If You Can Read This, You're Breaking The Law!

from the your-mail-is-not-your-own dept

I get lots of (legitimate) email, intended for other people, sent to my email address. I guess it's easy to screw up your own address and wind up at mine -- or mine is just a popular one to use as a fake, when people don't want to supply their real one. Just today, I received an email from Remax, Northern Illinois, thanking me for registering on their site (and conveniently providing me with the password "I" used to sign up), which I didn't, an order confirmation for tickets to see Blue Man Group at the Pioneer Center (in Reno), which I did not purchase, and an "Acknowledgment Letter" from an attorney (maybe) with attachments and no message body aside from the following:
NOTE: This e-mail message (including attachments) is subject to attorney-client privilege and contains confidential information intended only for the person(s) to whom this email message is addressed. This e-mail may be covered by the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, 18 U.S.C. §2510-2521, which provides criminal penalties for your use of this email without permission. This message may contain Protected Health Information covered under HIPAA Rules and HITECH Standards including, but not limited to, all applicable requirements of the HIPAA Security rule in 45 C.F.R. §§ 164.308, 164.310,164.312 and 164.316, including any amendments thereto. If you have received this e-mail message in error, please notify the sender immediately by telephone or e-mail and destroy the original message without making a copy.
Now, although I have to admit that I was initially impressed by all those fancy numbers and § symbols, a few things struck me as odd. First of all, if the information is "intended only for the person(s) to whom this email message is addressed," and it was addressed to me, wouldn't that mean it's intended for me? Second, with absolutely no information in the body of the email, other than this warning, how am I supposed to know for sure that it was not intended for me? And, finally, if you mistakenly send someone else's confidential information directly to me (not because of an email server routing error), how is it that I am the one in danger of "criminal penalties" for opening my own mail?

As I have no interest in reading this person's confidential information, I have not opened the attachments and have no plans to do so. And although I'm not even certain a threat like this is enforceable, I will be canceling my email account, destroying my hard drive, and leaving the country for a while. Wish me luck.

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  1. identicon
    Scote, 11 Aug 2011 @ 4:22pm

    Fraudulent Disclaimer?

    I love all the boiler plate "this message may"s. Yeah, and the message **may** have been written by aliens. But none of the "mays" matter. The only thing that matters are what *actually* applies.

    What the message implies to me, in my opinion, is possible malpractice, for how else could Mike be receiving mail that "subject to attorney-client privilege and contains confidential information" that is not actually his? Are such boiler plate disclaimers merely written in the expectation of possible malpractice on the part of the attorney and his/her staff?

    And, I'll, bet that that same sig is used for all the attorney's e-mail, even when it isn't about a client and contains no privileged info. Not all info an attorney handles is privileged, so, again IMO, the disclaimer is likely fraudulent misrepresentation much of the time.

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