address.

  31. Mr Humbug

    XKCD, of course, pointed this out years ago

    I have <firstnamelastname> and only this evening I had an event organiser asking me to confirm my shirt size for a uniform. I told them it came to the wrong address, they apologised and then an hour later they sent it again!

    On the up side, there is a very nice chap in Australia who has given me a couple of Amazon vouchers for dealing with stuff meant for him. I've told him he doesn't need to send the vouchers because just passing the message on is much easier than trying to convince the sender they made a mistake

    1. Woodnag


      I received a Costco barnded credit card for a name I've had mail for at my address. I can guarantee that the name has never been associate mailing-wise with my address, because I built the house and the number issued is new.

      First point of interest - credit card issued to an address clearly not associated to the name. Great credit check.

      @nd.. I called Costco, had to get through from CS to Security. They Oohed and Ahhed, thanked me politely, and asked me to destroy the card. One week later... a replacement card arrived. I simply kept it for 3 months during whic I heard nothing, then destroyed it.

  32. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

    Happens at a corporate level too is worth a read. They even got a feature film out of it, which is pretty funny.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Years ago when the internet and email was a "new thing" I got my internte access thorugh as a benefit of using OS/2 2.1 (limited umber oif potential users was a plus in the contention for dial up modem numbers problem!) and when they then added ability to add a "nickname" email address I thought I'd bagged a winner getting (des, being my initials, being my preferred username ...n.b. bonus points for anyone who recogniszes me from my "tag" of @des which predated twitter by about 25 years!), However I then started to get a series of messages in french from french users who didbn't quite undertand the "address" field of the email client as when they typed "nnn rue des xxxx" they clearly didn't anticipate theire messages being sent to,, and

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So Many E-mails!

    Likewise, with an account from when GMail was invitation only beta. It's NOT the account I use every day.

    There are usually 2-5 people per day who have used it as their e-mail address for signing up for various things -- worst offender is "e-mail my receipt to..." at store POS terminals where it's not practical to verify e-mail before using it, and then they use the address for marketing purposes.

    For any company in the EU I point out that they have co-mingled MY personally identifiable information (to wit, my e-mail address) with some other person's account and that therefore they are mishandling my PII since it may be disclosed to <not-me>, and make a GDPR right-to-erasure request.

    One I haven't succeeded with yet is PayPal -- they keep claiming that the account COULD NOT have been set up with my e-mail unless I did it since they verify the e-mail addresses (they do now, perhaps they didn't at some time in the past).

    One UK company tried to explain to me that it was my fault because Google accepted any number of periods in the user name and that I should change my e-mail address (and pointed me to their FAQ). So... I generated a list of all possible 1-N dots variants of my address and suggested that *all* of them be forgotten. That seemed to work, but if it hadn't I would have generated a separate e-mail FROM each of those addresses with the request.

  35. Griffo

    I've often had the same

    I too have the "curse" of an email address that many people seem to think is theirs. Mostly, it's easy to correct, but memorable is a software company that kept sending me the software license key for their wares. I spent maybe 2 years forwarding it back to their support department before someone with more than one brain-cell picked up the ticket and actually fixed it.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Who? Me?

    My Mrs answered the door once to a young lady. "Are you <firstname> <lastname>?"

    Her: "Yes"

    Them: "Did you work with Stuart Hall?"

    her: "No"

    This was a good few months before he hit the headlines for the kiddy fiddling charges. She is convinced it was a reporter fishing for victims, going through anybody she could find with the same name as anyone that had appeared on TV with him, to try and drum up support for a story.

  37. VikiAi

    I get the snail-mail version

    Because my home address is "MyName, X/X Some Street" (Unit X at Building X on Some Street) and someone in my apartment block thinks their address is "TheirName, X Some Street".

    I sent the first few back "Undeliverable, insufficient address" but now they just go strait to the recycle bin. It is mobile phone and power bills (I don't open them, but recognise the companies sending) so I assume they are checking and paying their bills online anyway if they haven't been cut off by now!


