Tag Archives: email

The annoyance of mistaken email addresses – an example from Netflix

One of the reasons email is broken is that many companies do not bother to verify email addresses when setting up accounts. If someone by accident or design opens an account with an email other than their own – yours, for example – the person who actually has that email address may get bombarded with unwanted emails. Mostly you can just block them with all the other spam but it can be problematic. You may run into difficulties if you try to open your own account with the same organization. If there is money involved you may also get pursued by email for the other person’s debts; presumably this sort of thing can be sorted out but in some cases passively accepting the problem might not be the best idea.

What should happen is that all email addresses are verified. The company where the account is set up sends ONE email to the address given, with a magic link to verify that it really is you that set up the account. If you ignore that email you should never get another one. Sometimes there is even a link to say “this is not me” or “disavow”, which is even better.

Unfortunately it can be hard to inform the organisation of the wrong email address. In the majority of cases, emails come from a “do not reply” address. Often you are meant to log into the account (that is not your account) to make changes or contact support. You would have to change the password of course. That seems a bad idea and might even be considered a tacit acceptance that it is your account, or a hack attempt.

When this happens to me I mostly ignore it, but sometimes resort to things like Twitter support contacts or web chat. It can still be awkward. Here’s my chat transcript when Netflix (which should know better) sent me a welcome email for my new account (nothing to do with me):

Me
Someone has created a Netflix account with my email address. Please delete it.

[Rep] Netflix
Hi there :)

[Rep] Netflix
Sure!! No problem

[Rep] Netflix
Could you please tell me what’s your email address?

Me
*************************

[Rep] Netflix
I could find any active account with this email address… don’t you have another email address?

Me
I have just received a welcome email

[Rep] Netflix
To that email? *************************

Me
yes

Me
Hey there, My name is ****. I work at Netflix and help our newest members get started. If you’d like to chat before you start your free month, you can call 1-***-***-**** with any questions. Also, don’t worry about being billed by surprise — we always send a reminder before your free trial ends. If you’re all set, finish your account setup to start watching. If there’s anything you need help with, don’t hesitate to contact us. Cheers, **** netflix.com

[Rep] Netflix
Oohh!!! That’s definetely not from us!!

Me
it passes DKIM

[Rep] Netflix
This is a phising email

[Rep] Netflix
phishin*

Me
ARC-Authentication-Results: i=1; mx.google.com; dkim=pass header.i=@netflix.com

Me
so it is from your domain

[Rep] Netflix
Please tell me the email address who sent you the email
Me

Me
***********************

[Rep] Netflix
OOH!! O.O

[Rep] Netflix
Please wait a second

[Rep] Netflix
I’m checking here… please hang on there

Me
thanks

[Rep] Netflix
It looks like someone took your email information and created an account, but don’t worry, I’m cancelling the account right now

Me
thanks
Me

that is what I said at first :-)

[Rep] Netflix
Yes… I know xD but I really needed to confirm all the information

[Rep] Netflix
I’m on it now :)

[Rep] Netflix
Done :)

Me
thanks

[Rep] Netflix
I was a pleasure :)

[Rep] Netflix
And one more thing, if you wouldn’t mind, please stay online for a one question survey.

I declined the one question survey.