In the Guardian, journalist Alex Hern writes about accidentally stealing other peoples’ identities online. It’s not his fault; other people with similar names keep signing up to various web sites with his email address by accident.
It’s a problem that’s affected me as well. ‘Neil Turner’ is quite a common name; there’s at least four other people sufficiently well-known to have their own Wikipedia articles, and when I first joined Facebook, there were at least two groups for people with the same name as me. I’ve even met another person with my name, which was weird. So from time to time, I get emails to my Gmail account for other people with similar names – which I wrote about in 2013.
Since then I’ve received more emails – such that I now have a ‘For someone else’ label to file these under. The screenshot above shows some examples – these include someone else’s Vodafone account, a Southwest Airlines frequent traveller account, and other random bits. Recently I also got weekly emails for new properties available from an estate agent in Lichfield, and an unsolicited photo of a male person’s erect genitalia. There’s also a movie in that screenshot – I haven’t watched it, so I can’t tell you what it was. Perhaps more male genitalia.
Most of the time I ignore these emails, but once I did end up logging in to a MapMyRide account for someone called Nick Turner who had used my email address. Because I controlled the email address, I was able to reset the password, log in, and then delete the account, to stop the emails coming in. This was after getting a useless response from MapMyRide’s customer services. I felt a bit sorry for Nick Turner that I’d deleted his account, but you could argue that it was his fault for not typing his email address in properly.
Help! I'm accidentally stealing people's identities and I don't know how to stop http://t.co/xX9uU7BBrt
— Alex Hern (@alexhern) May 15, 2015
It’s worth reading the replies to Alex’s tweet to hear other amusing stories of mistaken email identities.