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As Shakespeare once famously penned, “what’s in a name?” And while this isn’t a tale of star-crossed lovers, it is a precautionary tale of email security.
A recent article in The Age talks about the rise of the email doppelganger, a situation where people send you emails intended for someone else with the same name as you.
Many of us have received emails not intended for our inbox. This is usually down to human error, such as selecting the wrong name from an address list. But what if you were continually receiving emails that were really meant for the ‘other you’? Your so-called ‘virtual doppelganger’.
This raises a number of privacy and security issues. The most obvious being that if someone sends you an email by mistake – believing it’s going to someone else of the same name – then you may be privy to information of a sensitive nature. And while you may have received an email unintentionally, you would generally need to read it first to realise it’s not for you.
Alternatively you might believe a genuine email is nothing more than spam and that the sender’s address is part of a phishing scam. Then there’s also the simple fact that some people may never be receiving email messages intended for them, whether these be personal or business related.
How to avoid becoming an email doppelganger*
One of the best ways to ensure people reach the ‘real you’ is to use your own domain. This reduces the possibility of your emails going to someone else by mistake.
If you have registered a business, or even personal, domain (e.g. ‘greatdesigns.com’) you can then use FastMail to setup email addresses at this domain, which means people will always be emailing the right ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’. Creating your own email domain makes it very unlikely that someone will accidentally give your email address as their own. It also means that if you mistype your address somewhere it’s unlikely to go to someone else. Let’s contrast this to having the email address ‘email@example.com’, which might only be a small typo away from accounts with very similar email addresses.
You can host the email for your domain(s) with FastMail, providing you have an Enhanced/Premier personal account, or a business/family account.
Use an alias*
You can also add a number of email aliases to your inbox. This allows you to have different email addresses which all deliver to your one FastMail account, without the need to purchase multiple accounts.
For example, while your email address might be ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’ you could also add ‘email@example.com’ and ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’ too.
FastMail supports catch-all aliases on your domain, so that any email that is sent to ‘@yourdomainname’ will come to you, even if that specific alias doesn’t exist.
Using aliases and your own domain are two great ways to help reduce the chance of your emails going to someone else. And while there aren’t always complete safeguards against human error – for example, someone might have two friends with the same or similar name in their address book – it’s good to know there’s still plenty you can do to protect your email self.