    Meanwhile at work, the department that used to be upstairs from me (and shared a mail bag) but is now one building over has never been able to convince RS Components Australia of their new invoicing address in the three years since they moved (and I know as a fact that they have tried multiple times!). Those I just walk over to their new mail bag on my way to the coffee shop.

  38. Dabbb

    Cool story

    However this part

    Gary shot back: "Then I got some bad news for you: he didn't provide the wrong email, your system is leaking." Norbert admitted that Ryanair's system "sends to the provided email, which is very similar, but not the same".

    makes it a little bit too implausible, computers don't understand when one email is similar to another, they just send it to whatever ASCII string is in database. Overall story would work for some 65yo housewife in Buttsex, England, but not attempting to figure out how it can possibly happen is an embarrassment for supposedly technical publication.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Cool story

      Not implausible, I get exactly the same thing, the email address in the header is NOT my email address, yet still I get the emails from the Chevy dealership in the US.

      1. Dabbb

        Re: Cool story

        This is simply not possible.

    2. ibmalone

      Re: Cool story

      They do give one possible reason for this; the Ryanair operator could be describing two gmail addresses, one with a period, one without as different, while gmail will route them to the same account. In which case Gary's diagnosis is incorrect, and the customer did enter the wrong email anyway, but Gary hasn't seen the other email address to know that's the case (he might be able to spot it in the incoming mail if he looks).

  39. This post has been deleted by its author

  40. Winkypop Silver badge

    I have a doppelganger email friend

    His wife's and his own first names almost match my wife's and my first names.

    Years ago we independently constructed portmanteau email addresses based on cut-down versions of our first names, with one tiny difference.

    Same ISP. Thousands of Ks apart.

    I often get his emails, usually for his most recent telephone purchase.

    I know all about him. So, I got in contact.

    I now just send his emails on to him and destroy my copy.

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Me five

    An early gmail adopter, I perhaps foolishly chose and get regular emails intended for others.

    Someone who wanted a palm tree felled (I'm in north Scotland) plus reminders for vet appointments for his dog (hope it's OK) and various other correspondance. I later deduced this was one individual who lives in South Africa but haven't found a useful contact for him yet (I keep asking others to pass a message on but with no results so far)

    Also emails pertaining to religious organisations in both USA and UK, a van purchase (UK), an invitation to a wedding in Dublin (I briefly considered attending, before declining with an explanation...), regular updates for someones AT&T account (USA), banking & phone updates for someone in Australia, and many others.

    Finally, I get regular security alert emails from Google for account closures due to abuse of their systems, using variations of my email address (with further letters appended) So, Google themselves are failing to differentiate between different accounts and I'm getting the backscatter, hopefully without further consequences, as I'd have zero means to address the problem.

  42. You can call me Al

    I have an early adopter hotmail address that seems to get regular mistakes from at least seven different people in four different countries. The one that I really enjoyed - or rather laughted at - was an American who signed me up to everything including his online banking, membership of the AARP, the Tea Party, his motor car subscriptions, his condo residency company...

    Anyway, amusingly with all the different sets of email that he signed me up to I could have very easily impersonated him and provided a very large donation to the Democrats at the last election... (I assume his bank account could support it, because the selected adverts for other condos that he could afford would have been quite pricey)... I know where his wife gets her hair cut, what her last (quite expensive) store card bill was.

    Very tempting, but I am not quite that bad. I normally just hit "unsubscribe". I even once wrote him a letter to the address - some things stopped, but not everything.

  43. Martin

    Amazon are no better...

    I have the same name as someone in the US who opened an Amazon account last year. The silly sod used my email address instead of his own for the account setup. I get all his confirmation emails for his orders, and all his adverts. I assume that he only uses his phone to access Amazon - but I'm slightly appalled that this is possible.

    I have tried telling Amazon, but I might as well be throwing a pebble into the North Sea for all the difference it makes.

