- Internet & the Web
How To Fight Spam with SpamGourmet
Spam never makes it into your inbox
Use Free Disposable Addresses from SpamGourmet
Few people, aside from the few people actually profiting from it, actually like spam, also known as unsolicited commercial email. Yet in spite of our efforts to filter and block spam, some 7 trillion spam messages were sent last year. Why? Because the brunt of the cost of spam is borne by the recipients, not by the senders. Even though only a very small percentage of people respond to spam, even one tenth of 1% of 7 trillion would be 7 billion people falling for one pitch or another.
Spam filters and hosted email services help reduce the amount of spam that successfully makes it to your inbox, but another weapon in the battle against spam is the use of disposable email addresses.
Why Disposable Email Addresses?
Suppose you are searching the web, looking for rare cigars, and you come across SmokersKastle.com. You want to use their feedback form to ask whether or not they ship to your location, but you have to leave your email address, and you don't want it to end up on some spammer's list. The answer is to use a disposable email address - one that will only work for a few messages. The cigar store will be able to answer your questions, but after that the address self-destructs and all future emails sent to it will disappear.
SpamGourmet is Free and Easy
All it really takes to get started using SpamGourmet is to sign up on their main page at spamgourmet.com. They only require three pieces of information. 1st, an ID that you make up. This ID will not only serve as your log-on ID on spamgourmet.com, but will be part of all future disposable email addresses you create, so choose a name wisely. 2nd, you need a password, and 3rd, you need to provide a real email address. This may very well be the last time you have to provide a permanent email address to any online service.
Once you've created your account with these three basic items, there is nothing more that you need to do on the spamgourmet site. You can immediately start using disposable email addresses wherever you want, that you make up on the spot using the following pattern: SomeWord.UserID@spamgourmet.com, where UserID is the ID you created as your spamgourmet account. 'SomeWord' is any word you make up that will be meaningful to you in the present context. Let's say your real email address is email@example.com, and you created an ID on spamgourmet as 'bobsk'. Building on our previous example of wanting to leave a message on smokerskastle.com, you want to think of a word that will remind you of what you were doing when you created this new email address. Suppose you choose 'smoker.' Your disposable email address then becomes 'firstname.lastname@example.org'. You can safely leave that email address on smokerskastle.com. As soon as smokerskastle (or anyone else) sends an email to that new address, it will go to spamgourmet.com, who will automatically create the disposable address for you, and forward the first 3 messages sent to that address to your real address, email@example.com. Any and all messages beyond the first 3 will summarily be 'eaten' by spamgourmet.
What if I Want to get More Than 3 Messages?
If you think that you will need to receive more than (or less than) the default number of messages at your new address, you can create it with any number between 1 and 20 inserted after the 'Meaningful Word' and before your user ID. For instance, we can change the above example by inserting the number '5', making the resultant address 'firstname.lastname@example.org. Then spamgourmet will forward the first 5 messages instead of 3. The only caveat to keep in mind is that once a disposable address is created, you can't re-use the 'Meaningful Word' in a new address. So, you can't have both 'email@example.com' and 'firstname.lastname@example.org.'
spamgourmet "eats" spam
Some Advanced Capabilities of spamgourmet
Let's assume that smokerskastle successfully answered your initial inquiry, but then they started sending you their monthly newsletter. You didn't ask for this, but you don't have to worry, because you know that after a few emails the address you gave them will disintegrate, and you won't get any more messages from them. But what if you actually like the newsletter? Well, you can log back onto spamgourmet.com, and select their 'advanced mode' tab. Click on 'search addresses' (you don't need to enter a search term). A list of the disposable email addresses you've created so far shows up. Click on 'smoker' - that's the disposable email address you signed up on smokerskastle with. On the screen that comes up, you can either increase the number of remaining emails to be forwarded, or you can enter a sender's name in the 'exclusive sender' field. The first option simply enables more messages to be forwarded before spamgourmet starts 'eating' them (note this does not change the address itself). The second option tells spamgourmet to forward all messages from a specific sender. This way, you would continue to receive the newsletter indefinitely, but all other senders would still be blocked once the magic number of allowed messages has been exceeded.
Other advanced techniques not covered here include the ability to use your own domain name in your disposable addresses, and how to use 'watch words', which act as kind of passwords to keep other people from making up addresses using your ID. I highly recommend reading the spamgourmet FAQ (see references below), which is not only very informative, but quite entertaining.
Alternatives Domains to 'spamgourmet.com'
If you don't like the idea of the term 'spam' being used in your email addresses, or if the organization you're dealing with is not allowing you to use this domain, there are several alternatives. You can create your disposable email addresses with 'xoxy.net' or 'recursive.net' to name a few. See the FAQ for even more.
Limitations of Disposable Email Adresses
One thing disposable email addresses can't do is help with the amount of spam you're already receiving at an existing email address. For that you need spam filters, blocks, or a hosted and managed email service. You can always create a new email account somewhere, and be very careful about sharing it. You could even give your friends a disposable email address, and add them all as exclusive senders. That would work as a sort of "white list."
Some web sites block registrations using the spamgourmet domain, and Facebook blocks that domain plus all of its alternatives. Facebook also prohibits linking to the spamgourmet site. The only reasonable explanation for this is that Facebook and other sites not allowing disposable addresses are selling email addresses, and want to assure their buyers that the addresses they purchase will be capable of receiving spam for years to come.
Keeping it Easy
Although spamgourmet provides a lot of advanced functionality for free, the basic "no-brainer" method of just making up a disposable address on the spot works terrifically in most situations. Sign up, and start protecting your "real" email addresses!