Do You Need a Disposable Email Address?

Category: Email

Have you ever visited a website which required your email address to make a purchase, create an account or gain access to information? I'm sure you have, and in some cases you've probably done so hesitantly, thinking that you might be opening your inbox to a flood of spam. A disposable email address provide a handy solution to this problem. Read on to learn more...

Fight Spam With a Disposable Email Address

It seems everyone wants my email address: Facebook, my bank, my accountant, even the tomato vendor at the farmer’s market. It’s no wonder my spam filter is so busy, but I do wonder which of the many entities that have my email address gave, sold, or lost it to spammers. Disposable email addresses can help you tell who the untrustworthy contacts are.

A disposable email address is a temporary or anonymous email address that can forward mail to your permanent address. Ideally, any replies you send are relayed back through the disposable email address to the original sender, who never learns your permanent address. If unwanted emails suddenly start arriving through the disposable email address, you can stop it by deleting or filtering that address.

Disposable Email Addresses

You can have one disposable email address for every entity that requires an email address, if you like. Then if spam starts coming from a given disposable email address, you can be pretty certain who’s responsible. It’s possible that a spammer just randomly generated an email address that matched one of your disposable email addresss, but it’s MUCH more likely that the entity to which you gave the disposable email address shared it with a spammer, willingly or by theft. Having narrowed down the security leak to one entity, you can investigate and decide whether to give that entity another disposable email address or steer clear of it.

Plus Addressing and Other Options

There are several ways to create disposable email addresss on your own; some are a lot more work than others. My favorite is “plus addressing” with Gmail, which lets me make up a disposable email address on the spot for whoever wants it. Here is how plus addressing works, and some limitations on this technique.

Let's say your email address is whatever@gmail.com. Add a “+” sign and any string of characters between “whatever” and the @ symbol, for example, whatever+ChaseBank@gmail.com. Now give that address to your online Chase Bank account. Repeat the process for Facebook, newsletter subscriptions, online stores, websites with "squeeze pages" that make you supply an address to continue, etc. All mail sent to your plus addresses will go to your whatever@gmail.com inbox.

If you start getting unwanted emails at the plus address, just create a Gmail filter to send them to the Trash. For extra points, create a filter to funnel the mail from each plus address to its own Gmail folder. Just keep in mind, this trick works well for automated systems that send to you, but can be defeated by humans who are clever enough to remove the "plus" portion of the address. Also, when you reply to a message sent to one of your plus addresses, the From line will be your standard Gmail reply address, not the plus address.

The plus sign trick also works with Outlook.com (formerly Hotmail) but Yahoo uses minus signs and makes the process a bit more difficult. See this page on Disposable Addresses in Yahoo to learn how it works.

Another option, if you have your own domain and receive email there, is to create email aliases. That's outside the scope of this article, but your web host or domain registrar can provide details on whether that feature is offered, and how to set it up.

Disposable Email Address Services

Yes, it is a lot of work to set up and maintain disposable addresses for all the entities with which you communicate via email. Fortunately, there are numerous disposable email address services that handle most of the heavy lifting for you. Here are some of the established and reputable disposable email address service providers:

Trashmail receives emails and forwards them to your permanent address. When you set up a disposable email address on Trashmail, you can set a limit on the number of emails that can be received or the number of days that may pass before the disposable email address expires. A Chrome browser addon makes it more convenient to use the service. Basic service is free, but if you want more than 300 addresses, unlimited forwarding or a permanent address, Trashmail Plus can be purchased for US$12.99/year.

Mailinator: There's no registration, just make up a username and give out the address username@mailinator.com. That address will be created on Mailinator’s server when someone sends mail to it. Just be aware that Mailinator inboxes are public, so anyone can read mail sent to that address! After a few hours, all mail is deleted. So Mailinator is an easy, on-the-fly disposable email address service useful for online forums and other sites that require one-time registration. You just go to Mailinator.com to respond to the “confirmation” email sent by the forum or site.

10minutemail: Get a random email address that vanishes after 10 minutes; you can get a 10-minute extension if you need it.

