Aflac Accidentally Introduces 624 Strangers To Each Other Via Mass Email

We’d hoped that Activision’s blunder would be the last one, but it turns out the HR department at Aflac can’t find the BCC field either. Reader Corey writes in to let us know he just received an email addressed to him and 623 other people who were interested in jobs with the insurance company. Our guess is some of the recipients won’t be so interested in a career with a company that doesn’t care about the privacy of its employees. After the jump, a quick guide to obscuring other recipients’ email addresses so this doesn’t happen again.

1. Enter all of the email addresses in the “BCC” or Blind Carbon Copy field.
2. DO NOT enter them in the “To” field.

(Photo: Getty)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Quatre707 says:

    You’d be surprised how many people have no idea what CC and BCC mean.

  2. hamsangwich says:

    I’ve had that happen to me from different companies about 3 times, none of which I’ve had more than a customer relationship with, and I always reply all and say how dumb it is not to use the BCC field. That starts a chain of reply alls and I just imagine the originator of the e-mail freaking out in their office.

  3. Dyscord says:

    Ugh. I think that it’s potentially annoying when people don’t use the BCC field, but a good many of people don’t really care. When I get an email by one of my friends that’s also been sent to all of their friends, most of which I don’t know, I don’t care. It’s not that big of a deal to me. But I think that email problems should be set so that any email with over 10 recipients should automatically be BCC’s somehow.

  4. MayorBee says:

    Come on now, they didn’t mean to ruffle any feathers. It was an honest mistake. No need to cry fowl just yet. And let’s please refrain from making wise quacks, okay?

  5. The Great Aussie Evil says:

    Some email programs hide the BCC field. [/da]

  6. MercuryPDX says:

    @Mayorbee with the still broken reply link: I dunno… I would think a company like AFLAC would have all their ducks in a row?

  7. MayorBee says:

    @MercuryPDX: I suppose you’re right. But they are hunting for employees…maybe the HR guy was just winging it until he could get some help? Still, not using the BCC is a bit of a foie gras.

  8. Alex Chasick says:

    @Dyscord: I like the suggestion to automatically BCC recipients over ten. I don’t really mind it when it’s a bunch of friends’ email addresses, as once the thread gets boring, I just mute it in gmail (for readers unfamiliar with mute, it hides all “reply all” responses to a group email but alerts you when an email is sent only to you, a great tool to use against people who don’t understand how evite works). Nonetheless, I think companies should be a little more guarded; at the very least, this doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence that they’re protecting their customers’ emails (or not selling them).

  9. MercuryPDX says:

    @Mayorbee with the still broken reply link: At least they can form a support group now, provided AFLAC foots the bill.

  10. purplesun says:

    Goodness. I remember getting a string of emails for almost two weeks at office about some guy’s retirement party that worked at least two time zones away from us (I work for a massive corporation). Started out with just the announcement, then I probably got 45 emails from dorks hitting reply-all with comments like, “Who are you?” and “Congrats on the retirement, but I don’t know you people”.

    I think the system admin had to go do some head slappin’ to get them to stop.

    At least that was internal.

    That’s what I have one email address for personal stuff, one for work stuff, one for resumes and job searches, and one for questionable websites that require registration. Yes, it’s somewhat annoying to keep track, but at least my identity is spread out far and wide.

  11. @MercuryPDX: I don’t know, I’m not sure they can duck their way out of this one.

  12. purplesun says:

    @Michael Belisle: *groans*

  13. @Michael Belisle: I mean, they really fowled it up big time. But maybe they can come up with some sort of decoy to distract the webbed masses.

  14. purplesun says:

    @Michael Belisle: It’s like they’ve gone quackers.

    Good night.

  15. @purplesun: You might be right. I’ll have to ponder this overnight.

  16. allthoseships says:

    this happened to me when i applied for a job with Wachovia. when they called to set up the interview they made it seem like it was going to be an actual interview. then i get the email with at least 50 other addresses on it (it’s funny how many of them were nonprofessional, juvenile email addresses). of course when i go in for the interview there are 20 other people there & it’s not really an interview but a pre-interview.

  17. ReidFleming says:

    I’m fairly certain there are quite a few people on Consumerist that have never used carbon paper. That’s probably the reason ‘Blind Courtesy Copy’ is becoming the more popular reading of BCC. Just FYI.

  18. scoobydoo says:

    The time has come for Outlook and Thunderbird to warn you if you have more than 3 or 4 emails in the CC field.

  19. RandomHookup says:

    Not nearly as hair raising as the time the VD Free Clinic did that to mmm…a friend of mine.

  20. muffingal says:

    This happened to me once with a real estate agent. I repeatedly asked him to BCC me and finally asked him to remove me from his emails.

  21. jwarner132 says:

    The same thing happened to me with Aetna insurance when they wanted me to come back for a second interview, but the email was only sent to about 30 people. Suffice to say I declined to go in for the second interview.

  22. YamiNoSenshi says:

    Sounds familiar.

    *dig dig dig*

    Oh yeah. I have the e-mail address of everyone in my graduating class, since the people running the school bookstore didn’t know how to BCC when telling us to pick up our caps and gowns.

