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Three Ways to Can Spam

posted Mar 15, 2006

Don’t you hate how most websites and businesses ask for your email address these days? I don’t mind at all since I just give out a disposable email address. A disposable email address forwards messages to your real email address. The real benefit is the fact that the disposable address automatically self-destructs after you no longer need it, and potential spammers never get your real email address.

There are many places that provide this service. I’d like to tell you about three sites that I’ve personally used, and have had good experiences with. All are absolutely free, and they really do protect your privacy as they promise to. Actually Mailinator doesn’t make any privacy guarantees, but none are required due to the unqiue way Mailinator works.

spamgourmet

I’ve been using spamgourmet (they choose not to capitalize their name) for years now, and I get virtually no spam anymore. Visit their site and read about the simple three-step process for creating your own disposable email addresses. Spamgourmet addresses look like this: uniqueword.20.userspamgourmet.com@ where uniqueword is any word I want to use to identify where I’m using the disposable email address and user is my spamgourmet username. The number 20 is number of messages that address is good for before it self-destructs. Since “spamgourmet.com” is a lot to type, I typically use one of their other domains (read their FAQ for a list of all the domain options you can use). So by using their xoxy.net domain, the sample disposable address can be shortened a bit: uniqueword.20.userxoxy.net@. Edit: After initially publishing this article, Josh from spamgourmet sent me a note letting me know that the number is actually optional, so the address can be even shorter: uniqueword.userxoxy.net@.

MailNull

An alternative to spamgourmet is MailNull which basically does the same thing. Spamgourmet has a few more bells and whistles, but either one gets the job done. I’ve been using spamgourmet longer, so I’ve got more experience with it. I think MailNull is a little less well known, and I think the domain name is quite clever. One thing that’s nicer about MailNull compared to spamgourmet is the length of the email addresses. A sample email address with MailNull would be user.uniquewordmailnull.com@.

spamgourmet vs. MailNull

Since I’ve been using spamgourmet longer, I tend to use it more frequently than MailNull. Also spamgourmet has a few features that MailNull lacks:

  • Ability to configure a “trusted sender” for each disposable address. Messages from the trusted sender domain are always allowed through, and do not affect the count of messages allowed to the address.
  • Having multiple domains (e.g. spamgourmet.com, xoxy.net, antichef.com, etc.)
  • No requirement to create the disposable address before using it (see below).

MailNull requires you to create the disposable address through their web interface first before using it. Spamgourmet automatically creates disposable addresses for you when they are used. In the way I typically use disposable addresses, that makes spamgourmet slightly easier to use by eliminating that first step. There’s a small security advantage to the system MailNull uses, but in practice I haven’t had any problems with people creating unauthorized spamgourmet addresses for me. spamgourmet actually has protection against this (see “watchwords” under advanced mode), but I don’t think you’ll actually need to use the watchword feature.

Mailinator — Extremely Disposable Email Addresses

If MailNull and spamgourmet are the tissues of disposable email addresses, Mailinator is the air-hanky. Absolutely no configuration required, but no privacy guaranteed either. To use mailinator, when a website asks you for an email address just put in anywordyouwantmailinator.com@. Then visit Mailinator and enter anywordyouwant to see the message(s) for that address. Of course anyone in the world who happens to type in anywordyouwant can also see that email, so this isn’t the system to use for anything you want keep somewhat private.

I use Mailinator whenever I know I’ll only need just one email from a site. For example, there are a few web boards that require you to register and provide an email address before you can even view the postings on the board. Personally, I think that’s pretty annoying. I use Mailinator for these sites that insist on “validating your account” by emailing you a password.

Privacy Policies

After using disposable email addresses for a few years now I have found that the vast majority websites keep their word when they promise not to share your email address with others. Even if there are one or two that deliberately or inadvertantly share my disposable email address, it doesn’t matter. That spam gets eaten by spamgourmet or MailNull, and I never even see it. Oh, and I can tell exactly who shared my disposable email address, since I typically use some form of their domain name in the disposable address I enter on a web form. Additionally, both spamgourmet at MailNull allow you to keep notes on each disposable address you create.

A Disposable Address a Day Keeps the Spammers Away

So there you have it — three different ways to use disposable email addresses. You won’t be the first kid on the block to use them, but give them a try if you haven’t already.

If your current email address is already well-known to the spammers, none of these services will help. Get a new email address from your ISP, or use a free mail service like Yahoo or Google Mail. Then configure that address when you set up your MailNull or spamgourmet account. And then never ever give out that real address on a web site form, forum posting or newsgroup.

By the way, if you find these sites useful, they all have links on their pages to give them a donation. You can also buy spamgourmet T-shirts, mugs, etc.

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