What happens if someone mistypes your email address when they are trying to email you? Well, it’ll bounce back, won’t it, to tell you? But what if it doesn’t? What if it just sends and you assume the other person got your email.
Most ‘good’ email clients will remember email addresses that you have typed in and sent email to so the next time you try to email that person you may well send it to the wrong place again. It won’t happen everytime because sometimes you’ll be replying to an email they sent you or maybe you’ll type in the full, correct address without using the auto-complete.
So what? So a few emails will slip through the net. So it will give allow someone to legitimately say (for once!) that they never got the email. So what’s the problem, it won’t really go anywhere?
Well, maybe if you make a mistake in the individual part of the email address (for example email@example.com) it won’t matter, it probably won’t go anywhere. But depending on how a company has set up their email addresses you might accidentally send an email to the boss when you meant to send it to a friend. I can see that could cause a few problems but it’s going to be unlikely and you’ll probably find out about it quite quickly.
What may be more alarming is if you make a mistake in the domain portion of the email address (@example.com). Say, for example you are emailing a client firstname.lastname@example.org but because he spelt his email address over the phone you type in email@example.com or because of your chubby fingers and small phone keypad you type in firstname.lastname@example.org. What’s going to happen? Probably not much if you’re emailing email@example.com but if it is firstname.lastname@example.org and your email him to tell him an authorisation to take money from your bank account for Splongip (Big Core’s latest must have product that costs a fortune but has a nice logo) then maybe someone now has your bank details. “BUT IT WON’T GO ANYWHERE,” you say, “THE DOMAIN DOESN’T EXIST”. Except it probably does – just think how many times you end up on some made-for-adsense website because of a typo. All the typos you can imagine for Big Core do exist and a number of them might be owned by people with not too many scruples.
Scaremongering? Maybe, maybe not. Two researchers registered just 30 typo domains for a number of Fortune 500 companies and managed to harvest 20GB of misaddressed email in just six months. Now I’m sure that these two researchers didn’t search through these emails and use them for their own uses but I’m equally sure there are others out there who would, could and probably have.