Monday, May 14, 2018

Disposable Email Accounts

Disposable Email Accounts - Recommendations

Quit giving your email to vendors that you never want to hear from again.


Summary, with details below:
InventedName@mailinator.com
or www.guerrillamail.com and setup an account




You have a regular email, for private and personal business -- and if you are smart, you also have a junk email -- one you give away to vendors and other parties.  The "junk" email is probably less-important but it still requires cleanup and monitoring, which makes it a pain.  Likely, the junkmail account is inundated with spam.  (See the end of this article for a discussion on Junk Email accounts.)

Wouldn't it be nice to have an email address that you use once and then discard and never have to worry about it again.  You could use this for confirmation emails, one-time-survey questions, and the like. 
What can you do when a site requires an email address,
and they send a confirmation email,
 -- but you don't want to give them your real address and you 
never want to hear from them again?


The Solution:  Disposable email addresses!

With a disposable address, look when needed and ignore otherwise.  Disposable email accounts automatically delete emails after an hour or two -- no cleanup is needed!  Vendors can spam you every hour and you won't care.

The vendor can still send you wanted emails, but you chose when to look.

I recommend the following disposable email services -- all are free and easy-to-use and quirky.

Each service has benefits and drawbacks.  Most are public, meaning they are visible to anyone who knows the account name.  This means there is no passwords and no security!  As scary as this sounds, it is not bad.  They are "secure by obscurity" because nobody but you and the vendor know the email address.

If they send you a confirmation email or an invoice, run up there and grab it, then delete.  From then-on, ignore the address.  You don't even have to use that same address the next time you deal with them; invent a new address and do the same thing.

Admittedly this is weird and it takes some mental energy to get used to.  Consider these two services.  Read how they work, then pick one and try it out the next time you have to deal with a vendor.



Mailinator
Recommended


www.mailinator.com

Summary:
  • No signup, setup, or registration required.
  • Optional signup recommended if you need to delete, save, or forward.
  • Free
  • No advertising
  • Read-only, no outbound email
  • !Inbox created by the sender - the moment they send
  • No need to pre-setup; no benefit to pre-setup.

Mailinator can be used on-the-fly; address can be invented at any time, using any address, without using a computer or app.  Just coin the address on-the-spot. 

Using Mailinator:

Give vendors any made-up address, tacking @mailinator.com at the end.
You can do this over the phone.
You can do this when filling an online form.
Don't forget what address you used or it is lost.

Amazingly, it does not matter if the email account has been used before, by you or anyone.

Literally, at any time, any place,
make-up an email address and give it to your vendor.
This becomes the inbox.

For example:  JSmith-123Street@mailinator.com


By design, arriving email is visible to everyone ('public' emails)!
If you know the account name, you can read the email.  Notice you do not need a password and anyone can go to that address to read the mail.  See example, below.

No Risk - Try this now:

Open browser to www.mailinator.com
At the "Go" prompt, type "Jsmith"
Read jsmith's inbox (a popular inbox)

Additional test:
To prove how easy this is, from your normal email client, send an email to this slightly-more complicated email address:  jsmith-andme-2018@mailinator.com.  Open www.mailinator.com and go to that email account.


Recommended use:
For registering on websites for one-time or limited transactions.
For registering with businesses where you expect them to spam or sell your address.
Public email lives for apx 5 to 10 hours -- longer than most.

I recommend clicking the "Signup" link and registering (where you only need to give a real email address and a password).  With a sign-up, you can save and forward emails in a dedicated inbox (exact retention unclear -- but it lasts more than a few hours).

To their credit, mailinator uses 2-factor authentication to register the account (good), but they use an unencrypted login page (bad) -- your browser will warn you the login is not SSL-encyrpted.  This is a low-risk email account, so the fault is survivable.

Drawbacks:

Important:  Mailinator does not handle attachments.  If you expect attachments (typically .pdf), use Guerrillamail.  

