I receive a lot of junk email every day, but it’s not your average spam. I’m fortunate, or unfortunate, to own a rather unique email address at Outlook.com. It’s the type that makes confused people send misdirected emails to me every single day, because they assume my address is for someone else. They range from the funny to the sad, to the outrageous and shocking, and I try to reply to each of them letting the sender know they didn’t mean to email me.
Over the past year I’ve received the following:
- Naked photos
- Passport scans
- Holiday bookings
- Mortgage documents
- Tax returns
- Countless holiday photos
- Divorce proceedings
- Angry spouse letters
- Death notifications
- Meeting invitations
I’ve had to awkwardly explain I haven’t been cheating on anyone, or inform a stranger I know how much they made in 2016 and where they live. I’ve even had to cancel an easyJet flight as it was linked to my email address and somehow ended up in my own account. It’s all creepy, but I feel like each time I reply I’m hopefully teaching someone else not to make this costly mistake again.
The emails are only part of owning this particular email address. I used to use it as my main point of contact for FaceTime, but I started getting missed calls from random numbers and email addresses. At times I’d pick up a random call to see a shocked stranger staring back at me, slowly realizing they weren’t talking to the Tom they were trying to call.
While most of the mails and calls are all daily entertainment for me, it’s been a unique insight into how regular consumers use the internet. I see the reports of phishing or internet scams, and I’m always surprised by the vast number of people who fall for what, to me, are obvious tricks. Witnessing how people email me highly confidential information is like watching my father type with one finger: an eye-opening dose of reality.
This type of behavior is exactly why Safer Internet Day exists today. I might always double check who I’m sending sensitive documents or information to, but there’s clearly a lot of people who do not. If you know someone who’s not particularly tech savvy, point them toward a number of events being held worldwide today. A little bit of awareness could stop someone sending me another batch of holiday photos, or threatening to divorce me in an angry rage.