Control spam with disposable e-mail addresses (Feature)
By Jay Dougherty May 2, 2009, 2:08 GMT
Washington - Spam now accounts for over 90 per cent of all e-mail received, according to a recent study by US-based Panda Labs, a company that makes Internet security products. But you probably don't need an official study or a company to tell you just how troublesome spam has become. All you need to do is look at your inbox - or, if you employ some kind of anti-spam software, your Spam folder.
Most anti-spam software doesn't really get rid of the problem of spam, however. It just moves it out of your inbox. It's true that there are also solutions that deal with spam at the server level, wiping out suspected spam before you ever download it. But such approaches are too risky for most people because there's a good chance that legitimate messages may be inadvertently zapped.
To truly get rid of spam, you have to make sure that potential spammers don't get your primary e-mail address. And there's really only one way to do that: have one or more 'disposable' e-mail addresses that you give out online to sources you don't know or trust. Luckily, there are a number of ways to create disposable e-mail addresses. Here's a rundown of the best.
Think about the number of times that you need to give our your e-mail address once - and only once. It may be to gain access to a website, to sign up for a forum, or to download a file. If you're sure that you'll never need to communicate by e-mail with whatever resource you're accessing, there's no reason to provide an e-mail address that is in any way permanent. If you do, you're setting yourself up to receive gobs of spam.
The solution is a service such as Mailinator (http://www.mailinator.com). Mailinator is one of the original 'disposable' e-mail services, and it's still one of the best. Using it couldn't be easier.
There's no registration or signup required to use Mailinator. All you do is make up an e-mail address with '@mailinator.com' at the end, and you're done. You don't even need to visit the Mailinator site before making up the address. If you need to check a confirmation e-mail or response sent to your made-up Mailinator e-mail address, you simply visit the Mailinator site, type your newly-created e-mail address into the Check Your Inbox! form on Mailinator, and you'll see any mail that was sent to your Mailinator e-mail address.
Mailinator addresses are temporary - any mail sent to your Mailinator account will be deleted after a few hours. So this is clearly not a solution if you expect or wish to receive e-mail messages from some Internet entity in the future. You also cannot respond to e-mail messages sent to your temporary Mailinator account. But for quick registrations in which one confirmation e-mail message is all you need to receive after giving out your address, Mailinator is perfect - and completely free of charge.
If you need a temporary e-mail address that allows you to respond to messages you receive, consider GuerillaMail (http://www.guerrillamail.com). With GuerillaMail, you make up an e-mail address on the GuerillaMail site, or you can have GuerillaMail automatically generate an e-mail address for you. That address is then good for one hour.
When you receive an e-mail message sent to your GuerillaMail account, it will show up on the main GuerillaMail home page. There will be 'show' and 'delete' links to the left of the messages. Clicking 'show' will reveal the entire message, along with a large Reply link at the bottom. Clicking Reply gives you a text area into which you can type your response.
It's possible to extend the hour that GuerillaMail accounts normally last by clicking a link labeled 'Give me full 1 hour again' on the main GuerillaMail page.
What if you'd like to receive e-mail at your primary e-mail address but you don't want to give that address out publicly? You can sign up and use a forwarding service, such as Whspr! (http://whspr.me).
Here's how it works. You surf over to Whspr, type your main e-mail address into the 'Email address where messages will go' form, set the number of days that the forwarding will be valid, and then click Create My Whspr! At that point, Whspr gives you a Web address (URL), which you can post publicly. When someone clicks the URL, he or she will be taken to a Web page on which a form is provided to type an e-mail message to you. Once the respondent clicks Send, the e-mail will be forwarded by Whspr to your main e-mail account.
The uses for this are many. Whspr itself cites the example of someone who needs to post a job opening on a public site but doesn't want to give out a company e-mail address to which people will respond. Other uses could easily be seen on message boards or social networking sites when you want to give members a way to contact you. Such a solution is especially convenient for you, since it means you don't have to be bothered with creating a temporary e-mail address, and you can use the e-mail program with which you are familiar to receive and, if you wish, send e-mail.
Whspr, like the other services discussed here, is completely free and requires no registration whatsoever before you begin using it.
--- A bit more permanence
Of course, temporary e-mail addresses - in whatever form - won't satisfy every need you have to give out your e-mail address online. For those times when you need an address at which you might need to receive messages periodically, a free account with Google's Gmail (http://mail.google.com) is probably your best option. Gmail has the best built-in spam filter of any free e-mail service, and it also has a range of forwarding options that are without rival.
Armed with Gmail and the other temporary e-mail services discussed here, you can keep your primary personal e-mail account completely spam free - without using a spam filter. Just make sure you give out your main address only to friends, relatives, and colleagues, and the surfeit of spam that's a part of most people's lives will never burden your inbox.