Spam is Dead, long live email forwarding

July 13, 2011

I used to be wary of providing my email address to websites. Either I would do it and bear the spammy consequences, or I would use a disposable email service. Neither is optimal, because I often want to allow a site to continue contacting me, but I want to feel confident I can block its messages at any time. What’s more, I’d like to be able to prevent the site from selling my address to other spammers.

One solution is to use lots of email accounts and use certain accounts for certain types of website. That’s almost as much trouble as dealing with spam. Another solution is plus addressing but it exposes the underlying email address before the plus symbol.

The true solution uses your own domain, so it may not work for everyone.

  • Create your primary email address as [long random string]
  • When you sign up on a website, say Twitter, use a new email address like which forwards to your secret address.
  • (optional, paranoid) Add salt to these addresses, e.g. twitter-[random string] so others can neither guess them, nor probe which services you use.
  • If you start getting spam, check its to-address and delete the forwarding.Many hosts provide an easy way to create email forwards through cPanel, but I set up some scripts to make life easier. Adding, deleting, and listing my forwards are just a command away in the shell.