Avoiding Spam

You want to sign up for a service on a website, but you are also keen on avoiding spam. You don’t know whether the requirement to register for a free service means that the website owner will pass on your details to others who will either be sending out spam or will keep making you offers that you have no interest in. Avoiding the pitfalls is very important, but how do you do this in a simple way?

One thing you can do is set up a new email account with a provider simply to use for this registration then ignore the email’s inbox. However, if you are already signed up to a Gmail account you don’t have to worry about having a new account to register your interest. Google has made life very easy for you to cover these circumstances.

There is an endless supply of email addresses that you have access to if you have your own single email account with Google. You can, in effect, create new addresses on the fly. There are two very simple ways of doing this and, depending on what it is you are looking to achieve, you should choose just one of them.

The first and easiest way of producing a new email address is to add full stops to the first part of your email address. For example, if your email address happened to be johnsmith@gmail.com then Google will treat this as identical to john.smith@gmail.com, or even j.o.hnsmith@gmail.com. The full stops are ignored by Google,and all emails addressed to any of those addresses will be delivered to the original Inbox.

The second very useful method of producing another email address is to add a + followed by any other characters immediately before the @ sign. Google will ignore the + sign and the following characters for incoming emails and will deliver these emails to your original Inbox. An example of this would be johnsmith+ebay@gmail.com which would be delivered to johnsmith@gmail.com.

The suggestion therefore is that if you are registering on a website for a free service then you should sign up and add the “+” together with some meaningful name that links the address to the particular website so that you can check later whether this has resulted in a load of spam being sent to you.

Bearing in mind that all of these emails are still going to be delivered direct to your Inbox, you may wonder how this helps to avoid spam and unwanted promotional emails.

The rest of the system works a little bit like this.

Open up your Gmail account and create a filter. You can tell Google to delete all messages from/to the special address. You just click on the cog icon and then choose Settings then select Filters. You then Create a new filter and in the “To” field add the altered email address. Then click “Create Filter with this search” and from the list of actions choose “Delete it” or perhaps “Skip the Inbox (Archive it)”. After that you do not need to be bothered with the emails sent to this altered email address.

It is also useful to see what other actions can be applied to the varied email address. You could decide that a particular form of your address could have attached to it an action to “Star it”, “Always mask as important” and even apply a particular label to some emails that use a particular email address.

The choices are such that not only can you lose the altered email addresses that you know you do not want, but you can also highlight some and therefore be less likely to miss those important messages. If you know emails using a particular variant need urgent attention you can configure a label so as to vibrate your phone/pad when these emails arrive.

If you really get organised with your Gmail account to separate out messages you want to send emails using the variant address. This is so easy in Gmail. Go to Gmail’s Settings and click on “Accounts and Import” tab. See the “Send mail as” section and click on “Add another email address that you own”. Enter the variant address and click on “Next step” to confirm the change and select “Reply from the same address to which the message was sent”. Now click the “Edit info” link next to the address and choose “Treat as an alias”. The variant will now appear in a drop-down “From” menu which will ensure that any replies have the correct variant email address as your address.

If my having listed the above steps makes the whole process seem complex then you will just have to take my word for it that once you try it you will find that it isn’t complicated. Once sorted, the process becomes second nature.