Ditch That Sign-Up Spam — Works For Other Unwanted Mail, Too


I keep seeing references to the various sites where you can get a one-time-only email address to use for sign-ups that you suspect may spam you after the fact.

The only problem with those sorts of solutions is the possibility that you may miss a site that’s a baddie, thus revealing your “real” address to the bots and spam servers or, if you did use the bogus address, you could miss some mail from a sign-up (like a confirmation number) that you really need to see.

There’s a simple path around practically all such problems. Go to http://mail.google.com and sign up for a Gmail account. Name it “billsjunkaccount” or something equally clever. Set it to forward mail to your “real” account. Then use it for all signups and give it to anyone who doesn’t need to have your personal address. (Very few people do.)

This accomplishes several things. First, if there is something important, you’ll get it. If there’s unwanted mail, all you do is go to the account and mark everything from that correspondent as spam. If the address gets into the wide, wide world and everyone begins spamming you, Gmail’s excellent Bayesian filters will get 99.9% of it on their own, and you can deal with the rest the same way. (If you’re using Gmail as your primary address, just mark it as spam if it gets through, and your primary account will deep-six it from then on.*)

Another advantage to this system is that, if you think you missed something important (or if you just don’t trust Google’s filters) you can go to the junk account and check the spam folder to see it anything got caught by mistake. Gmail waits 30 days, then automatically deletes anything older.

I’ve been handling my email this way for more than three years, and Gmail has never (to my knowledge) marked a “good” email as spam. I stopped checking after the first couple of weeks, and haven’t missed anything since that I know of. Those filters are something!

Also know that I have “junk” accounts that get as many as 5000 spam mailings a month, and it’s a rare thing for more than one or two a day get through to my main account. If they do — one click and they’re history. The system works. I don’t recommend things I haven’t tried myself.

*If you’re using Gmail as a primary, you can also set it to automatically reply to all mail from the junk account with a return address of that account, so that you don’t accidentally reveal your “real” address even if you need to respond to something. Go to “Accounts” on the Settings page, and follow the directions. This can also be used for outside accounts, so that you can reply to your Yahoo or MSN email from the Gmail account with their own return addresses,without leaving Gmail.

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