One thing we can all count on throughout the year is receiving a few pieces of mystery mail in our mailbox.

While I didn’t receive my favorite mystery mail this year – a taped-up paper lunch bag with a strange auto offer inside – I did receive a cryptic piece of mail today from my “Old Westport Neighbor."

Because I’m a Hopeful, I ignored all of its junk-mail markings, including its vague return address and telltale junk-mail scanned postage. Despite those things, it looked like it could be a fun secret letter. After all, it's the holidays and people sometimes send fun-but-weird mail this time of year.

I tore open this shady letter from “Old Westport Neighbors” wondering if I was interpreting it correctly. Was it from Old Westport Road neighbors? Was it from old Westport neighbors from back in the day? I’ve never lived in Westport, so none of these things should have made sense to me anyway.

Red flags aside, I continued.

This was more than a letter; it was an invitation to join the free app that allegedly everyone else is using called Nextdoor.

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We’ve come full circle, haven’t we? Using an app to get people’s real mailing addresses only to send them snail mail that invites them to use the app.

That’s a lot to process, I know.

But if you also got one of these invitations, signed by “Your Neighbor, [INSERT REAL NEIGHBOR'S NAME AND STREET].” Don’t jump onto the internet to sign up just yet. Your neighbor likely has no idea they even used his name.

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IS USING SOMEONE'S NAME FOR NEXTDOOR EVEN LEGAL?

After doing some digging, it seems as though your “neighbor” who signed this letter did not knowingly opt-in to sending out this mass mailing to the neighborhood. They may have just accidentally agreed to a prompt that was acting as a gateway between them and the app’s 800-posts-and-counting forum.

According to the NextDoor site, these invitations really are sent out on behalf of your real neighbors – sort of.

Yes, the letter you received is from a neighbour who has chosen to invite your household to Nextdoor. The invitation letter was sent on your neighbour's behalf, with their permission, and has been delivered to you by the Royal Mail. Because every neighbour must verify their address to become a member, you will only receive invitation letters from real neighbours living in your area.

I’m sure the poor guy whose name is at the bottom of my invitation did not realize that a simple opt-in meant a company would continually use his full name and street in their mailers. I’m sure other people are mad at him for getting them accidentally involved.

CAN YOU STOP NEXTDOOR FROM USING YOUR FULL NAME AND ADDRESS?

Unfortunately, there’s really not a whole lot he can do because allegedly, according to people trying to reverse their consent. That initial opt-in moment is all it takes for the invitation train to keep rolling. Also, it’s totally legal for them to do it because you agreed, even if unwittingly, to let it happen.

So in short, if you really want to join the group, make sure you know exactly what you are signing up for and not just reacting out of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out).

Ask yourself if there’s a Facebook group you can join instead to get the same information without committing to a lifetime of spamming your neighbors.

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