American Express keeps sending her information about someone else’s account


Chaya Friedman is receiving emails about another American Express customer. Can I make them stop?

Question: American Express keeps sending me information about someone else’s account.  I have contacted the company numerous times through its website and on the phone over the past year, but American Express seems unable or unwilling to correct the problem.  I don’t even have an American Express card anymore, but the emails keep coming. Help! — Chaya Friedman, Des Plaines, Ill.

Answer: That’s not only highly annoying, but troubling. A company shouldn’t be sending you any information about another customer. If it does, and you tell it, the company should do everything in its power to stop immediately — not just for the sake of your sanity, but also for the sake of the other customer’s privacy.

But American Express is a big and sometimes bureaucratic company, as are most corporations of that size. While the will may have been there, the way was not. So your repeated requests by email and phone simply got bounced between departments. That’s not good customer service, even for someone who used to be a customer.


American Express claims to be committed to protecting your details. “At American Express, we are committed to safeguarding your privacy,” it notes in the lengthy privacy statement on its site. Yet a closer read of its policy reveals that it reserves the right to share your personal information with a long list of entities, including other businesses within the American Express family, service providers, financial institutions, co-brand partners, or Chaya Friedman. I’m kidding about the last one, but with these privacy statements, nothing would surprise me.

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One of American Express’ other promises is to serve its customers, “24/7, around the world.” That clearly did not happen here, either.

You could have appealed this to someone higher up at American Express. I list the names, numbers and email addresses for the top customer service executives on my consumer advocacy site.

I contacted American Express on your behalf and recommended that you also reach out to the executives at the company. No response. Finally, I contacted American Express to let it know I would be writing about your misadventure. Only then did the company delete your email address from its database — hopefully once and for all.


Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at chris@elliott.org.

  • LDVinVA

    Good heavens, so much ado for a two-minute record change. Amex should be ashamed!

  • Byron Cooper

    How do we know these emails came from American Express? I get emails every day about accounts that I do not have. When I check the sender info in my inbox, I find out that it is from someone other than the business that is supposedly sending the email.

  • cscasi

    I guess Chris and company could check with Chaya and find out if she stopped receiving the emails about another American Express customer or not.

  • SirWIred

    I’m FirstIniital.Lastname@gmail.com (e.g. J.Doe@gmail.com), and I get e-mail intended for others all the time. If it looks important and comes from an actual person, I send it back with a note that it’s not meant for me. If it’s a random (but legit-looking) mailing list, I unsubscribe.

    On the occasion when it does contain account info, I’ll try and fix it if I can, but I just delete it if I can’t. (Fixing it is pretty much impossible when the e-mail obscures the account number; that happens all the time.) I figure it’s just not my fault that the company didn’t verify the address before using it and it’ll either get fixed or it won’t. (I got overage notices for somebody’s Sprint account for a couple years; I finally got it fixed when an e-mail got sent about an update to the account that contained the actual phone number; that let me send a text to the person it was meant for.)

  • The Original Joe S

    I’m gonna write about your incompetence in my blog, read by THOUSANDS of people. Ha ha ha!

  • TiaMa

    I have a similar situation. I get emails for someone with a similar email. I looked at Gmail’s help page and it says that even with periods in the name to the right of the “@,” similar emails would be directed to my email. I do the same as you when it comes to unsubscribing, but I’m concerned others may get emails intended for me.

  • James

    American Express was one of the worst companies for selling one’s email address — so I do not provide them with one.

    A tip: You can tag your email so you can identify where it goes. Assuming your mail server supports it (gmail does, UNIX/Linux based mail servers do), just append “+id” to your name. So, it might be something like xyzzy.plugh+ax@gmail.com (where the original address is xyzzy.plugh@gmail.com) Then look at the actual address to which the email was sent.

    You may be able to filter on the tagged email as well, so if you see the address sold or shared in a way for which you do not approve, you can filter it to junk.

  • greg watson

    I have been getting phone calls about my American Express account………………interesting, because I have never had one……………probably some type of scam…………so I ignore it

  • Meredith Putvin

    This is why I have a seemingly nonsensical name as my e-mail address (In addition to my love of fiction).

  • Carol Molloy

    I wonder what kind of information about another account holder she was receiving. Was it marketing ( rather benign) or transaction related? If she was receiving alerts about transactions, then the mix up was very serious, and could have been reported to the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau when AMEX failed to correct the problem. Either way, AMEX should have gotten it resolved promptly.