  44. Steve Cooper

    All people with the same name should be friends and share a mailbox - so all Garys have one, all Steves etc. Bring the world together, get rid of religion and class, then the Steves can rise up and form an army and take over the world.

    1. muddysteve

      Right on. Power to the Steves.

      1. Cheshire Cat

        We are legion! Fear us

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    duplicate names

    I managed to move into a flat where one of the other flats residents (same door number, different flat number) not only had the same first and surname as me but was a registered bankrupt. That was a fun filled twelve months persuading both his creditors and anyone I wanted to deal with (electricity companies included) that I was not him.....

  46. The Corner of Moron

    I feel Gary's pain a little.

    I have a guy who presumably has the .com equivalent of my address (although I don't actually know this).

    From the emails I receive, he appears to own a Vauxhall, be a member of various motor clubs and does karate!

    I do wonder if he ever thinks "why don't I ever get emails from *insert sender*?"

    Or maybe he doesn't want said emails, so used an address that wasn't his on purpose?


  47. Peter Ford

    I had two email dopplegangers using my peterford@ISP email address. One had cleary used it in the various spare-time activities he participated in (nothing dodgy) so many other people were trying to contact him using the address. I eventually noticed his middle initial and tentatively sent a message to peterxford@ISP, which turned out to be correct. he has since sorted things out with his friends, and since I ignored the flurry of GDPR messages in 2018 most of the businesses he used that address with have given up.

    The other had a different spelling, rather than a middle name, which had been used on an order form. I again had enough info to guess the real address: unfortunately I left it too late to help him recover his order...

    Both were polite an aplogetic (of course they were, they're British)

  48. Mystic Megabyte

    Brain dead

    I kept getting text messages from a woman in Scotland inviting me to parties "wiv drink an' drugs". Texting her back had no effect so I rang her up. All she could say was "Who are you?", I explained that she did not know me. The response was "Who are you?" !!!

    As the conversation was going nowhere I told her to f*** off. She then gave her phone to some guy to "sort me out". Not being afraid of getting beaten up over the phone I told the guy the problem and asked him to delete my number from the phone. He said OK and did it, result!

    1. CRConrad

      “Who are you?!?”

      “If you don’t know that, then why do you keep sending me these invitations?”

  49. kwkeirstead

    Not That Gary / Ryanair

    Easy solution for "not that Gary" - as others have pointed out here at this forum

    Contact the real Gary. If he is a resident or citizen of one of the EU countries, get him to report the incident to his country of residence, citing that country's GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) legislation.

    When Ryanair finishes paying the typically hefty fine, they may see fit to upgrade their message delivery system.

    Here below is a link to a summary article on GDPR

    "How the EU’s GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) impacts your business"

    1. MrMerrymaker

      'Contact the real Gary. If he is a resident or citizen of one of the EU countries, get him to report the incident to his country of residence, citing that country's GDPR'

      Do you really think this is likely with someone who doesn't know their own email address?

  50. breakbeat

    I have this with my email address that I hardly use anymore because it was I started keeping a folder of the funnies - such as those Christmas emails about what everyone in the family has been up to over the year,!

    I've also been sent photos of "my trip to Paris" with my buddies in the Whitehouse - same buddies have added me on linkedin even though me and my name sake look nothing alike.

    I've had dental appointments, confirmation of store deliveries (iwith my home address in the US), a very stroppy church lady who tells me what I can and cannot bring to the cooking lessons, details of the sale of my house in Liverpool, bank details to pay my friend for Kasabian tickets, my hotel confirmation (my namesake goes much fancier than me when doing city breaks).

    I can understand companies making mistakes, but making a mistake on your own email is a bit ridiculous? One namesake forwarded me the email containing the password for her companies online payroll system that was being introduced to "help them to comply with GDPR"

    I'd say 95% of the ones I receive are my email minus the full stop in the middle.

    the weird thing I find is that there are a LOT of companies out there, who do not require people to verify their email addresses before sending out personal details.

