Published - Six Ways to Protect Email from Spam
-By Amar Vyas. February 3, 2021.
The issue of how to stop email spam remains as frustrating as it has been even in 2021. With the rise of automated content creation tools and bots, the problem has exacerbated rather than getting alleviated. In that case, how can we tackle this challenge of protecting our mail account(s) from Spam?
Like many people, I have multiple email accounts. Some from the "free" providers. In addition, for gaathastory and my author website, (amarvyas.com) there are separate accounts. Finally, a fourth for the nonprofit work I am involved with. The trouble is, I used to keep getting spam on all of them. So how do you tackle this challenge ? Read below to learn about some methods that I have come across and tried.
Providers who require you to provide email add dress
Ways to limit how many people know your email
A couple of weeks ago, we were at a government office for obtaining some service. We were required to provide our mobile phone number or email. I chose to provide the latter, because it was lesser of the two evils. After all, phone calls and SMS Spam is a bigger beast than mail spam. Most websites also require you to sign up before you can access their service. Realistically speaking, there is no need to provide my actual address in the majority of cases. But this experience made me wonder if there were any alternative available. Thus began my quest to find a way to obscure of masquerade the real email address.
As I started looking at the available options, a variety of alternatives came up. For sake of simplicity, the service providers have been grouped into six types. These are:
The question then arises, which option to choose? Before we answer this question, let us take a look at the available options.
This is a relatively simple method, but it requires some level of technical knowledge. We will come to that later.
The way this option works is as follows:
You can set up email forwarding to a separate account for each of the services. This account can be with the same domain, or a different one.
For this post, let us consider three scenarios.
a. All emails are forwarded to an email account on same domain. For example, from firstname.lastname@example.org to email@example.com.
b. All emails are sent to an email account on a different domain. Let us consider you have another domain called, feed.in. The emails will be forwarded from firstname.lastname@example.org to say, email@example.com.
c. All emails are sent to a 'free' email account from google, Microsoft, etc. For example, from firstname.lastname@example.org to email@example.com.
This is the part where the technical knowledge comes into play. First of all, you need to sign up with a domain registrar. This is followed by registering a domain. You can also use an existing domain that you have. Next, you will have to change DNS entries, typically with your provider.
Third, you will have to sign up for an email hosting plan. I have written in the past about email services including Zoho, Yandex, etc. The free tiers of most providers are limited, and they may lack some features. These include imap access, or email forwarding. Some providers may limit you to using the web client only.
I can recommend MXRoute (plans can start as low as 5 US dollars a year) or Rorarii.com. With Rorarii, for one domain, you can get up to 4 email accounts with 10 GB storage each. All for INR 110 or a little over 1.5 US dollars a year!
This option is suitable for you if: you can manage the technical aspects (such as setting up email account and mail forwarding etc.). Or, you have someone knowledgeable to help you. As an alternative, 'free' email providers like Yandex allow you to set up email for your domain. I would recommend purchasing a cheap email hosting plan. Particularly if you are planning to use this method for say 10 or 15 different or more service providers.
In most cases, you will not notice any difference while receiving emails. Imagine a scenario when all of a sudden you start getting emails about Pharmacy or hot dating sites. They are delivered to an account like firstname.lastname@example.org. You will know that someone, somewhere has leaked your data. Or, they have used your email address incorrectly.
This could be an innocent prank by a known person, so do your due diligence before informing the authorities.
You can then change the email address for your Amazon account to email@example.com, and delete firstname.lastname@example.org.
The above method may seem easy, but it does take time to set things. More time is needed for maintaining the accounts, renewing the domains, and email hosting plans.
Then comes the part of adding more acccounts. Let us say you are signing up with a new provider, such as Netflix. You may have to first login with your email manager and create an account called email@example.com. Next, forward that email as mentioned above. Then you can sign up with Nexflix. This involves additional steps.
If you discontinue some services, you may have to delete those email accounts. Also the mail accounts that may have been compromized.
Finally, you will need a domain registrar that offers privacy protection. In other words, they will keep your contact details private. Otherwise, anybody can run a whois query and find your details. These include email address, phone number, correspondence address and your name.
