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Disposable E-mail Addresses

Keywords: Email

E-mail is the lifeblood of the Internet. Unfortunately, it remains far too easy for spammers to abuse the goodwill shown when people make their e-mail address known publicly. There are several ways to prevent this problem when you sign up for things online; but only one works if you need to provide a real, working address (to be able to receive a confirmation e-mail, for example), the creation of disposable e-mail addresses.

Most ISPs allow you to have several e-mail accounts and provide the mechanism online for you to create and delete them. Usually, you go to a Member Services page, log in and then select "E-mail" to administer your accounts. If you have the ability to create extra e-mail accounts, you should consider the benefits of creating one you have no intention of reading. Even if you don't use an ISP that allows additional accounts, you can still create free accounts on Yahoo!, Hotmail or any of the other free services.

Here's a good example of what I'm talking about: You want to sign up for a free offer on some website; but for whatever reason (typically to avoid spam or for privacy reasons) you don't want to give out your main working e-mail address. So you'd type in your throwaway e-mail address at Yahoo! or wherever (a provider with webmail access works well, so you don't have to add the garbage account to your main e-mail program -- you can just check it right on the web if you need to) and the confirmation request would go there. Check that e-mail address and respond to the confirmation, and you're done with it. As a bonus, you'll not only get what you received, but you'll also not be bothered by spam, as it is your garbage address that has been sold or traded, and not your private, useful address.

Don't give out your garbage address to anyone from whom you'd actually like to receive e-mail, and don't let your garbage address be associated with your real name or address (that way, an old friend searching for you on won't try to use it to get back in touch, for example). This way, you can be certain that anything coming to this address is useless spam that may be safely deleted.

If you post on Usenet or on web forums, you might be surprised how quickly and how often your address will be bombarded with offers of every kind. You can experiment and see that it might only take a few hours for a spammer to pick up an address and try to use it. You can also see who sells what to whom with this method, and know who really lives up to their privacy policies.

Whatever you do, don't respond to spam that provides a link where you can "opt-out" of future mailings. All this does is tell a spammer that they have a real, live working address that is in use; and this is the commodity that spammers trade in -- working e-mail addresses.

Eventually, your throwaway Inbox will fill up with offers for "herbal Viagra", requests from Nigerian families in need of someone to retrieve their money for them, fake updates from Microsoft trying to get you to run malicious trojan-horse scripts and badly misspelled missives pretending to be from PayPal or the IRS requesting that you "upd8ate y0ur3 credipt cahrd informaton". When that happens, you just delete the account and create a new one.

A throwaway e-mail address can be a valuable tool to protecting the usability of your real e-mail address. The more spammers and scammers waste their own time, the less of yours they burn!

About the Author

Trevor Bauknight is a web designer and writer with over 15 years of experience on the Internet. He specializes in the creation and maintenance of business and personal identity online. Stop by for a free tryout of the revolutionary SiteBuildingSystem and check out our super Flash website and IMAP e-mail hosting solutions, complete with live support.

Posted by Angie at June 17, 2004 01:18 PM
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