  23. Ouhh, I did this a few weeks ago with our club newsletter… (150+ recipients).

    It gave me an idea though. Mail clients / webmail should hold onto a message for a few minutes before actually sending it. It seems every email mistake I make is realized moments after hitting the “send” button, and that delay would be enough to fix most problems.

  24. organicgardener says:

    I got one of these emails from a mortgage broker that I’d been exchanging private emails with for about a month. He said that he had a deal that would fit me perfectly, blah blah blah, very personalized sounding. Except that the “To” field had about 40 other email addresses besides mine.

    I emailed back (via Reply All) that I didn’t want to do business with someone who mass emailed such an offer.

  25. jamesdenver says:

    My political spam as been ramping up lately with well intentioned by email illiterate co-workers having great fun with the reply all and forward keys.

    I’ve been really, really, tempted to explain why exactly Obama was required to remove the American flag from his plane, but I refuse to sink to their level.

    Its especially aggravating when they even reference Snopes and write “OMG ITS TRUE” without even reading the entire f-ing article…

    just my specific annoyance…

  26. Farquar says:

    This just happened out in LA with a high class escort service. A string of emails between the madame and a client about a girl, that the madame then forwarded, with everyone’s email addresses showing, to her client list.

    I’d find a link but don’t think googling “escort service email error” is good for my job security.

  27. johnfrombrooklyn says:

    Then they missed out on one of the great joys of 3rd grade. Being asked by the teacher to turn the roller to print out the carbon copies. And then deeply inhaling them afterwards.@ReidFleming:

  28. chemman says:

    I applied for a job about two years ago. I had a phone screen interview and determined the company wasn’t for me and told the very unprofessional HR rep as much by the end of the interview. Two months later I get an email from her asking if I’m still interested in the job, but I just ignored it at first. Then a day or so later I received an email response from one of the other applicants saying how she was still interested in the job, so I went back an looked at the first email. She had sent it out to every candidate that had applied and used the “to” box for them all. I was furious, my industry is very small and a number of the people on the distribution list were associates that worked with people I knew. I immediately emailed the HR rep and told her how unprofessional this was and I demanded they take my name out of any database they have. Her only response was “sorry”.
    I hope they ended up hiring the girl who was bright enough to respond to all with interest in the job, she’d fit right in there.

  29. Mr. Guy says:

    @MayorBee is…: you guys are killing me. i just had somebody come in to my office to ask what i was laughing about.

  30. MomInTraining says:

    @Matthew Hughes: You can set a delay delivery rule in Outlook. Instructions are at [] This is great for when you hit Send and instantly realize you forgot to use the bcc field or hit reply to all accidentally. You just go to your Outbox, grab the message, and avert disaster.

  31. maines19 says:

    @johnfrombrooklyn: That’s not carbon copy you’re talking about, it’s mimeograph. Carbon copy was when you placed a filmy, hard-to-handle sheet of carbon paper between two sheets of typing paper or stationery, patted their bottoms into a folded bit of note paper to keep the three sheets aligned as you rolled them into your typewriter, then typed your document. The strike of the letter on the page had to be hard enough to make an impression from the typewriter ribbon onto the first page (the original) and from the carbon paper (basically a giant sheet of typewriter ribbon film) onto the second sheet (the carbon copy)–not a problem with a good electric typewriter, but required solid force on each keystroke when using a manual typewriter.

    My god, I’m old.

  32. econobiker says:

    I had a vendor owner/salesman fishing for business send out a mass email with the To: line to his customers/contacts about how he was working for a new company. Problem was that the guy had apparently shut down his prior business and burned some of his other customers’ downstream customers bad.

    This was made apparent when one of these burned contacts “Replied To All” (obviously deliberately) and asked if the salesman would pay back the $12,000 which it had cost the burned business (when salesman had shut down his old business) before he got a new order. Whoops!!!

    It is also heartwarming nostalgia to see a mass email with the names/ email addresses of recently laid off executive level employees included as was recently provided by a captive travel vendor for my employer. (Note to executive level administration- include Travel agency in company announcement emails.)

  33. jerseyjeff says:

    And if you are going to blind copy a lot of people, don’t forget to include Ray Charles.

  34. HogwartsAlum says:


    Don feel bad; I am too. I remember those purple mimeograph sheets (mmmmm, they smelled sooo good!) and carbon paper.

  35. kleenex88h says:

    We had someone in the HR department hit the wrong button and send the password for the HR database (which includes everyone’s salary information, address, phone number, SSN, etc.) to the ENTIRE company. Moron.

  36. kd1s says:

    My other favorite is when someone gets an email message addressed to those 624 people and then hits reply-all. Talk about an email storm.

  37. suzy-q says:

    @kd1s: Hehe. Funny story. A college I applied to sent me (and about a thousand other applicants) an e-mail advertising some sort of volunteer opportunity after what would have been half-way through my freshman year there. I don’t go to that college, and neither did all the other people who replied to the list-serve asking to be removed from the mailing list. For the next week, all I got in my inbox was a thousand messages saying “Please remove me from this mailing list” followed by “Don’t reply everyone – it’s a list-serve,” again followed by “what’s a list-serve????”

    Fun stuff.