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I've been getting emails addressed to me that have nothing to do with me, nor are they even remotely related to my area (e.g. I'm in IT, and the emails are to do with legal).

I have responded similar to this response in the past, as I worked out that there's someone with a similar name to me who sounds like they work in the relevant department. However, that person doesn't work here anymore (and judging by LinkedIn, hasn't for a few years now).

These emails are asking for approval, and often have requests for an urgent response to meet some kind of deadline. I am not the only person on these emails, they are coming from an internal email address, and the emails are asking various people to approve various things in the attachments (I'm not sure what is in the attachments, I haven't opened them). I have looked up the sender and the other recipients, and they are all related to the thing that's being talked about.

I don't know where to start looking for the correct person to approve these things, and nobody in my area has any idea either. The email looks like it contains sensitive information in the attachments, so I also don't want to start CCing random people if they're not the right person.

How should I respond in a professional way to get them to stop emailing me?


To clarify, there are a lot of recipients because the email is asking for approval for things from various satellite offices around the world (one of which was run by my name-doppleganger before they left - the directory doesn't make it easy to find out who the replacement is). Nothing about the email screams "phishing scam" to me. I've received "reply-alls" from some of the other recipients for similar emails in the past, so I'm fairly confident it's a legit email. I haven't called the sender in the past as they're in a different timezone, but it sounds like the best course of action is to leave them a voicemail.

Thanks for all the replies and the warnings to be alert for phishing emails. It never hurts to be cautious.

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    Don't open the attachments. – Dan Pichelman Jan 8 '18 at 22:40
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    And see it this way. If it was really that urgent, they would have called the person as well. If they didn't and they keep on emailing you "urgent" things, even years after the other person left, that's really fishy. – Stephan Branczyk Jan 8 '18 at 22:53
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    The professional way to respond would be to just do the job that you are paid to do. You shouldn't be solving other people's problems not relevant to your job on company time. If they send their "urgent" requests without figuring out the right recipient, that's extremely sloppy and not your problem to fix. It is also likely to be a scam, where they randomly send mails to lots of addresses and wait for someone to reply thus "verifying" that the mail is actively in use, "enabling" them to proceed to the next step of the scam. – Masked Man Jan 9 '18 at 1:25
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    An internal email address? Are you sure they're not just spoofing it? Chances are, they are just spoofing it, otherwise, you would have gotten the name of the sender through your company directory and could have called him directly on the phone to tell him that he sent it to the wrong email address. And yes, they'll CC other email addresses on your domain, that's how scammers/phishers operate. – Stephan Branczyk Jan 9 '18 at 3:04
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    You should always be skeptical of emails that put a urgency in for a response even when it appears reasonable to do so. I'd call your IT department and explain you're getting a email from people within the company that has nothing to do with you. Let them determine if it is legit and they'll inform the proper person. If they are attaching sensitive information they may be breaking company rules. – Dan Jan 9 '18 at 14:27
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Look up the sender in your company directory and call them.

You say this email came from an internal source. You also say that you've already tried responding with a polite email in the past. This is a problem that can be solved very simply by picking up the phone and calling them. This allows you to do a few things:

  • Verify that the sender is actually a real person at the company
  • Verify that the sender actually did send the emails and isn't being impersonated
  • Guarantee that the sender receives the message that they are contacting the wrong person.

It is not your job to determine who the emails should be going to, but it is your responsibility to notify someone. Once you have spoken to someone (and not just voicemail), you can safely and guilt-freely ignore any further emails.

If you learn that the emails are actually a phishing attempt, be sure to notify your IT security so that they are aware of the issue.

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    Some companies have IT department dedicated to phishing emails and monitoring email. You can call that department as well and inform them you are receiving emails that appears to be internal source but has nothing to do with you. They may be breaking company rules by sending sensitive information. – Dan Jan 9 '18 at 14:28
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    @DavidK I haven't called them previously because they're in a different timezone, but it sounds like leaving them a voicemail might be the best solution since emailing them isn't working. – Fodder Jan 9 '18 at 21:28
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I don't know where to start looking for the correct person to approve these things, and nobody in my area has any idea either. The email looks like it contains sensitive information in the attachments, so I also don't want to start CCing random people if they're not the right person.

It's not your problem to find who these emails are meant for. But I would say that it is your duty to bring notice to the correct people that you are receiving company sensitive emails by error.

My take on this would be to contact HR and ask them where these emails should be forwarded to so that they can be dealt with.

I say HR over your boss because it may also be that your boss should not see the content either.

One caveat. Taking account of Dan's comment to the question, my answer is based on the emails being legitimate. It may be that you are subject to a phishing attack. So don't look at any attachments or click on any links.


(Anecdote Ahead)

In one place I worked the admin was asked to follow up on all the people who had not been up to date with filing their expense report paperwork. Somehow this admin emailed the spreadsheet containing the as list of all the people in the company and their current expenses account information to everyone in the company.

10 minutes later came the email requesting that we all deleted the spreadsheet that we received.


(Second anecdote)

At least you don't have someone faxing documents to the phone on your desk instead of the correct fax number - I've had to deal with that too.

  • At one point our office phone number was one digit off the number that the Navy ship personnel used to check availability of parts. While we were a Navy activity, we had nothing to do with parts. You wouldn't believe how many people refused to believe that we knew what our actual jobs were. – HLGEM Jan 9 '18 at 22:58
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How should I respond in a professional way to get them to stop emailing me?

First I suggest you inform your boss about this situation. Hopefully he can come up with a proper course of action for you to handle this situation that fits to your company's politics.

Now to reply to that person it would be again wise to check with your boss on whom to redirect the sender when this happens. If this starts getting annoying (as it seems to be), you can try:

Greetings JohnDoe. I am afraid you have an incorrect email address, as I am not familiar to what you are asking. I suggest you contact my company's Client Service Dept. for them to be able to communicate you with the right person. Cheers.

Or well redirect them to the recipient your boss indicated.

Another alternative that you may consider is to just ignore those emails, or filter them out. I would only recommend this after checking with your boss about the proper way of handling these situations and if the sender continues to mistake the emails after being provided with the correct recipient.

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Don't respond.

If they are sending an email to someone that has not worked there for years it is their problem.

It is likely a fishing expedition.

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