  51. David Nash

    Not foolproof by any means but it may help to disallow "paste" into the "enter your email again" boxes.

    1. MrMerrymaker

      How would me doing this stop other people half the world away entering my email address...?

      1. CRConrad

        Not YOU doing anything.

        David Nash obviously meant, the _makers of those websites_ people sign up to should disable pasting the second address in. If people have to actually _type_ it twice, that increases the chances of them spotting their mistake before submitting.

        (Problem is, I think many — perhaps most? — websites already have that disabled. It seems sufficiently determined morons are not so easily deterred...)

  52. David Nash


    Back in the day, we used to get DVDs on rental, which were sent out by Lovefilm. LoveFilm ended up being owned by Amazon.

    One day my wife placed an Amazon order and entered her Mother-in-Law's address, as it was a gift for my parents.

    Somehow that address got matched with her LoveFilm account, and from that day, we stopped receiving LoveFilm disks, and my parents started receiving unsolicited DVDs.

    Neither of us realised what had happened and both parties went through several rounds with Amazon of "where's my DVD" vs. "Stop sending my DVDs" until several months later when we were talking about it and the penny dropped.

  53. Daconsul

    It appears from my reading of this story and the airlines response at the bottom that they are very rigid in their policies. While that may be a good thing in some areas, it is decidedly not a good policy when it comes to customer service.

  54. Santa from Exeter

    My name is *not* Alice

    I was driving along one day when I got a text message. Thinking it might be about the event I was driving to I got my other half to answer it.

    The message was "Hi Alice, can you get (random assorted groceries) and some bleach"; I suggested that my S.O. should send back "Alice, who the fuck is Alice".

    A second text quickly followed with "Oh and some Victory V's".

    Intrigued as to what was intended with bleach and Victory V's we, nevertheless, simply sent back "I think you have the wrong number, this isn't Alice".

    In reply we got "Hello Alice this is Grandma, I think that you wrote your number down wrong in my address book"!

    We did manage to persuade 'Grandma' that if she had the wrong number for 'Alice' we certainly didn't know it :-)

  55. plrndl

    I used to have a problem with an American namesake using my gmail account, mostly for porn sites.

    He got the message when I changed his NetFlix password, and cancelled the account. Unfortunately I still get masses of spam as a result of his activities.

  56. Huw D

    Yes, you can keep the money...

    I once got mailed a royalties cheque from the Musician's Union (I am a member) for a recording session I allegedly played on.

    I rang and said I hadn't played on that session. Their response? Well, the paperwork has your name AND membership number on it, so keep the cash. There's nobody with a name even close to mine in the MU directory so... WTF?

  57. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Same problem....

    Same issue here, I have firstname.surname address on gmail as well. I've had several Americans using it, I even know where some of them live and what school their kids go to thanks to them giving my address to their PTA. Had a few in the UK using it as well, one at CPW for a new mobile contract (Galaxy S9 if you were wondering, on O2). One "me" I know when and where he goes for a massage with Massage Envy Spa as I get all the booking emails, another I know where he orders furniture from. Several of them I've managed to get my email address removed from them, but it's pretty shocking how few (including Uber) sites actually check an email address is valid and should be receiving the emails before they start sending them out.

  58. psdrake67

    It's all fun until ...

    I registered my and my first and last names are not uncommon so I regularly get misdirected emails. When informed they have the wrong email address and have reached the wrong <first last> most senders are never heard from again. I occasionally even get thanks. But one doofus from Australia is so prolific and consistent that I set up a filter to park all email from .au in a separate folder for later perusal.

    But recently he tried to initiate an account recovery process with Google to "regain" control of his account. I politely indicated to Google that I had not in fact lost control of my account.

  59. Danny 2

    Colorblind James Experience

    My baby was talking in her sleep

    She said "Bob!"

    I said "What?"

    She said "Bob!"

    I said "I'm Bob."

    She said "No

    I mean a different Bob."

    So I asked her the next day

    I said "Jane?"

