Defend Your Inbox With a Disposable Email Address

Category: Spam

Have you ever visited a website that required your email address to make a purchase, create an account, play a game, 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 provides a handy solution to this and other privacy problems. Read on to learn more...

Here's Why You Need a Disposable Email Address

It seems everyone wants my email address: Facebook, my bank, the grocry store, even the vendors at the local 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 it away, sold it, or lost it in a data breach. 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 messages 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.

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.

Disposable Email Addresses

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 willingly, by carelessness, or by theft. Data breaches are responsible for a lot of this. 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 addresses on your own. Some are free, and some are 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 [email protected] Add a “+” sign and any string of characters between “whatever” and the @ symbol, for example, [email protected] Now give that address to your online Chase Bank account. Repeat the process for Facebook, newsletter subscriptions, online stores, Craigslist transactions, websites with "squeeze pages" that make you supply an address to continue, and of course the tomato seller at the farmer's market. All mail sent to your plus addresses will go to your [email protected] 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.

Not all websites will accept a Gmail address with a plus sign, but it works most of the time. Gmail also allows you to insert "." characters in your email address, and effectively ignores them. So if your address is [email protected], you can use [email protected] or even [email protected] and email sent to those dotted addresses will all go to the "johnsmith" inbox.

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:

Sneakemail bills itself as "The Original Disposable Email Address Company," and offers to hide your address from spammers and others you'd rather not be dealing with. If someone wants your email address, and you have qualms about providing it, login to Sneakemail and create a new address. If mail is sent to your Sneakemail address, it will be forwarded to your real address. Sneakemail also creates an alias for the sender of your incoming messages, so if you reply, only your Sneakemail address will be exposed to the recipient. Sneakemail costs $3/month.

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. Your disposable email address can be a username of your choosing on trashmail.com, or 10 other domain names (trashmail.me, trashmail.at, etc.). An optional Chrome browser addon makes it more convenient to use the service. Basic service is free, but if you want more than 25 addresses, unlimited forwarding or a permanent address, Trashmail Plus can be purchased for US$21/year.

At Guerrilla Mail, you can choose a username and one of ten domain names for your free temporary email address. (My favorite is sharklasers.com) Like Mailinator, messages are public, and are held for one hour before they are deleted. One nice feature is that you can scramble your email address, to make it harder to guess. GuerrillaMail also lets you reply to incoming messages. There's also a free Guerrilla Mail app for mobile phones, on the Google Play store. GuerrillaMail has processed over 11 billion messages!

10minutemail: Load up this site, and you immediately get a free random email address that vanishes after 10 minutes. You can get a 10-minute extension if you need it. Just refresh the page to see any incoming messages for your temporary address. View, delete or reply to any new messages that appear.

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 21 Jul 2022


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Most recent comments on "Defend Your Inbox With a Disposable Email Address"

Posted by:

RandiO
21 Jul 2022

Thank you BobRankin,
Such "Disposable" addressing (


Posted by:

RandiO
21 Jul 2022

Thank you BobRankin,
Such "Disposable" addressing (= '[email protected]' to '[email protected]') sounds like "Aliasing" addressing (= '[email protected]' to '[email protected]') featured by other dotComs. Such 'aliasing' can also be employed along with "sub-domaining" to further bolster one's privacy, without being entangled inside that ginormous google (et al.) ad-machinery.


Posted by:

MarkL
21 Jul 2022

I have been very happy with 33mail.com.


Posted by:

Bob K
21 Jul 2022

I have my own domain name. (if you shop around, that can be real cheap!). With mine, I can set up one "wildcard" address, where I really have an infinite number of email addresses.

Each company I do business with gets their own email address for me.

This is true: I had (far back in time) given Skype an email address of [email protected] I never used Skype. One day I got an email from Skype advising I need to update my software, and a link to click on. Only thing, that email was sent to the email address that I had given to my bank. I checked out the link. It was for some address in Korea, the email originated in Manila. Skye, at that time was in Luxenburg.


Posted by:

chris
22 Jul 2022

I use mail.com. When setting up a disposable account they offer, what looks like. 500 different dot email addresses.
I use 4 different ones for depending on what I am signing up for. For instance, I have one email address exclusively for supermarket accounts. That way all of the weekly flyers go to that one and do not flood my other email addresses.


Posted by:

Ducklady
22 Jul 2022

For one-shot deals I just make up a fake address on the spot when I want to sign up for something or “open an account” I neither want nor need. The companies don’t test your email in the moment to see if it’s a real address.

I use @hotmail, proton, aol— whatever suffix I feel like and any noun that pops into my head at the moment. So [email protected] or @hotmail, etc.

Then I can either read the article, “open” an account or download the desired item. It’s quick, kind of fun and it works. Should they decide to spam me the message will bounce back from the fake address. They obviously do not test the addresses as they harvest them.

I don’t like being harvested.


Posted by:

Ed Nielson
22 Jul 2022

I use Spamex for my DEAs. (DEA = Disposable Email Address) One of the nice features is that it has a "reply" contact address, which lets you reply to an email and it looks like it came from the "public" address you gave out, thus protecting your "real address." And for the very paranoid, it even hides your IP address.

On the rare occasions that I find a company that won't accept a DEA, I simply go to my Fastmail account, which lets me a sufficient number of aliases, and forward them to my main inbox.

Yes, it's a little more work at times, but well worth it.


Posted by:

Ernest N. Wilcox Jr.
23 Jul 2022

I don't get a lot of spam here, and I suspect that there are a few reasons for this:

I shop online at only a few sites I know and trust.
When I do receive unwanted advertising messages, I move them to my 'spam'/'junk' folders, using the Windows Mail app.

I use two email addresses, an outlook.com address that is associated with my Microsoft account, and a gmail address that is associated with my android phone log-in.

When I need an email account for a website/subscription, I tend to use the gmail account unless the site/subscription is very Windows-centric.

For the most part, I use my desktop PC for everything Internet-related and I avoid using the Internet on my phone, other than as my alternate/2FA device.

The majority of my decisions regarding how I use my devices are probably age-related (I'm over 70). To me, a phone is largely for talking on while a computer is for most other forms of getting/sharing information. For the most part, I have always considered my phone to be less secure than my computer for use on the Internet, even though both are becoming more secure as the cybersecurity landscape broadens, and the threat level increases.

This is getting a bit off-topic, so I'll stop here. I hope this helps others,

Ernie


Posted by:

Frances
27 Jul 2022

When someone wants an e-mail address to allow me to look at it (see Wayfair), I just make up a nonsense, and often, rude address. Such as f*** y**.com.


Posted by:

Chris Faulkner
29 Jul 2022

All sounds a bit messy.
I use Mailwasher to preview all mail.
Great software.
It has options to delete or bounce while mail is still on my server, then download the legit ones.


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