Grace has $20 in her bank account in Pittsburgh, PA as of 7AM this morning. I’ve never met Grace and yet I know this fact about her. I also know her phone number and when she met with people at this bank about her account. How do I know all of this? Grace gave her bank the wrong email address. This XKCD comic exemplifies it well:
Over 40 different people have provided companies my email address instead of their own. As a result I have had information sent to me that includes their addresses, phone numbers, names, and other details. The only thing I have never had sent to me is their real email address.
The bigger problem is, very few of these companies have ever considered that their customer could have given them the wrong email address. It is rare that I can tell one of thes companies that they have the wrong email address. Usually my only recourse is to hit the
Forgot Password link on their website, use the link they email me, and then login to the account to disable/delete it.
One created an Amazon account, ordered a set of golf clubs, and saved his credit card number in the account. Imagine what I could’ve done with this. Instead I had fun explaining to Amazon that I wished to disassociate the account with my email address. They ended up terminating the account as well as the order. I wonder if Glenn in Maryland ever got his golf clubs.
Verifying Email Addresses
It is rare that any company will attempt to verify the email address actually belongs to the person creating the account. Most of the time I just immediately start receiving email about the account from the company. If they bother to do any verification at all, usually the best is to send an email asking to verify the email address but most of them will still send information in email without any verification. This raises the question of what is the point in having to verify the email address in the first place?
In the decades this has occurred, I can only recall of one instance where the company actually handled the circumstance well: In the email asking to verify the address, I was given a link along the lines of “the person at this email address did not create this account.” Clicking that link disassociated my email address with the account without compromising the account to me.
Then there’s Grace’s bank. I have repeatedly tried to inform them that the email address on the account does not belong to Grace and that they are sending her information to other people. All of these attempts have failed and I continue to get email from them about Grace. I ended up having to setup server-side filters to just immediately trash messages from them as I will receive one every single day her account balance is below $50. The only thing more sad is that every single one of these emails has that same idiotic legal boilerplate demanding the recipient contact the sender if the message is mis-deliverred.
Unfortunately, we all know that this will be corrected unless there is a law change or some other threat requiring companies to change their behavior. In the mean time, I’ll know when Grace’s account balance changes.