Avoiding Spam with Email Aliasing

Anyone that sells anything wants an email address from me. There was a time when I could pretend to be a luddite and say I didn’t have one. But that’s getting harder to pull off and it doesn’t solve the issues presented by online stores that require an email address to do any transaction.

My primary concern is always that the email address will be abused, sold and ultimately create a lot more work for me.

Here’s a trick I started using back in the days when I used Gmail: dynamic email aliasing.

In Gmail, you can use any address with this format: your.username+any.alias@gmail.com and it will make it into your inbox. You can gain the upper hand by using an alias specific to the business you are giving it to. For example I used a format like your.username+amazon@gmail.com or your.username+apple@gmail.com when doing business online.

When I start receiving spam delivered to a specific email alias, I know immediately the originating source and I can create a perfect spam filter by flagging all further messages delivered to that same address.

My new email home, FastMail, supports the same plus alias format, but they also support a format like alias@username.fastmail.com. Take a look at their full discussion

I prefer this format to the plus addressing for two reasons:

  1. It’s less obvious that it’s an alias
  2. I love the look on a cashiers face when I tell them my email address is walgreens@macdrifter.fastmail.com

The use of email aliases are one way I’ve reduced spam and kept it down as I’ve moved across email hosting services. I’ve never regretted using an alias. I don’t even need to track them because aliases are stored on the sender side. I just create rules to handle them when necessary.