I’ve received about six messages in my Hotmail account that actually had
another person’s email address in the “To” field rather than mine. All six of
these account names have been fairly similar to mine (i.e.
email@example.com, rather than firstname.lastname@example.org) My
question is why did I receive these emails since they were not even sent to my
actual email address? Is this something I should worry about? I’ve never heard
of anything like it…
If you’ve never seen this before, consider yourself very lucky.
The good news is that it’s nothing to worry about.
The bad news is that it’s very common.
What you’re seeing, in a word, is spam.
Become a Patron of Ask Leo! and go ad-free!
First, it’s very easy to send email to people without putting their name on
the “To:” line. That’s what the “BCC” or “Blind Carbon Copy” address field is
all about when you compose a message. The message will be sent to those BCC
recipients, but their email address will not show up in the “To:” or “Cc:”
It’s intended as an easy way to keep send someone a message or conversation,
without letting the everyone else receiving the message know.
It’s also a great way to keep email addresses private when you send a
message to many people. Just put all the addresses in the BCC line, and none of
the recipients will see who else got the message.
Spammers use BCC a lot. It’s one of many, many ways that they use and abuse
the email system to try and get their messages through the many spam filters
that are out there. Perhaps as important, it’s another trick they use to get
you to open the email and read their spammy message.
In this case, they spammers probably don’t know that your email address is
valid. They’re just trying anything that looks like an email address. Called a
“dictionary attack”, they just create a list of names, often related to each
other, and start sending emails to them whether they’re valid addresses or
So it’s very likely that the emails you received were sent to:
… and so on
Your’s may have been the only “real” email address in the bunch. Lucky you.
The reasons spammers take this approach is that they can. The cost of
actually doing this is so incredibly low that they don’t care if only 1 in
1,000 email addresses are valid. They can send out millions virtually
for free, and the number of valid hits in that million are enough to make it
So, bottom line: it’s just spam, delete it, don’t worry about it, and move
on with your life :-).