With my home phone, I sometimes get “wrong number” calls. Someone dialed the wrong number, or someone gave out the wrong number, or someone forgot to dial the area code. I also get these types of emails. Other people make a typo when giving out their email address, or they use the wrong domain, or they just don't know their own email address. Here are some examples of emails that should've gone to someone else:

  • Relatives emailing me about a party (but they're not my relatives)
  • Construction projects in Dubai emailing me about my workers being lazy
  • Business partners in China emailing me about ceramic manufacturing
  • London Business School emailing me updates about classes I can take
  • Citibank India emailing me financial information about my account (this has happened for three different people, all of whom accidentally used my email address)
  • Someone emailing me the design for the anchor bolts he wants me to manufacture
  • A hotel chain emailing me about work I'm doing for their new hotel
  • A mattress company emailing me about mattresses I've ordered for that hotel
  • Someone asking me for a job at my company
  • Someone who wanted a refund for the flight I booked for him
  • A pizza restaurant emailing me NDAs I need to sign before I can meet with them
  • A company that was pleased with my interviews and offered me a job paying $55,000/year, plus a Blackberry and a TiVo (!)
  • A London jobs site sending me updates on on jobs I've applied to
  • Monster.com India sending me updates on legal jobs
  • A pregnancy site sending me information about my 27th week of pregnancy
  • A photo site sending me my password
  • A dating site sending me potential matches
  • An email asking about various legal cases I'm involved with
  • Yahoo sending me accounts for which my email is listed as the secondary email address
  • Someone sending me pictures from a hike I went on
  • Invites from several social networking sites from people I don't know
  • Someone asking me to send my software to an address in … Nigeria

Citibank India especially worries me. They didn't try to verify my email address. What you're supposed to do if you run a web service with accounts:

  1. Let me sign up online.
  2. Mark the account “unverified”.
  3. Send me an email with a verification code or link.
  4. Only once I verify the email address should you mark the account “verified”.
  5. Only send sensitive information to verified accounts.

Citibank India and Monster India do not do this. You should also never send passwords to people over email; send them a link that lets them reset their password.

I'm not sure why I get so many “wrong number” emails, but my guess is that it's because there are lots and lots of people named Amit Patel, and if you search for that name, you end up with me, so people assume I'm the Amit Patel they're looking for. If I'm getting repeated emails or if it seems like an important email, I'll send them an explanation of how they have the wrong email address; other times I just delete the email.