E-Mail Pro Tip #4: Create Disposable Emails With Gmail’s ‘+’ Notation

When signing up for online services or newsletters, most of us feel some level of anxiety about handing over our closely-guarded e-mail address to an unknown and potentially untrustworthy third party. To work around this problem, some create “throw-away” e-mail addresses that can given out indiscriminately, but having to deal with multiple e-mail addresses can be a significant headache.

Gmail (and Google Apps) offers support for a more convenient solution to this problem: an instant “throwaway” e-mail address can be created by appending a “+” sign, followed by any combination of words or numbers, to your e-mail address. E-mails sent to this address will still be delivered to your inbox, but will retain information about the special ‘+’ address they were sent to.

How is this useful? Imagine you signup for a service like Twitter, but want to filter out any Twitter-related e-mails automatically. If your e-mail address was joe.smith@gmail.com, you would signup for Twitter using joe.smith+twitter@gmail.com, and any e-mails you received from Twitter would be delivered to your inbox, but would be marked as being sent to joe.smith+twitter@gmail.com.

Take another example: the popular ABA Solosez listserv. Because of the high volume of mail on this listserv, many of its subscribers use a dedicated e-mail address to avoid commingling listserv mail with “real” mail. Using Gmail’s “+” notation, however, one could sign up with joe.smith+solosez@gmail.com, and apply a filter in Gmail to automatically label and segregate mail sent to joe.smith+solosez@gmail.com.

Finally, a significant benefit of using Gmail’s ‘+’ notation is the ability to automatically delete messages sent to an address that is being spammed or otherwise abused by an online service; for example, if you receive too many spammy e-mails at “joe.smith+groupon@gmail.com”, you can easily set up a filter to delete messages sent to that address.

Gmail’s ‘+’ notation delivers the benefit of easy-to-create “throwaway” e-mail accounts, but without the headache of managing multiple inboxes.

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Comments

  1. People use a throw away email address for anonymity, not to reduce spam. Joe.Smith+porn@gmail.com does not achieve the desired result. But as a group of lawyers we can convince ourselves of some more noble purpose, albeit false.

  2. I agree totally with David’s comments, Gmail’s ‘solution’ is useless as all they have to do is remove the data after the ‘+’ and they have my real email address…..Yahoo’s approach is far superior and Gmail should adopt it.

  3. Gmail’s solution for the risk of spam is not so bad – as indicated in the initial post. Some people actually care about subjecting themselves to spam when they register on new sites. I don’t think it’s true that ‘people’ = all people seek anonymity rather than something else.

    It is true that this spam solution does not help in the search for anonymity, so people will have to use something else, possibly including a Yahoo account.

  4. I tried this using the (+text) but never received the email at the regular email address.