WHOIS Query for this domain
These days, domains don't cost a lot. Particularly if you buy them with some unique top domains. For example, the cyou domain was available on Pork bun for 1 US dollar for quite some time. Alternately, you can get domains at discounted prices. Or even use one of the free domains. This applies particularly when you don't really want to continue with certain services beyond a point in time. However, because of spamming and abuse, some domains like .tk; .ml and .ga are no longer accepted by a lot of services.
This option is workable for most people. You can use either a free service provider like Gmail or an email with a custom domain. This option does not require too many technical skills.
Using the above services (Amazon and face book), your email will look something like this:
firstname.lastname@example.org (if using Gmail, similar logic applies for many other service providers)
email@example.com (for a custom domain, say feed.link)
Why you should consider this option?
Does this even work?
What are the downsides
Using an alias also extends the number of characters in email address. In many online (or paper) in forms or application forms, there may not be much space left for so many characters. Moreover, not all service providers support this feature. Out of the services I subscribe, 10Web, Digiboxx are the two services who do not accept a '+ 'alias. Same is the case with government departments.
I learned about email relay services when I saw a post for Lastmx on ProductHunt. I signed up for it and set up forwarding from Lastmx to my Gmail address. To the outside world, I use the address that looks something like this:
Why you should consider this option?
If you are testing out a new service, you are likely to have multiple accounts and sign-up details. For example, test several web hosting and SaaS providers that I come across via ProductHunt, Beta list or Facebook groups. Firefox has also started the Firefox relay service. You have to sign up to Firefox account in order to use this feature. Firefox Relay allows you to create upto 5 email aliases at a time. Any email sent to those email accounts get forwarded to the email you have registered with your Firefox account.
For example, if I use firstname.lastname@example.org to set up Firefox account, I will be able to use email addresses that look something link this:
You can delete 1 or more of the existing email aliases to create new ones. That way, you get a large supply of disposable email addresses. Lastmx, Improvmx (upto 5 accounts) and Firefox relay are free. Improvmx paid tier allows you to use more than 5 email domains.
In most cases, it works well. I use LastMx, and ImprovMX. LastMX requires you to provide your email address, and email@example.com is generated for you. This email address remains exclusive for your use, and all mails sent to this address are forwarded to the email address you had used. LastMX does not require you to sign up or create and account in the free tier. Another service is ImprovMX Here, you have to sign up and create an account. You can set up email forwarding for up to 5 different email domains.
About 80 % of all emails sent to @lastmx.com email account are received in my Gmail account. That is 1 in every 4 gets lost in cyberspace. So far, I have not experienced any problems with the missing emails so far.
In ImprovMX, you can create what is known as 'catch all' account. This is an email account where you can forward all emails. Let me explain below.
For example, you can create firstname.lastname@example.org as a catch all account. An email sent to any id to the @file.link email domain will be forwarded to email@example.com. This could be
or any other email ID.
If you use a free service like Gmail: you can set up a rule that looks something like this. Emails sent to firstname.lastname@example.org can be forwarded to email@example.com. Or, firstname.lastname@example.org can be forwarded to email@example.com.
Firefox relay forwards almost all the emails, no noticeable 'lost in space' issues so far. I haven't tried Altmail or mailhero so far. I recently came to know about Anon Addy, they do have a good set of FAQs or Frequently Asked Questions on their site. The pricing is available in three tiers- free, Lite (US $1 / month) and Pro (US $3/month) The below screenshot shows the features of the different pricing tiers. In order to use this service, you will
"Simply need to add a TXT record to verify your ownership of the domain. Then you will need to add an MX record to your domain so that our server can handle incoming emails. You can then add a few other records to enable sending from your domain too.
You have to provide your actual email address to these providers. Their data can get breached, or sometimes they may send marketing emails themselves. The latter have not experienced it myself so far.
Using a relay service is a good, reliable and robust option. You can start with Firefox relay and build from there. With ImprovMX, one has to configure the MX and DNS settings for email. This may not be everyone's cup of tea. But it seems to be fairly robust service. The option of using multiple domains and multiple email accounts is great for small teams. This also can work for individuals catering to different clients.
There are many services that provide temporary or disposable email accounts. Most of them are free, some provide advanced features for paid users. Example of such services are:
Using a temporary or disposable email is a good option in the following scenarios:
You would like to download a book or a case study from a website. Many sites offer such "free" publications in exchange for email address. This is a legitimate and tried and tested email list building strategy. The downside is, that some providers may bombard you with emails. This could be a series of pre-drafted emails. They could also send marketing emails. Or, messages with offers for discounts, coupons, etc. What if you want to check out the report or the case study first? Would you really want to part with your real email address?
