Here's Why You Need a Disposable Email Address

Category: Email , Spam

Have you ever used a website that demanded 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 provides a handy solution to this and other privacy problems. 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 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, 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.

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 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 addresss on your own. Some are free, and 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, Craigslist transactions, websites with "squeeze pages" that make you supply an address to continue, and of course the tomato farmer. 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.

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 johnsmith@gmail.com, you can use john.smith@gmail.com or even j.o.h.n.s.m.i.t.h@gmail.com 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 is free for the first month, and then $3/month thereafter.

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$21.99/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 (but only if they know the username). After a few hours, all mail is deleted. So Mailinator is a free, 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.

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.

In the past, I've heard good things about SpamGourmet, but as of today, the site says they are not accepting new users.

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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Most recent comments on "Here's Why You Need a Disposable Email Address"

Posted by:

Chuck Cronan
23 May 2019

I am plagued (at least 8 months) by a bot that emails me at least 8-10/day threatening me that they will know if I change my password (I don't believe they know my password)if I don't pay them in bit-coins. Can a disposable address help? They also claim to see me on my camera (impossible - it is taped over). Help!


Posted by:

Hill
23 May 2019

re - Chuck
That's what the "spam" button is for.


Posted by:

mike
23 May 2019

chuck: it sounds like the spammer already has your email address and is actively sending messages to it. It will not serve any function to provide the spammer with another address.

I suggest you should use your current email program to block/screen/filter the address that the spammer is using, or simply send ID his messages as spam which your email program should then learn to block depending on which program you are using.

Bob's article suggest relates to creating a "false" address when making an initial contact with someone who requires an email address to participate.


Posted by:

gene
23 May 2019

I use a password manager that offers a disposable address EVERY time I go to a field that requires an address. Very effective.


Posted by:

Ryan James
23 May 2019

I have used Maildrop https://maildrop.cc for a couple of years. The mail will stay until deleted. It is free to use.


Posted by:

Steve
23 May 2019

I have always used a separate Hotmail account for this stuff, I know that everything that goes in to it is S.P.A.M


Posted by:

James
23 May 2019

I use MAILINATOR. mailinator.com. Just pick any word as your e-mail address, such as bob (lol) bob@mailinator.com. Then go to mailinator.com and check e-mail by typing in bob and enter. You can then read and/or delete it. It also disappears after 24 hrs.


Posted by:

Don
23 May 2019

Most of this sounds good, but there's something I don't understand. To take Bob's example, suppose I'm a Chase Bank customer and my email address is whatever@gmail.com. But instead I tell Chase that it's whatever+ChaseBank@gmail.com. Okay, so that will help me know whether Chase is sharing my email address with spammers, and I can then set up a filter to trash anything arriving at that address. But then won't I also miss out on possibly important emails from Chase Bank?


Posted by:

Tim
23 May 2019

I rarely give out my real email address. I own my own domain for email, so I am in control. I create disposable email addresses all of the time. I have the rules on the email server direct the email going to the on-the-fly addressed email to my real email inbox. I do this for all accounts, lists, etc., even with Ask Bob! If Bob suddenly were to be a spammer, I would know it! ;-) If SPAM starts coming to one of the disposable address, I simply set a filter to delete it before I ever see it. I only have to take action to turn it off, not to create an address. I have been doing this for almost twenty years, and it is great! I have hundreds of disposable email addresses, including my utility services, banks, stores, etc. When they screw up, I filter the address out, and use a new one for the site. I occasionally look at the volume that is filtered out and I find it is in the thousands, many times over. I never see it!


Posted by:

mike
23 May 2019

DON: As I understand it, all mail from the plus address will go to your regular address. If you receive spam, you will block the spam address, not your own plus address. Yu will still see any valid message from your bank and you would not block it.

You just wanted to know the leak source and to block unwanted messages.


Posted by:

Ivan
24 May 2019

I have also had problems with spam mail.I got one that said they saw me on cam doing things I should not, I shall relieve you of the burden of what they saw me doing. I reported it to the police. I got a laugh out of it but then was angry as I am 72 years old. They must have remarkable eyes as they wanted me to place $750.00 bitcoin into their account. Of course I did not do any such thing. Besides I do not own a cam, they indeed do have great eyes.. LOL some people will do things to anyone to get money and I have no idea how they got my email address. Do not fall for this kind of nasty ilk.


Posted by:

Lucy
24 May 2019

The beauty of a disposable address for each entity, particularly for your bank or other financial institution, is that if you receive a message supposedly from them but it is not sent to the CORRECT disposable address, you'll know it is not really from the bank. I'd then recommend you provide a new disposable address to the bank and delete the old one once you are happy the bank is using the new disposable address.
We have never used our actual real email address, everything gets a disposable.


Posted by:

TL
24 May 2019

I use Abine’s Blur (formerly known as MaskMe). It’s free and you can create as many emails as you want and there are no ads. It has an iOS app and a Chrome extension. I’ve been using it for so many years, I’ve forgotten how I originally found out about MaskMe but it was either Bob or Leo (of Ask Leo). It forwards to whatever email address you want it to and each email comes with a header that allows you to block messages for that email if you get spam. The email address isn’t actually deleted or anything though; it just stops forwarding. You can still go into the app or onto the website and view messages received in a temporary mailbox. You can delete the address manually whenever you want. I don’t have any complaints.


Posted by:

Stanley
24 May 2019

also gmail is dot blind. stanley@gmail.com can also be given as st.anley@gmail.com


Posted by:

Reginald
24 May 2019

I can't believe anyone still uses yahoo email or anything yahoo. After their data breach a few years ago, they started requiring a new password change EVERY time you logged into your yahoo email account. Like that would make up for 2 billion email identities getting stolen.


Posted by:

chris
25 May 2019

I use mail.com for disposable email addresses. It is free and they have a lot of aliases you can use.


Posted by:

Richard
28 May 2019

I use Spam Gourmet. It's free and pretty flexible.

You create an account (their example is spamcowmboy) and that becomes your new email address you can forward to your actual account. Then you can get more complex by enforcing watchwords so only emails using one of those is forwarded.

So account is spamcowboy and watchwords are horse and hat. Each time you use an address you set a limit on number of emails that will be passed. After that the platform just eats emails.
hat.4.spamcowboy@spamgourmet.com will allow 4 mails through.
This will let you say give out an address to a vendor and they can send you some information but can't keep doing it. You can reset the limit if needed and have trusted senders that don't reduce the count.


Posted by:

Robin
13 Jun 2019

I had my own domain with a "catch all" set up. So, when I signed up to say, Amazon, I'd use Amazon@mydomain.com. That way, if I started receiving heaps of spam from that prefix, I knew either it had been stolen from Amazon or Amazon had sold it. I could then set up a rule to delete all email from amazon@mydomain.com

It provided a reasonable solution.


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