Disposable Email Addresses

By the time spammers invaded the Internet, it was too late for most of us. In our innocence, we followed the tenets of establishing our online credibility by using real email addresses. The more savvy among us knew better than to post our home addresses online, so we invested in a private mailbox (PMB).

Belatedly, we tried to thwart spammers with naïve tricks like using a clickable image of our email address, or obfuscating it as mycompany (AT) myrealdomain (DOT) com.

Talk about locking the barn door after the horse was halfway to Hawaii! Our harvested addresses were already in the hands of every spammer who had the money to buy the lists.

Short of closing the email address down permanently, we had to learn new tricks. CGI scripts that had secret checkboxes that only a spambot would click. that was clever, but only for website forms. Aunt Betsy could still mess us up by cc'ing us along with the entire maternal branch of the family tree.

Slowly, we switched from defensive tactics to offensive strategies. Gmail addresses with + symbols and identifiers helped us find out who was selling our addresses. Compromised addresses could be terminated.

As an aside, I did this with snail mail, after learning about evil companies selling my information. I would use weird variations of my first and middle names. When I started getting credit card offers with one of those names, I knew who to blame. However, what could I do about it? Nothing.

Well, over the years, I used services like 10minutemail.com, but most signup forms rejected those addresses. I pretty much gave up. I was not going to change my address. Every time I did, back in the 20th century, it was a huge hassle letting my family and close friends know.

My only recourse was to get better at keeping my email inbox cleared. The first strategy was to filter my mail through Gmail. My friend, Sharon Hurley Hall, taught me about that.

In addition to preempting obvious spammers, I no longer had to waste bandwidth on Aunt Betsy's jokes, chain letters and uncropped 2 MB cat photos. Gmail also provided a nice label and incoming mail filter system.

At first, I did what I always do: made too many labels and individual filters. I didn't get that much mail so it was manageable. But, the love child of Parkinson's and Murphy's laws ensured that email would expand to fill my inbox.

It's my fault, really. Instead of using an RSS reader (until much later), I subscribed to dozens of newsletters, website notifications and blogs. My labels and filters were out of control.

I finally consolidated them under a priority ranking system:

  • Family
  • Friends
  • Clients
  • Everything else

To maintain this new filtering system, I needed a way to add new email addresses to one of the filters. I devised a semi-automatic way to do it, using Excel and a bit of VBA coding. I have to manually edit the Gmail filter and paste the updated string, but it's reasonably fast and I only run it when I have a handful to do at once.

The end result is a clutter-free Inbox. But, not surprisingly, the four filtered "boxes" are bursting at the seams. All I really managed to accomplish was to divide the piles and tidy them up, when what I needed was to stop them from becoming piles in the first place!

That's where BurnerMail comes in. "Out of sight, out of mind" is the phrase I'm looking for. LOL!

Truthfully, if I just unsubscribe from everything, I would not have to go through all of these shenanigans. I guess the diet is harder than I expected.

My first real test of BurnerMail involves WordPress.com. I want to receive those emails outside of my main ecosystem, otherwise, they risk being mass deleted when I get overwhelmed with the "Everything Else" box.

I created a burner address and updated my WordPress.com account. After pasting the confirmation link that I just received in my BurnerMail box, the change was accepted by WP.com. Now, I'll just wait to see where my active subscriptions go. Excitement abounds!!

The WordPress switcheroo worked. I had to change my email address in WordPress and, I wasn't sure if the domain would be treated like a regular domain or like 10minutemail.com (which a lot of places summarily reject.) As I mentioned in Disposable Email Addresses, WordPress.com did accept the email.

Today, I got my first WordPress.com email delivered to my BurnerMail mailbox. I lost my Gravatar but that's okay! (In fact, I think Gravatar has an option to link the same image to multiple addresses. Something to look into, later.)

I should point out that BurnerMail has two types of email addresses. The one I just mentioned is an example of an email address where I wish to receive email. The other type is more disposable: I can use that to forward email to my real email address.

If forwarding were the only option, BurnerMail would not be much help in keeping my Inbox clutter-free. Remember what I wrote about "out of sight, out of mind?" With the option to receive email somewhere else, If I get too busy to keep up with unimportant email, they are out of the way, minimizing the risk of burying important email.

If privacy is not an issue and, if spending money is not an option, you could just create a bunch of Gmail addresses.

For my purposes, BurnerMail's integrated dashboard, browser extension and extra features are worth the fee. One major feature is the ability to turn off one email address if I no longer want the content. I don't have to even bother unsubscribing! (Great for times when nefarious marketers ignore my email preferences.)