Up until about 2 years ago, I was very hesitant to register/create an account on a new website. Then everything changed. That fear is gone.
I love the web. I can’t get enough information. I love that there are thousands of sites out there that interest me. I don’t even mind creating accounts at these sites. If you’re going to give me some interesting information, or access to a fun game, I’m glad to create an account. Maybe you’ll save some interesting statistics for me. Maybe you’ll let me know when you’ve got something new to offer me (so I don’t have to rememeber to check.) Whatever the reason, I don’t mind creating an account. But most people still do.
Are you going to sell me email address to spammers? Are you a spammer yourself? Are you going to be irresponsible with my information? I’ve actually come up with a rather useful system for getting around these concerns. Here are my 5 tips for keeping spam out of your inbox while handing out your information without fear.
1) Get your own domain name.
I can’t express how valuable this first step is. Having an email address that ends in @hotmail.com, @gmail.com, or @yahoo.com, you’re already a prime target, even before you’ve ever used the address. I’m not knocking the spam filters those email services use, what I am criticizing is the relentless spammer that is so desperate he/she will just guess email addresses. They will just send their useless, spammy messages to email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, and on, and on, and on. There’s no protection for that. Even with an address like firstname.lastname@example.org, their system will eventually find me.
If they don’t get a response message saying that the inbox doesn’t exist, they add it to their spam list, and there’s not an unsubscribe option for that.
Having your own domain prevents this because they’re not invested in guessing the domain part of your email address. (Plus, it’s part of my 7 Steps To Shameless Self Promotion.) They’re trying to get the biggest bang for their buck. email@example.com is not something they have the time or resources to try. Setting up your own domain with email is an incredibly simple (and affordable) process. We’re talking around $10 a year. I recommend GoDaddy for their price and service.
2) Create a catch-all email address.
When you buy your domain name, most registrars make many other services available for free. This includes some basic web hosting for a small website, email services, etc. Part of those email services should be a “catch-all” address. This basically works like *@jeffblankenburg.com for me. No matter what you put at the beginning of that email address, it will show up for me. Catch-alls usually just forward to some other “real” address. In my case, that’s my GMail address. Go ahead and try. Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll get it.
3) Discover the wonders of “Send As”
Many webmail clients will allow you to send email “as” an address. For example, in GMail, even though I have an @gmail.com address, I can send as any @jeffblankenburg.com address I choose to set up. I’m not going to walk you through the steps, but it’s pretty easy.
- Enter the new “As” address.
- Verify you own the address
- Start sending mail from that new address.
The nice thing about doing this is that none of my addresses actually exist.
4) Take advantage of the catch-all
This is where you start registering on sites. My Amazon email address is email@example.com. My email address at ThinkGeek is firstname.lastname@example.org. Seeing a pattern? What this allows me to do is SEE where my spam is coming from. If I start getting Viagra ads in my inbox, and they’re being sent to email@example.com, I now know several things:
- Best Buy has sold my email address to someone untrustworthy.
- OR, Best Buy is venturing into the “man problems” pharmaceutical business.
Either way, I know that I don’t want any of the email that is sent to that address anymore. I want to shut it down.
5) Clam up the spammers.
So we’ve identified an email address that is being misused. Let’s stop that spam. It should be as easy as creating a rule in your inbox. All I need to do is set a rule that says that firstname.lastname@example.org should be immediately sent to the Trash. I will no longer worry about that address being leaked into the public…it’s dead to me.
In short, following these steps should lead to a dramatic decrease in spam. Between the power of my email client’s spam filters, and these steps, I do not receive ANY spam. (At least in my inbox…there’s plenty going to the trash.) Ultimately, you need to keep one more thing in mind:
Protect your primary email address.
If you are handing out your primary email address to everyone, you’re not going to have an easy way to stop the spam once it starts. Give it only to those you trust. Don’t post it in forums. (Spammers scrape forums for email harvesting.) Be safe.