If your vendor sends a shipping confirmation, etc., you have to monitor the inbox before it deletes.  In other words, you have to know when to expect the email - you must watch for it before it deletes.  Mail auto-deletes after a "few hours." 

For sites, such as Dell.com, they immediately send an order-confirmation, but it might not be for a few days before they send the Shipping confirmation - this makes it hard to monitor.  In these cases, log into the vendor's website (e.g. Dell) and check the shipping-status there.

If anyone knows the account name (the vendor knows!), they can open and act in the inbox.  For expected emails, you can be watching the box and Save (moving to your private box), or Print and delete -- quicker than anyone could discover the account.

If things like SSN's or the credit-card number are exposed in emails, you should use a normal email account.   But for most invoices and confirmations, where your name and address are exposed, along with an invoice and dollar-amount, it is reasonable and safe to use the account. Login and delete the email as soon as you can. 


Some vendors are wise to Mailinator and block the domain on their intake forms.  Mailinator has alternate domains, all going to Mailinator's same address.  For example,
@suremail.info,
@zippymail.info

These 'alternate' domains are not published.  Mailinator's author wrote an interesting blog post about alternate domains.)







Guerilla Mail
Recommended

www.guerrillamail.com

  • Anonymous setup required (to create the email address)
    Setup one-time, use the address as often as needed
    or invent a new address each time - it really doesn't matter
  • (No login to setup)
  • Free
  • No advertising
  • Send or receive email 
  • Sent email is semi-anonymous (IP Address tracked)
  • Supports Attachments
  • There is a nice Android app for those times when not near a computer.

To Use:
1.  Open a browser to www.guerrillamail.com



2.  Select a domain, such as SharkLasers, Pokemail.net (or the impossible-to-spell guerrillamail.com) -- all are aliases for guerrillamail.com.  Click "forget me" to reset the address.

3.  Click the alias field (illustrated as asdfasdf), type a memorable name of your choosing.  Click "Set".

This is your key to the mail-box.  Make it a long, multi-word phrase.  Do not use common words like "Reservations" or "Shipping".  Consider a name like "RobertSmith-Invoices2018".  Or, if you have no intention of ever reading the email or just don't care about the email, use "jsmith" or "invoice".

Jot this name down or take a screen shot.  You must have it to retrieve the emails

4.  Copy the scrambled address.  This is the one you give vendors. As illustrated,

The Scrambled-address is that same alias-key name as above, but it is long and complicated and cannot be easily-converted back to the original account's name.  It is re-create-able and generates with the alias-name.  Guerrillamail may change how they generate the scramble, but both the original and new scramble will work to the same address.

9kbf7z+91t1zt2gufyfc@sharklasers.com   :Give to Vendor
asdfasdf@sharklasers.com               :Your alias/access key


Do not give away the account's alias-address (asdfasdf@sharklasers.com) because you are giving them the rights to the inbox-- the address will be discarded on the webclient (but oddly, arrives on the Android client -- I think this is a bug).  Plus, you would be giving them rights to see the inbox!  No matter how ugly, vendors get the scrambled email address.

Similar to mailinator, no password is needed to view the emails.  If you know the (alias), you have the inbox. 

No Risk - Try now:
Open the browser to www.guerrillamail.com
Click 'forget-me' and type a username you will remember.
Copy to-clipboard the generated address.  Re-use this address as often and as long-as needed.
If you want (to prove how this works), close your browser.
From your regular client, send an email to the long address.
Re-open www.guerrillamail.com; "forget me", type the alias address and view the inbound email.

Drawbacks:
You must 'setup' the email address before using -- e.g. you need to get the scrambled address.
Account setup is easy, but requires a PC or Android app.  This is anonymous; no login to setup.
The Android app is handy when you need to give out the email when not at your computer.

External email addresses are long and complicated; the only real way to use is to copy to clipboard.  Sadly, external email address cannot be changed to a more readable format.  On the plus side, the scrambled address will always resolve back to your alias account.  Guerrillamail often changes how your alias is scrambled, but the old scrambles still work. 

