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Fighting Spam Using Disposable Email Addresses

Updated on October 22, 2011

WITH the passage of time, many items have become disposable. Interestingly, the same notion of use-and-trash has arrived in the online world in shape of disposable e-mail address. These addresses are temporary, but work wonders against if used correctly.

Often it happens that while signing up with online services, ordering freebies, or filling out online forms, we give our primary e-mail address, and then end up receiving a lot of junk mail. This is where disposable address can come in handy. Lets look at some services that allow us to create disposable e-mail addresses.

SPAMGOURMENT

This is a free service that requires registration. The process involves entering a new username and an existing e-mail address, typing the anti-bot image word, and the registration is complete. Now enter ‘protected e-mail' address on the next page and press Save. All the e-mails sent on disposable e-mail addresses (to be created as shown ahead) will be forwarded here. A confirmation message to enable forwarding mails is sent at your existing e-mail address. This is done to avoid misuse of the service, for example, someone else registering with an e-mail address that does not belong to him.

Once this is completed, the user can simply give out disposable e-mail address in the form someword.x.user@spamgourment.com.

Here, ‘someword' could be anything of your choice while ‘x' is the number of times this e-mail address could be used. The ‘user' implies your Spamgourment username. For example, chat.10. james@spamgourment.com means user James has, on-the-fly created an e-mail address for chat usage to receive only 10 e-mails on the saved protected e-mail address. The ‘x' part is optional, and by default such e-mail addresses self-destroy after receiving three e-mails. All one has to do it to use different ‘someword' part while divulging your e-mail address.

MAIL EXPIRE

This service provides a different way to dispose off e-mail id. It is time-based. Here, instead of specifying the number of e-mails, one can specify the time in terms of hours/days/months for the id to stay valid. There is no concept of registration. Just visit the website, enter your current e-mail address and a reminder reference, this would remind yourself why you are requesting a Mail Expire alias and a lifespan of that alias - from 12 hours to three months. A confirmation e-mail is sent to the specified current e-mail address with an auto-generated alias, for example, whiassoovi@kriocoudek.mailexpire.com and a confirmation link to prevent abuse.

Once you activate the alias using this link, all the mails sent to this alias will be forwarded to the current e-mail address in the specified lifespan. Lifespan can be updated later over Mail Expire site.

MAILINATOR

This website goes a step further by removing not only the registration process but activation process as well. Whenever you need to give out an e-mail address, just think of a unique username to go with Mailinator.com, such as, firstname.lastname.sirname@mailinator.com. Now when you need to check this, so go to Mailinator.com and enter this username in ‘Check your inbox!' field to retrieve your e-mails. Note that we used the e-mail address even before going to Mailinator site to create the username, yet the username becomes available and accessible - this feature is a security concern.

Since, the site aims at ultra-fast usability with no controls, anyone who can guess or knows your username can type it over the site and read the mailbox. To prevent this from happening, you can rely on a suggested random username, which could be something like ‘shixwvgbkuf'. Remember, use it only for purely spam-type, non-confidential uses. To restrict usage in view of easy to abuse nature of the service, attachments and HTML formatted messages are not supported and e-mail lasts only for few hours.

One remarkable feature of this service is RSS support - you can read your e-mail as RSS feeds in your favourite reader without having to visit the Mailinator site.

USES OF DISPOSABLE ADDRESSES

Other than control over its existence, disposable addresses inherently provide another free service: forwarding an e-mail. In cases where corporate e-mail addresses are used as primary e-mail ids, it can easily pass on to other people, particularly when people register with numerous services and newsletters.

Again, this is where disposable addresses can be substituted. Also, this is a great way to check if a particular company misuses e-mail addresses it collects. So provide the disposable address to such companies and wait to verify if you receive spam mail at this address.

If it happens, and this company happens to be the only one with whom the address was shared, it is likely that they misuse or sell e-mail addresses. After trying out a company in this way, one can think of divulging the real e-mail address.

This is also pretty useful in online chatting, blogging or forums where e-mail addresses can become public quite easily and are a common source of ‘information' for e-mail harvesters. Forums provide security against showing e-mail address, hence, ban disposable e-mail addresses at the time of registration. Gmail can come to rescue in such situations.

USING GMAIL

This is essential to mention Gmail in this discussion which can also be used to counter spam and as a free forwarder. Create a Gmail account specifically for online form filling, subscription, etc. and have it forwarded at your primary e-mail address. This could be another Gmail account or any e-mail account. It works as an indirect layer or a shield against unwanted mail as forwarding can always be blocked, diverted or Gmail's own spam guard stops majority of spam.

Another use of such a setup is to read your favourite newsletters at a temporary location, say at workplace (where access to non-corporate e-mail may be blocked), or at educational institutions. Since, Gmail can keep a copy of forwarded messages, such an e-mail address can be checked at places which are not safe enough to check primary e-mail address.

E-mail is perhaps one of the most useful, yet most misused internet service. Statistics have shown that over a half of e-mails are spam. Have a look at Spam or Junk folders over your Gmail or Yahoo services to see the sheer amount of unwanted e-mails that arrive in an Inbox. Disposable e-mail addresses do not solve the problem of spam, but gives you an option to exercise whenever it is convenient to do so.

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