And if you want to explore further, here's a list of over 40 temporary and disposable email services.

Do you use disposable email addresses? Tell me how you do it, or if you have another strategy for dealing with this problem. Post your comment or question below...

 
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This article was posted by on 14 Aug 2014


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Most recent comments on "Do You Need a Disposable Email Address?"

Posted by:

Ed Been
14 Aug 2014

There are often problems with the Gmail+ routine.
First - numerous sites reject email addresses with a + character.
Second - sometimes the add routine on a site accepts the Gmail + but the unsubscribe does not. And often the site does not recognize the Gmail + address once it has been accepted.
In other words every section of a web site may have different requirements when scrutinizing an email address.


Posted by:

Who Knows
14 Aug 2014

The one I use is http://www.yopmail.com

Good for a quick throw-away account.


Posted by:

Kjay
14 Aug 2014

I use 'Trashmail' with the 'Firefox' browser extension, quick and very easy to use.
I don't use 'Chrome' browser but I guess it would be similar to that add-on you mention.
I look forward to your articles, thank you for the time you take to help us all.


Posted by:

ArtM
14 Aug 2014

I use many aliases and forward them via GMail (a very good spam-trapper/filter)to my non-graphical email reader (Pine or Alpine - remember thosoe old timers?).

When I must supply an email address but never want to hear from the site again, I use nomail@mydomain.com, BUT DO NOT authorize forwarding of that alias. And there's always "anything@example.com: altho' some sites reject that domain.


Posted by:

D
14 Aug 2014

When I first set up my e-mail accounts years ago, I created one special account which I use for all unimportant, general registration, and/or "nuisance" purposes. I only check that account once a week or so, and can easily line up and delete all the spam and "special sales" announcements.

I only give out my main e-mail address to those people I know personally and specifically want to hear from.


Posted by:

Rochelle
14 Aug 2014

My primary email addresses are POP3 at Verizon.I've been using a few at Gmail as my disposables. Didn't know about the + email. Good article.


Posted by:

Lucy
14 Aug 2014

I have used disposable email addresses on business transactions for years. If I start receiving spam it is very easy to delete that address and create a new one for me to contact that business. ( Remembering to change my info on that site).

I started creating them for contact with friends when many of them had their email account hacked and I was receiving messages with links supposedly from them.

Over time I have created an address to use for each of my contacts. I have already needed to delete a few of them when their account was hacked.

I have also found it useful for websites that use my email address at sign in. I change those addresses as often as I change my passwords.

Overkill? Maybe, but it makes me feel a little more secure online.


Posted by:

RandiO
14 Aug 2014

Email "Aliasing" - Wikipedia definition of 'aliasing' is here >> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Email_alias
Microsoft’s Outlook.com isn't anywhere near as tweakable as Gmail, but one great thing Outlook.com does offer is email aliases—multiple, independent email addresses belonging to a single account.
1) http://www.pcworld.com/article/2095505/use-outlook-coms-aliases-to-hide-your-true-email-address-from-prying-eyes.html
2) http://www.pcworld.com/article/2042258/microsoft-kills-linked-accounts-in-outlook-com.html
For Apple/iCloud users: Email aliases are like nicknames for your email address. Learn more about the email aliases you can use with your iCloud account here >> http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4897
If Mozilla Thunderbird (TB) is used as the local email client to retrieve emails from multiple email addresses you may have; TB also provides a local setup for aliased email routing (see instructions at https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/configuring-email-aliases).
Email aliasing along with 'sub-domaining' provide formidable spam protection/control but only if your email provider allows such provisions (such as the paid services of fastmail.fm).
If you are seeking a temporary email account other than the ones already covered in Mr. Rankin's great coverage of the subject, you may wish to review this link http://www.moreofit.com/similar-to/www.hushmail.com/Top_10_Sites_Like_Hushmail/


Posted by:

Brett
14 Aug 2014

I personally use Abine's own MaskMe chrome extension. I have the pro version but that's mostly for masking my credit card. It's an amazing service that masks your email, phone, and credit card in one feel swoop. Complete 'protection' all around. But the service does allow unlimited masked email addresses. You can leave them open indefinitely or, if you see spam coming across one of them, shut it down. They also offer to create passwords and store them with auto fill function similar to LastPass. Great service for me personally and well worth the money. I believe the free version is everything except credit card masking. Give it a shot.