Similar to mailinator, you must monitor the account for inbound emails.
Mail is religiously deleted after 1 hour; shorter than mailinator.

The Guerrillamail domain is harder to spell than mailinator.  Use one of the other default domains, such as sharklasers.com or pokemail.net.  All resolve to the same location.

Inbound emails are visible for one hour, then auto-delete.  This is a problem if a shipping notice or other confirmation is sent the next day, but with most vendors, you can go to their website to see the transaction, so all is not lost.  If you happen to see the subsequent email, you can forward to your real address.

I have had (undefined) troubles using this site with Google's Chrome browser.

Benefits over Mailinator:

Guerrillamail has an Android app can notify you if an email arrives (but notifications do not always happen; seems somewhat buggy for notifications - but works well for all other tasks -- mainly holding your address(es) in a convenient list).

Outbound emails are immediately sent, and once sent, are not visible from the web-client.

Attachments, up to 150mb, are handled well.

For outbound, composed email, they are semi-anonymous -- tracking only your IP address.  Since most people's IP address is transitory, this offers reasonable and superficial protection from the recipient getting your real contact information.  However, your ISP can divulge your account.

Outbound emails will only send to one address at-a-time; no CC, or BCC.  And there is a horribly-difficult captcha test to pass, proving you are not a robot.  It seems to take three attempts to navigate.

Summary:

Choosing a favorite between Guerillamail and Mailinator is hard.  They are both good and both are different.  If I knew a PDF attachment was going to arrive, or if I was unsure, chose Guerillamail (sharklasers).  If it is just some stupid email required for a login or registration screen, and you will never deal with this vendor again, use mailinator.


More on Junk Email Accounts
Consider creating a free junk email account (I use Yahoo), where you give this address to all non-personal, non-professional contacts.  Email arriving here is from a vendor and the email is not fully-trusted and likely not important or critical but may contain invoices, shipping details, confirmations, etc., and are personal enough to guard from prying eyes.

But there is a limit to how many of these accounts one is willing to create.  Building the accounts, remembering credentials, and cleaning out inboxes, all take time.  For me, even one box is busy enough to where I loath all the cleanup.  For these reasons, I no longer consider these types of accounts as disposable.

Google+Email accounts
Google's gmail supports ad-hoc email accounts.  When giving out your gmail address, append a "+" (plus) and some text, making a new, unique address.  For example:

jsmith+someName@gmail.com

The email will arrive at your normal inbox (jsmith), as if it were sent to your real account.

This is not a disposable account, nor is the account secretive or anonymous.  The vendor can continue to send emails to the +address and you cannot block or disband the address.  The only benefit of this address is you could tell if "some-name" sold your email to another. Vendors know if there is a + in the address, they can strip the appendage and get the real destination.


Discussions on the morality of disposable accounts:
 

Many sites hate disposable email addresses.
Vendors want legitimate contact information, while most of us
want to restrict our addresses because we have been abused.

I argue that disposable accounts are no different than a junk mail account -- they are as legitimate of an address as any -- it is just that I get to chose when to look and am willing to accept lost spam that never gets my review.  I will look when needed.  Otherwise, I can appreciate their ephemeral and self-cleaning nature.

A heated discussion on this can be found at this link:  https://gist.github.com/nocturnalgeek/1b8fa44283314544c487  see the comment section for the back-and-forth



 
Other Services, not yet reviewed by keyliner.
Hide Your Email
Hide-your-email.com
pidmail.com
No signup required; no setup
To build an account, make-up an address, tacking on @pidmail.com
You can reserve an address at no cost

TrashMail.com
Requires registration and setup
This is not an on-the-fly email service
Create a new email account from provided domains
Trashmail will forward to your regular email account
Site has an address-manager to keep track of all of your made-up addresses
It will keep the email for a life-span determined by you
Has a limitation on how many "Forwards" are allowed; pay for extra capacity

Related Articles:
Better, stronger and easier passwords

Edit history: 
2017.12  Originally published
2018.05  Re-wrote and re-designed article, moving more important points higher in the article.

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