You are at an airport or a hotel lounge and you have to use their 'complimentary' Wi-Fi. In many airports, they ask for phone number. But if you are lucky, they may also have the email option. Pop in a temporary email ID, get the One Time Code, and use the service (ideally, with a VPN).
In most cases, the temporary emails work. And they work rather well. This system is obviously not recommended for sending sensitive information or if you want to save or retain the email.
What are the downsides?
But in recent times, more and more providers have started blocking services like temp-mail. Recently, Guerilla Mail was blocked by their service provider for spamming. Any service that offers a good use is prone to abuse by the few, unfortunately the free options come with that caveat.
Summing it up
I would suggest giving these services a try. At a minimum, for testing them out. Obviously not for sending sensitive or critical information, but for normal, innocuous communication, this could be a good solution.
This section will be updated shortly
This method can also be referred to as the "Duh!" method. In this, you can create two email accounts- either with same provider, or with two different providers. Let us say, I create firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com The 'public face of my email would be say firstname.lastname@example.org. All messages sent to this email get forwarded to email@example.com. The latter email address is not shared with anybody else. If you start receiving too many spam emails, you can always close the outlook account.
Let us say you are not technically inclined, and are tired of email spam in one of your accounts. You can create a different account and start forwarding mails there. You can still use the "send mail as" option from your new service, so that the recipients of your mail will not get confused. (The email headers will of course change, but most people will not notice the difference).
I actually used this method before getting the gaathastory.com and amarvyas.com email accounts.
I used a gmail.com address to create an outlook.com account. It works perfectly well to date.
Using this method, you are not really stopping spam, you are merely limiting it. This also involves setup mail forwarding from account A to account B. Configuration of advanced options like "send mail as" is another necessity. If you have created folders, rules and other features of relevance, you may have to do some advanced configurations in the new account. Some email providers may not support this.
Recommended for the novice. This is a simple roundabout way, comes with its own limitations. I leave it at that.
When you sign up for different services, such as food delivery, travel, and government departments, you are asked to provide an email address. In many cases, you start getting promotional and marketing emails, most good providers have an option to unsubscribe from their mailing list. Some do not. Some shadier providers do not even have the unsubscribe option. Worse case scenarios are: data breach, provider going belly up, or signing up with a low quality marketing newsletter service. In any of the cases, the email lists can be harvested and you can start receiving spam. There are unscrupulous players who harvest email addresses, or entire mailing lists, and they sell this data in the gray market. There are scripts, bots and AI tools that can always leak your information. Preventing them may be beyond the capabilities of most people.
Using one of the options mentioned in this post, you can masquerade your actual email address. Additionally, you can set strict anti-spam filters. That way, any spam that you get can be either blocked off. Or, you would know where the email leak happened. You can use services like haveIbeenpwned or mine to keep track of data breaches that compromise your email. Services like unroll.me to allow you to unsubscribe from newsletters that you no longer want to read.
In this post, we saw six different ways in which one can possibly reduce the amount of email spam. Or, they can masquerade their real email addresses from the outside world. The options I listed are the ones known to me. There may be simpler, reliable methods around, that I am unaware of. The methods mentioned in this post are not foolproof, and each of the options still has a downside. Finally, in case of a major data breach with any provider, your name and other account details can still be accessible to the hacker.
Note that in spite of all these tools, because of historical or legacy reasons, your email addresses might still be floating around. It is practically impossible to update email addressed with each and every service providers. Many of them in fact disable and actively discourage changing email addressed once a user has signed up.
It is worthwhile to use an email alias or masquerade for sake of simplicity. This also helps in keeping track of multiple sign-ups with same or different providers.
For example, I am experimenting with a system in which I use the following aliases:
firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
The password is a combination that is unique to that provider. For greater peace of mind, you can use random.org to select a completely random set of passwords for each of the providers. For added security, and enable 2-factor authentication.
Copyright 2021 Amar Vyas.
author : 'Amar Vyas'
author email: firstname.lastname@example.org
date : 2021-02-03T07:33:42.763Z
- 'How to stop email spam'