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The Wrong Way to Change Your Email Address

From time to time, I get emails like this one:

Hello everyone,
Just letting you know we have changed our email address to {email address removed}.
Our old address, {email address removed}, was compromised. Please delete it.
We will stop using our old address immediately.
{name removed}
{new email address removed}

One one hand, that works well for letting your friends and family know that your email address has changed.

On the other hand, there are serious problems with this approach. Let’s review the most common ones, and what you should do instead.

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Problem #1: CCing everyone

You can’t see it in my example above, but the individual who sent that message included all the recipients on the CC line…

… all 68 of them.

What that means is that not only will the message be exceptionally difficult to read on some email clients (long lists of email addresses sometimes take up a majority of the space above the message itself), but the sender exposed everyone’s email address to everyone else…

… whether or not they would have been okay with that.

Email addresses are funny things. While many people consider them unimportant, giving out someone’s email address without permission is considered a breach of privacy.

Problem #2: using this for companies

Looking over the list of additional recipients of that message, I saw many email addresses for companies that this person had done business with, including major drugstore chains, book stores, and more.

Email Address PrivacyThe good news is that these companies aren’t going to pay attention to this email; they don’t have time to handle individual email address changes in this manner. The reason that’s good news is that it’s unlikely they will see the lengthy list of additional email addresses included on the CC line.

The bad news is that these companies aren’t going to pay attention to this email. They don’t have time to handle individual email address changes in this manner. You might as well have sent nothing at all.

Of course, it could still be bad news. A less-than-honest company could pay just enough attention to harvest the email addresses and start spamming all your friends. They could even spoof the From: line to make the spam messages look like they came from you.

But they won’t change your email address.

Problem #3: using this for mailing lists

The reason I got this email was because this person subscribes to one or more of my mailing lists.

Once again, just sending email to the mailing list owner isn’t the way to change your email address for that subscription. Particularly for large lists, that takes time list owners just don’t have. In my case, I have perhaps a dozen different lists across three different types of providers – I don’t even know which list your email address is on.

Several of the addresses this change request had been sent to were “do not reply” email addresses. Sending a reply to a “do not reply” email address is pretty pointless, for a hopefully obvious reason.

The solution: take the time to do it right

Yes, this takes time. That’s one reason that changing an email address can be painful.

But the steps are pretty simple:

  • For real people, send that email, but send it only to friends, family members, and other individuals, and use BCC to hide everyone’s email address from each other.
  • For online accounts, log in to your account at those services and change your email address yourself. If you no longer have access to an old email address associated with the account, or you’ve lost your password, look up your customer support options and follow those. Don’t just send email to a random email address in your address book – it won’t work.
  • For mailing lists, check the most recent email you received from that list for instructions on how to change your email address, and then change your email address yourself. If there are no instructions, find the site or service where you signed up in the first place for instructions. Only if you can’t find instructions to change your email address yourself should you then look for support options relating to that mailing list to ask for help.

The bottom line is simple: tell your friends, and everywhere else, change your email address yourself.

Just sending out an email blast to everyone you can think of is simply not going to work.

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13 comments on “The Wrong Way to Change Your Email Address”

  1. I received one of those emails that had been forwarded numerous times and had many email addresses showing. Just for fun, I salvaged all addresses I could and got more than 250. Some people just don’t listen to instructions or just don’t care.

  2. By including a business like Amazon you are telling the world you have an account with them and the email address. A gift to hackers……

  3. Others’ inappropriate use of the CC function in email is one of my pet peeves. I’ve posted a link to this article on my Facebook page in the hope at least one person will change their ways as a result. I think I’ll tweet it, as well. Thanks for this post. It gives me somewhere to send people.

    • Email programs probably should make it a bit harder to CC than to BCC, or at least ask if the sender who does, perhaps robotically, CC, actually wants the recipients all seeing each others addresses and reminding them that it could possibly be a security issue for others and even themselves.

  4. And there’s another couple of reasons it may not work (as if any more reasons were needed):
    Long CC: lists can cause an email to be rejected as spam, without notice depending on the intervening mail servers
    Email is not a foolproof delivery system – emails can get lost, delayed, be diverted into junk folders, etc, etc. Never believe an email is delivered until the recipient confirms it. (I send out Purchase Orders for our company by email – about 5 % have to be repeated for various reasons. Some I believe are received and simply lost in busy inboxes). Oh, and ticking “Request Delivery or Read Receipt” doesn’t necessarily give any peace of mind. Some people don’t allow responses to be sent, some servers block the requests as a matter of course.

  5. recently I switch from Comcast to verizon,comcast blocked my email as the email address was through them ,since I was with Comcast for more than 15 years ,lot of my friend and other can not be contacted through my new email,how can I restore my previous email,please help me thanks

    • You’d have to contact Comcast and see if they have an option to use a Comcast email address (probably a for pay account) without being a Comcast customer. That’s one good reason to use email services like GMail, Yahoo mail or or even better your own domain.

      • I’m in the process of setting up my own domain and transferring everything important to it. And, yes, I did already know to use BCC in the notifications.

  6. In 2016, it’s nearly unbelievable anyone could be foolish, careless, or indifferent enough not to take the time to learn the difference between Cc and Bcc. Leo is absolutely right by saying including someone’s email address on mass-forwarded email is a breach of privacy. It is a SERIOUS breach of privacy and consequently a show of disrespect.

    • There are people, many of them elderly, for whom even being online at all is a major cognitive challenge. I’m not saying that they’re stupid. They mostly aren’t. (My mother and stepmother are two such.) But the online world is so different from anything they’ve ever dealt with before that they’re like fish out of water. Subtle points like this issue aren’t going to come quickly or naturally to them.

  7. Leo, you wrote:

    “For online accounts, log in to your account at those services and change your email address yourself. If you no longer have access to an old email address associated with the account, or you’ve lost your password, look up your customer support options and follow those.”

    Leo, “[no] longer [having] access to an old email address associated with the account” is usually not an issue, since in the vast majority of cases the E-Mail address is being used as a username, not as an E-Mail address proper, so logging in with that address in order to change it should pose no problem, unless the service requires verification from that address. (This is, of course, exactly and precisely what alternate, secondary, or “recovery” E-Mail addresses are for.)

  8. On a separate note, I am dumbfounded that people are so dense as to use “CC:” instead of ” BCC:”. It wouldn’t even occur to me to use “CC:” for such a purpose! Do people even think?!?


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