My Gmail setting has forever been set to send emails with just my Gmail address as the identifier, so it should not send out my account name (first or last name)... or so I thought!

Recently I got a reply from someone (to whom I had contacted for the first time and never disclosed my name) and they wrote my first name in their response (the "Dear xyz,"). How could this happen? Did they somehow hack my email to find out my name? (I was using Gmail app on iPad.)

After this happened, I checked my Gmail setting and the email I sent to him, and my name was not anywhere in it (the "To" and "From" sections just show my email address.)

This is so creepy. His email came from his company email address. Might their server have some special power to decode Gmail emails or something?

closed as primarily opinion-based by Eric G, Xander, schroeder, TildalWave, Rory Alsop Jan 27 '15 at 17:24

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • Is it possible that he may have guessed your name from your email address? – Dinu Jan 27 '15 at 10:51
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    Hacking your mail or your iPad is a very unlikely explanation. You mention that you contacted him, and you mention his company. No sane person with a legit business would hack your mail to get your name. – SPRBRN Jan 27 '15 at 11:07
  • Do you have a google+ account? – CodesInChaos Jan 27 '15 at 11:17
  • I don't think I have a google plus account. My profile page shows "Join google plus" and "Create a profile -Get started" buttons, and no results come up when I type my email address in google plus people search :( Btw it's impossible to guess my name from my email address. – Papill 10 mins ago – Papill Jan 27 '15 at 11:46
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    While I cannot speak to what info Gmail explicitly discloses, another possibility is that a simple google search for your email address may reveal a facebook account or something else with your real name. There are services that search this for a price. – Matthew Peters Jan 27 '15 at 14:30

There are a number of ways this can happen, but hacking your email account to find our your name really isn't one of them. That would be a ridiculous amount of work given the risk and the very small potential reward involved.

The most likely explanation also one of the most mundane possibilities: They already have your name associated with your email address. How? Who knows. You'd have to ask them. Perhaps they bought a marketing list that contained your name and email. Perhaps you're in their system from some previous interaction that you've forgotten. Perhaps they purchased another company, and you were in that company's system. Perhaps they subscribe to a service to which that can plug-in an email address, and it returns any public information from anywhere on the Internet that it can find about the owner of that email address. (These services do exist.)

The potential ways this could have happened are nearly endless, and almost none of them involve any sort of impropriety, so the bottom line is that I wouldn't worry about it.

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