Ashley Richards

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Google Gmail Bug Routes Emails to Wrong Address

March 31st, 2007 Posted in Business, Tech

Looks like Google has a dirty little secret. Gmail emails have been routed incorrectly to the wrong recipients. I’ve been receiving emails for a woman whose email address is similar to mine, minus a period between the first and second half of the username. So I thought people were accidentally adding the period – turns out that’s not the case.

I got another email for her today from a website and thought that there’s no way she’s giving people the wrong email address across the board. Checked the headers, and yes indeed the emails are going to the wrong account.

I went into Gmail Help and filled out their contact form. So far all I’ll gotten is an automated response. So I checked out the Gmail discussion boards, and, wouldn’t you know, there are over a thousand entries about people getting wrong emails. This bug looks to have been a known issue for quite some time, so why hasn’t Google done anything about it? Or even better why haven’t they at least notified users with similar email addresses that there is a possibility that their emails are being routed incorrectly?

I couldn’t imagine what would happen if someone out there had personal information in an email that would then make it possible for someone to steal the other person’s identity if they accidentally received the email. I’m not talking about social security numbers, but more like the answers to standard security questions or little things that can help you inpersonate someone. This bug allows for some wicked social engineering to occur.

Sharing information is in Google’s DNA, so when they go into a space where they need to keep information private can they do it? Can they make sure that if there is a breach in security they are equipped to take the necessary steps to rectify the situation? So far I haven’t seen it. And now they have a product where they hold on to my credit card number, Google Checkout. Hmmm…after this mix up, I don’t trust them with it.

Update – 29 February 2008

I logged into my Gmail account today and saw a little tiny link next to the address in “To” field with the username without the dot. The new Gmail help center faq now says that the email is routed correctly and that there is no other account using my username without the dot. So I wonder what happened with the other person’s account. Did they try to create the account and never realized it wasn’t actually created? And why didn’t Google ever send me an email with this information after I had requested account support? Hmmm…not very good with customer service when it’s not related to advertising it seems.  Or maybe it’s just that Gmail is undersupported.

7 Responses to “Google Gmail Bug Routes Emails to Wrong Address”

  1. Ashley,

    It just happened to me this morning! I received a confirmation of an order from PC Connection for a woman living in Chicago. Her gmail name and mine differ by one letter. I called PC connection and they confirmed to me that she entered her address correctly on their web-based order form. The person there told me this was not uncommon! I have been using gmail for some somewhat sensitive stuff. NO MORE

    Bernie

  2. This just happened to my wife this morning. She got an order confirmation email that was to be sent to an address without a dot, but it was instead sent to her address, with a dot.

  3. I’ve discovered that Google fixed the problem a couple years ago. But people are constantly giving out the wrong email address. So I’ve gotten an number of interesting emails meant for other people. In particular there is one person that’s in denial of what her email address is, so much so that I’ve stopped replying to the senders to say that they have the wrong email address. The other Ashley Richards will just have to learn what her email address is.

  4. I continue to get emails for similar addresses. The one I received recently has an additional letter in the middle but is otherwise identical. I’m concerned about my google apps email and it’s security, even though it’s a custom domain.

  5. I can confirm that, as of today, the bug still persists.

  6. I just had an issue today where I sent an email from my gmail account to another gmail user. However, that user never received the email and instead I received an out of office email from a completely different person! Holy cow that is scary!

  7. I get the exact same thing. My email address is my firstname.surname but I receive emails for surname.firstname and even firstnamesurname without the dot!!! After reading this today I’ve sent an email to surname.firstname! I await for a reply to find out if it’s a ‘real person’. Pretty sure Gmail would be in quite a bit of trouble if so?

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