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Why Am I Getting Email for Another Person in Another Country?

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I have a big issue and don’t know who to address.

I have a Hotmail account and recently, more by accident, found out that there is another user in a different country with the same hotmail id and I am actually getting e-mails from her so I am sure she’s getting some of mine.

I found out by trying to reset my apple id and when I got an e-mail from apple to reset my password, the e-mail kept arriving in French (which seemed odd). After being able to reset the password at apple I took a look at my apple account and hey, this wasn’t my account but instead from some woman in Belgium. All her info was visible incl. credit card number etc. – pretty scary. Naturally I didn’t touch anything and opened a new e-mail account with gmail but I’ve called hotmail on this and just keep getting pretty lame excuses (such as “Oh, this never happened before – let us advise you on how to create an alias).

I found your website and I have hopes you have an answer or rather suggestion on how to deal with this. The lame customer service at Hotmail tempts me to go public with this and expose this because I am very sure this isn’t the first time. Any suggestions?

Yes.

Be very careful when typing in your email address. Always.

My guess here is that you don’t in fact have the same Hotmail “id” as someone else. They’re just very, very similar, in a way that you might not realize.

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Not everyone is .com

There’s a very, very subtle difference that can happen in email addresses, and I do see confusion about it from time to time.

It’s simply this:

emailaddress@somerandomservice.com

and

emailaddress@somerandomservice.be

are two different email addresses that belong to two completely different accounts. (“somerandomservice” is, of course, just an example. This actually applies to any email account on any domain, and is most common with the free email services from large providers like Microsoft and Yahoo!.)

The “.com” domain is the account that we think of most often, probably because “.com” is the default for users in the U.S., and is perhaps most desirable around the world.

Somerandomservice.be indicates the account is associated with the “somerandomservice” presence in Belgium.

And that’s completely separate.

Some Top Level DomainsGetting those “other” domains

It’s actually not that easy to get an account with a top level domain other than the default for your location.

The most common request I get is someone from another country, say India, with an @somerandomservice.in email address, looking to get that same email address on the somerandomservice.com domain. Unfortunately someone else typically has taken the .com name already – because somerandomservice.com and somerandomservice.in are separate domains, and separate services.

It’s actually difficult these days to even try to get that other domain, since most services – at least the ones I tried – will redirect you to the service that is most appropriate for your location. I keep getting redirected to the “.com” versions of these services. (Theoretically it would be possible to use a proxy service with a presence in the target area to trick the service into believing that you’re also in that area.)

So there’s a very good chance that your email address on a “.com” domain for any of the free services may in fact be used by someone else on a foreign country’s domain. Or it might not be in use at all.

The most important thing to realize, though, is that it’s not you.

Getting those “other” domains confused

Here’s what I think is happening:

You probably have emailaddress@hotmail.com. This other woman has emailaddress@hotmail.be. The same “emailaddress” part, the same “hotmail” part, but different top level domains: “.com” versus “.be”.

Those are two separate and unrelated accounts, as we’ve seen.

My guess is that the other woman is occasionally forgetting and typing “hotmail.com” as part of her email address.

In other words, she’s typing in your email address and as a result, you’re getting the email.

Resolving the confusion

This is often difficult to resolve.

But as we’ve seen with other typographically similar yet different email addresses, there sometimes are ways to do so.

You can send an email explaining the situation to the other email address. Make sure to enter the other one, and not your own.

You could reply to the sender indicating the error, or what you believe to be the error.

Since you have the other contact information for this woman in Belgium, you could call her, or write a physical letter to her explaining the situation.

You can also ignore the situation. Given that this other person is not getting emails that she expects – and it sounds like some of them are important – it’s very likely that she’ll end up needing to correct the error on her own.

11 comments on “Why Am I Getting Email for Another Person in Another Country?”

  1. This makes sense, but how does it explain the problem with the Apple ID? If the .com user had already set up the Apple ID with the .com account, how was the .be or whatever user able to access it to enter her own information?

