E-mails going to unintended recipients; how does THAT happen?

My girlfriend sent out an email yesterday updating her friends on a very personal matter, the health of the father. However, a few minutes after sending this email, she received an “out of office” reply from someone whom the letter was not addressed to. We checked to make sure, and double-checked to make certain. Not only was the letter not addressed to Joyce Gregory, she doesn’t have Joyce in her address book at all. Far as we know, no one we know has any relation with this woman—this though, can’t be a 100%. So what gives?

Is this a virus on the machine she sent it from? A virus on a recipient’s end? Or is GMail just sending out emails willy-nilly? It’s disturbing since this wasn’t your run-of-the-mill forwarded-crapola, but rather something that was quite private.

Enlighten me.

p.s. Yes, she emailed Joyce Gregory, but her auto-reply says she’ll be on vacation until the 30th. So here we sit, perplexed.

Is it possible someone in her address book she DID mean to email set up mail forwarding to a different address? Perhaps the intended recipient is on vacation too, so she set up her email to forward to Joyce to take care of it for her.

That’s certainly a possibility, but I think the email came from an office that she hadn’t sent the email to in the first place. I’ll do some research on that. Is there any other explanation?

The most likely culprit is a virus on a third-party machine, and I’m pretty sure that the “out of office” reply had nothing to do with the letter your girlfriend sent out, it just happened to arrive at the same time.

What has most likely happened is that someone (Person X) has both your girlfriend’s and Joyce’s e-mail address on his system somewhere (not necessarilly the address book. Many viruses/trojans will search not only the address book, but also web pages, temporary internet files, word documents, text files, etc for e-mail addresses and use them) - and you don’t necessarily have to know that person - he could have her address from a CC: in an e-mail for instance. The virus then grabs a couple of addresses at random. The To: field is one address (Joyce’s in this case), while the “Reply-To:” and/or “From:” address is a second address (your girlfriend’s in this case). So Joyce gets this infected email from Person X; however she’s out so her e-mail program (Microsoft Exchange would be my guess in this case :slight_smile: ) automatically sends an “Out of Office” note to the reply-to address.

In any event, I think you can rest easy knowing that it’s most likely not her system. If you’ve run an up-to-date virus and spyware scanner, I wouldn’t worry about - just delete the mail.

Thanks, that’s helpful. She was sending it from her mother’s computer, which she has no knowledge of recent virus checks/spyware etc. And you saw ahead to what would have been my follow up question: why did her email reply to her if it was forwarded? You have the second sight. I applaud it.

I had a friend (acquantaince) who E-mailed a love letter to one girlfriend, but ended up being sent to his other girlfriend as well. Now, ignoring the moral implications of having two girlfriends (and the hilarity than ensued, at least from an observer’s standpoint), a deeper mystery was revealed – the mail server logs only show one recipient: the intended one. Aside from the constant sobbing/yelling, there was absolutely no evidence that she ever got the message.

From the subsequent reaction, it’s clear that neither knew about the other; hence, any sort of intentional forwarding is out of the question. In addition, one woman was in the U.S. while the other was in Italy, making having a mutual acquaintance incredibly unlikely.

The message was not sent from Outlook or Eudora or any other program that people commonly gripe about – it was sent using the Pine mail program for a Unix platform (hence, viruses are an unlikely explanation).

The mystery is now 7 years old at this point but still amuses me. If anyone has theories or even WAG’s, I’m certainly willing to listen.

Here’s a total WAG–mail sender knows excellent hacker who had an axe to grind.