    She said "What"

    I said "Who's Bob?"

    She said "You're Bob."

    I said "No

    I mean a different Bob."

    My baby was run over by a truck

    It was a Dodge!

    As she lay dying, she called for Bob

    I touched her hand and said "I'm here."

    She said "No

    I mean a different Bob."

    1. Danny 2

      Re: Colorblind James Experience

      Other Britons with my name must hate me. I bought the UK-I CD disks from Ingliston market, they are the basis of It was a reverse searchable list of electoral rolls and telephone books.

      After that I started getting arrested a lot for naughty stuff - peace protester stuff, not murder and arson stuff. I resented giving out my actual address to the cops because they'd harass my family, so I memorised the 21 addresses associated with my British namesakes.

  60. carlsonjma

    happens everywhere

    When I worked at Sun Microsystems, there were four "James Carlsons." Surprisingly, only one of them was me. I regularly received messages, sometimes highly privileged, that were misdirected to me.

    One of the other "James Carlsons" was apparently a Director of Sales. A lot of his direct reports would send me their requests for vacation time. For a while, I put up with sending back a message letting them know that they should correct their request, because I couldn't do what they wanted. Eventually, I gave up and started rejecting them. One of them actually went to the trouble of calling me in a state of profound rage, demanding to know why I'd denied the vacation request. My answer was simple: I'm not your boss.

  61. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm called Scott Tiger...

    ...and I always know who's using an Oracle backend when I try to register with them.

  62. Steevee


    I had a similar experience only last year. My first name is common enough (though with multiple options for spelling), my surname definitely is not, so while I use the usual format for my email I’ve never had any mistaken identity emails. One day I had what appeared to be spam email from a local government associated charity, asking me to get in touch following my meeting with them. I had never even heard of this organisation, let alone been to see them, but they were based in the town about five miles from where I live, so I was both intrigued and concerned that I had received “spam” that was so close to my real-world details.

    I looked up the charity, got in touch by phone, and it soon became clear that they were genuine (they help people get being into work), and that they honestly believed I had popped into one of their branch offices at a high street area even closer to my home, a mere mile and a half away! I clarified that I did go to this shopping area all the time, but wouldn’t be looking for any assistance from them as I am fully employed, not to mention about twice the age of the young man they were expecting to speak to. During the conversation I was asked to confirm that my email was, and when I replied that my email was almost that, but ended in .com not, we found the source of the miscommunication; a simply typo.

    But this then led to the realisation that out there, very, very close to where I now live, there is a young man, with the exact same spelling of first and last names, and with the same email provider no less. Spooky.

    1. my farts clear the room

      Re: Spooky

      I had a similar issue when registering with my GP.

      During the onboarding session we discussed my many ailments and the nurse typed them into the EMIS, the patient management system.

      She then asked me about my asthma as she could see I had a prescription inhaler from the notes. I told her I don't have asthma. I also asked how there could be notes on there if I was on boarding to which she replied that she had been updating my medical record. So I asked what the address was one the system.


      I had the same problem at the nearest pharmacy to my home where they kept giving my prescriptions to the other me. I'm sure that his ventolin went down well with my hormone gel, citalopram, metformin, ramipril and amitriptyline. They soon sorted it out when I stood in their pharmacy asking them to describe the other me. Him being black and in his 20's with dreadlocks was not easily confused with me - a pastie white colour knocking 50 and thinning locks.

      So now I'm doubly vigilant because who's to say his details haven't overtyped mine in some system somewhere.

      What happened to those people that we all thought were the benchmark for 'normal' - you know, washed regularly, held down a job, managed a bank account, could cook dinner without cutting their own hands off. How did they get replaced by people lacking basic maths, probably basic spelling and with nothing engaged between eyes and fingers?

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Spooky

        "How did they get replaced by people lacking basic maths, probably basic spelling and with nothing engaged between eyes and fingers?"

        Easy enough answer. Mr. Room ... "Computer says no."

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