  2. I read the article on people getting email intended for others with interest but I have something to add. Gmail states that full stops (periods) are not recognised in email addresses, However my wife who had an address of {email.address.removed} suddenly got a load of comfirmations of purchases from various companies one Xmas. The confirmation mail was addresses to {emailaddressremoved} I was able to go into the account of {emailaddressremoved} and change the password. However it was no good trying to notify the other person by email as the emails all got sent to my wife. Obviously the other person realised that somebody had changed their password and changed it again. This went on for a while until the other person (a resident of Malta) closed their email account and used another address as it didn’t happen again after that.
    I did try to notify gmail of the problem but they are not easy people to contact. Whether this still applies or not I have no idea as this was a couple of years ago that this happened.

    • […]I was able to go into the account of {emailaddressremoved}[…]

      Did what now? That shouldn’t be possible; how did you know the password on that account in the first place, assuming it really was a separate account? And if you did somehow manage it, isn’t that illegal, given that (to the best of your knowledge) it’s not your account?

      For what it’s worth, I seem to be able to log into my Gmail account regardless of how many full stops I put into the part before the @, and I’m currently unable to register a new Google account with full stops added to my existing one, so if there was a hole there, it’s gone now.

      (P.S.: Leo, any chance you could look into getting a preview button for the comment forms? I hate having to figure out what subset of HTML is permitted, if any, or if you support other kinds of markup, but it’s even worse when I can’t validate that what I wrote will look as I intend it to.)

  3. Further to my previous comments, it should have been impossible for a person to set up a gmail account using an address that differed by the inclusion of only a full stop if full stops are not recognised. However this obviously happened. I remember some years ago receiving emails that were clearly sent to another totally different email address. I assumed this to be a slip up by my ISP It has not happened for some years.

    • Derek,

      In the case of Gmail accounts, there never is more than one person with similar accounts. What usually happens is that the second person is giving out an incorrect email address to people or on forms, and then those persons are trying to contact them with this wrong address, same as would happen with a “wrong number” telephone call. This likely happens with new accounts where persons forget some small detail of the account they just created.

  4. Hi Leo:
    A few yrs ago my husband opened a Hotmail acct using his first name, middle initial, and last name @ hotmail.com. A couple days later we started getting emails from a guy in the US but a diff state saying that was his name and email and please stop using, which of course we did. Just thought I’d add that since it was the exact email address that my husband was able to set up and use a different password with… and the other guy was getting our emails, too. Thanks.
    Kathy

  5. My father (in his 80s) had this happen to him. He only uses hotmail when cruising. Last year, when he logged in, there was a lot of mail in Spanish that wasn’t remotely connected to him but he was able to read. His email address was first initial middle initial last name with last letter missing. Upon researching this problem for him, I found out that there was a doctor in South America with his same first and middle initials and his last name really was the same as my dad’s minus the last letter. There was no “dot other country ” involved, it was definitely .com . My dad tried to get the guy out of his email and Hotmail of course said gee, not their problem. Sent him online to some guy who would resolve the problem for him for $$$. When dad refused to pay the $$$, the guy sent malicious code to his machine. End result was that dad spent $$$ getting repaired. Once he was back online, he corresponded with all the folks who were corresponding with the South American doctor and told them how he was able to see and read all their emails because the doctor had stolen his account and that any information they thought was private was not. He also emailed the doctor and told him to get another account. Then dad changed the password, something he should have been doing all along. He blocked all the addresses of people in SA, and has had no further issues. But for Hotmail to say no one has had this problem before, bull!

  6. Leo , I think they may have the same mail EXACTLY. Write to Jack Teams the publisher of Neatnettricks. Several months ago he reported that he has the same problem. He is more than computer literate. So there seem to still be some surprises out there.

  7. In reply to Octav Sandulescu, with Gmail it was extremely easy to log in without a password. All I had to do was to click on “forgotten password” and the email with the link to change the password was sent to my wife’s account. I then changed the password thus preventing the other person using their account until they did the self-same thing. When they did of course the link was sent to my wife’s email address. Hopefully this glitch has now been fixed.

    • Seems clear that both you and the other person were logging in to your wife’s account as in each case the password reset email came to your wife.

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