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Disguise Your Email Address

You should disguise your email address when posting to the Usenet or talking in chat rooms to help block spam email.

Many email spammers have automatic programs that search the newsgroups and non-IRC chat rooms to collect addresses to add to their databases. Wherever a remailer is not practical protection for this type of surfing, the standard technique is to disguise your email address with camouflage or a temporary address, as described below.

Camouflage. You can camouflage your email address by putting some extra words in the address that can be easily removed by a conscious human being, but not by an automatic computer program. If a spam utility sends email to that address, it will bounce and never get to you. Note that a side-effect of this technique, for good or ill, is also to reduce the ability to search the newsgroups for your email address and dig up your old postings unless you remember which disguises you used over the years.

You can easily change your email address in most email application and news reader configuration settings without problems by simply entering a disguised address, since these programs authenticate their server connections with a separately provided user name. If you use the same program to send email and newsgroup postings, remember to change the address back again before you send mail to your usual friends and acquaintances! A detailed description of address disguise is provided at Spambot Beware!, and the essential elements are described below:

  • Extra words. Put some obvious words in your address that a person can easily tell should be removed, such as "dontsendspam", "delete_these_letters", "remove this phrase", or something similar:

    john.dontsendspam.smith@twenty.net
    john.smith.deletethis@twenty.net
    john.why-the-extra-words.smith@twenty.net

    You should use something meaningful but not too obvious since some spam utilities use filters that recognize and automatically remove the most common phrases such as "removethis" and "nospam". If you use a less common but meaningful phrase, and put some spaces in it, then the disguise should be able to fool most automatic programs. However, the following tip works even better.

  • Instructions. A more sophisticated disguise is achieved by placing normal looking additions in your email, and then specifying elsewhere how to rebuild the correct address. For example, you may add the word "cat", and then explain that the word for a "feline" should be removed. The email address and explanation is often conveniently placed in an automatic signature file added to the end of every posting, so that you don't have to type it each time. Typical examples of the technique are shown below.

    johncat.smith@twenty.net
    Remove the feline from my address to get my real address.

john.tallsmith@twenty.net
Delete the tall part to get a working address.

john.smith1750@twenty1850.net
Disappear the numbers to get from my actual address

Temporary addresses. Another method of disguising your address is to use a temporary address for all non-personal communications -- that is other than friends and family. Temporary addresses are usually forwarded to your main address for a set often configurable period of time, and then disappear. You can use temporary addresses for signing up for short term services, buying products, or communications in chat rooms, keeping your personal email address confidential and enabling you to throw the temporary address away if it attracts any spam or other unwelcome email.

Temporary addresses accomplish a similar purpose to disguising your address with camouflage words, with the following differences:

  • They are usually used for email and chat, not message posting.
  • If picked up quickly by a spam robot you will still get some spam until the address is deactivated.
  • They do not provide a long term way to get in touch with you if someone tries to contact you after the address is deactivated.

Your Internet service provider might provide temporary address services -- check with the help line. The following sites also provide temporary email addresses:

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