  • BubbaJoe123

    Option 1: Make multiple phone calls and website contacts to Amex to get them to change an address.
    Option 2: Spend 30 seconds to filter all emails from that Amex address to the trash.

  • BubbaJoe123

    I’m also a FirstinitialLastname@gmail person, and I occasionally get email intended for someone else. If it’s personal, I respond. If not, I flag as spam.

  • Kairho

    Only if a piece of junk email comes from a reputable company which is well known to me (and I can verify and links in the mail are from that company, which is not always easy) will I ever call to correct an error or unsubscribe from a list. Many scammer-spammers look for your unsubscribe return email because that tells them it is indeed a valid email address with someone looking at it. That’s gold to them.

  • wilcoxon

    Unfortunately, this is all too common. Many businesses that should know better do not validate email addresses.

    I’ve gotten:
    * emails for someone else from a legal firm (some details I shouldn’t have had but not many). They did remove me once contacted.
    * emails for someone else’s airline frequent flyer account. No account details were included but the emails were pretty frequent. The only way to unsubscribe was to login to the account and the only way to reset password was to know the frequent flyer number (which was not in emails). I contacted customer service multiple times and only got resolution when I pointed out they were violating the law in their HQ country.
    * emails with information about classes that someone was taking (or teaching one time).

    Every business should properly validate email addresses.

  • wilcoxon

    Presumably someone checked the sender data.

  • wilcoxon

    I’ve never gotten one specific to AmEx. I do get occasional calls from “account services” or “cardholder services” (where no company is specified) and just hang up immediately on those scam calls.

  • wilcoxon

    Option 2 only works if you don’t and don’t plan to have an AmEx (or whatever company) account.

  • Byron Cooper

    Why would you presume that? Who checked the sender data?

  • SirWIred

    When I send unsubscribe requests, it’s to places like a small bookstore in CA or a Hyundai dealership in FL. They are legit businesses that have no interest in spamming, and the unsubscribe requests generally work. No, I don’t send unsubscribe requests to everybody, but in cases like that, me getting added is a clear error.

  • wilcoxon

    Because, even if the original person did not, the advocates with this site have been doing this a long time (so they would know to verify sender data). On top of that, the resolution tells us that it really was AmEx sending the emails (they stopped once AmEx updated their db).

  • BubbaJoe123

    So you drop the filter when/if you get an Amex again. The OP doesn’t have an Amex, no indication he/she plans to.

  • SusanV

    Former longtime gmail help forum volunteer here. What do you mean by “similar”?

    Gmail ignores periods (and also case). What usually happens is that someone who has an account that differs by, say, an added numeral or middle initial forgets that that component is part of the account name and gives out what’s essentially your address. I cannot tell you how often we’d get complaints that someone else had the same address and they were worried about mail going to that person. In all my years on the forum, there was never, ever a situation that was not resolved because this was not the reason.

  • TiaMa

    The email is based on my name and I use this email for professional purposes, such as applying for jobs. My name is common so what I came up with was lastname[period]firstname[period]middle initial@gmail.com. Based on the Gmail help, like you said, the periods are ignored. The emails I receive on occasion is my email address without the periods, but the middle initial could possibly be the last letter of the other person’s first name, so their email is mylastnamemyfirstnamemymiddleinitial@gmail.com. Based on what Gmail help, I don’t understand how they were able to create that email address and why I am getting their emails. I’ve been a victim of credit card fraud several times, so I’m pretty concerned when things like this crop up.

  • SusanV

    Gotcha. That’s what I was guessing. The person *didn’t* do that, is my point. The person probably tried to, couldn’t because it already belonged to you, and added some other character or characters — but then forgot that when giving out the address. That is *always* why this happens. Every. Single. Time.

    IOW: You are smith.mary.z. The other person is actually smithmaryz15. But when she gives out this address she forgets the 15, so you get the mail.

    If I had a nickel for every one of these that we had to deal with over my years in that forum, you and I could both be retired on a beach somewhere (or wherever you’d prefer LOL). It’s nothing to worry about, please believe me.

  • TiaMa

    Whenever I get one of these emails, I check the details to see if it’s my email without the periods or a spam like email. I hope that it’s as you describe – that the email actually has additional characters that they forgot. Thanks for your input!

  • William Leeper

    It is ABCDEFG+XX@gmail.com where XX represents the ID that you are assigning to the particular company you give the address to.

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