Posted by:

Daniel Wiener
14 Aug 2014

I own several different domain names, and use my name @ each domain so that I have multiple email addresses. But each one is email-forwarded to my Gmail account, and I have also set up my Gmail account so that I can choose to send from any one of them. This has a couple of advantages: (1) I'm not locked into Gmail or any other email service, since I can always point my email-forwarding to Yahoo or Hotmail or anywhere else if I become dissatisfied. (2) If one email address becomes a problem I can just block it out and either use another one from another domain name or use a variation for that domain name. However, Gmail's spam filter (which I always review) and customizable filters are pretty effective, so it hasn't been a problem so far.


Posted by:

Alan
15 Aug 2014

I have about 14 different email addresses all included in my 'Microsoft Live Mail' client on my PC. Several of these addresses are used as nothing more than disposable addresses. It's easy. Anything coming into those accounts is simply deleted.


Posted by:

Michael Brose
15 Aug 2014

So why not just enter a bogus email address that you make up as you fill out the blank? When I am required to give my phone number I give them my land line number. It never rings through, and they get to talk to my router. Here is another idea, if you have the email address of someone you don't like that well, just use his/her address.


Posted by:

Patty
17 Aug 2014

Michael Brose's comment made me laugh out loud...what a great idea about the phone...think I might use that one!


Posted by:

Patty
17 Aug 2014

Michael Brose's comment made me laugh out loud...what a great idea about the phone...think I might use that one!


Posted by:

Clairvaux
13 Sep 2014

Maybe I missed something, but I found Microsoft's Outlook.com options for aliases are very limited : you can only create a few, and there's a limit to how often you can do it !

Unlimited disposable addresses are really a must (by unlimited, I mean : at least a few hundred). One case you absolutely need such a service is when you're offline, and an actual person asks you point-blank for your mail : a shop assistant who wants to get back to you, a clerk at a public library...

Then you need to invent a disposable address out of you head, because it's a given that an entity which asks you to write down your mail with a pen and paper will not care to offer you an unsubscribe option when it uses it online. And chances are that it will use it to pester you, not only for what's actually useful to you.

At least that's how it's done in my part of the world.


Posted by:

Stephanie
15 Sep 2014

http://www.mailimate.com


Posted by:

John up north
16 Sep 2014

For a completely free option, your suggestions sound great. I've had my own domain for years with email forwarding ($10-15 year) with a catch-all address (me@myisp.com) I get all mail sent to whomever@mydomain.com. Then I filter, automatically delete it, or have it come to my inbox just as you suggest. So more reputable companies like Amazon send their email to amazon@mydomain.com, it forwards to me@myisp.com and I get it. Less reputable companies send their email to evilspammercompany@kulshan.net and because I've figure out that that free gift they were giving away was just a scam to get my email address, so they go right to deleted folder without me ever even knowing it arrived.
Thanks Bob!


Posted by:

Andy B.
08 Oct 2014

I use MaskMe by Abine. The email addresses aren't as pretty and you don't get to choose what the masked email will be, but that's minor. I use the Firefox addon. What this does is ask me if I want to mask my email address on every form requiring one. I can just click and MaskMe creates the email and puts it in the field.

I tried Mailinator this morning and, contrary to your article, the emails don't get removed in a few hours. I used tryme@mailinator.com and when I logged in to click the activation email, there were emails there from 21 days ago.


Posted by:

Waldemar D.
10 Dec 2014

I use my own site: http://get-lost.at ;-)


Posted by:

Bulc Club
15 Jun 2015

BulcBurners are free, disposable, single-use email addresses. They're automatically-generated, authenticated through the forwarding address, last for a week (or after first use), and protect your anonymity: https://www.bulc.club/burner


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