Use disposable e-mail addresses to stop spam

Prevent spam by using disposable e-mail addresses

Anyone who has ever had an inbox full of penny-stock tips, pharmaceutical offers, and phishing attempts has had two fantasies: To turn off the spigot, and to find out who gave the spammers their address. Throwaway e-mail addresses can make both fantasies come true, at least for some of your spam. With the right e-mail service, you can set up unique, disposable e-mail addresses for any transaction in which you're worried about getting spammed. The e-mail arrives in your regular inbox, but if you start to receive spam from the disposable address, you can just turn it off. In addition, the address can help you pinpoint exactly which company sold you out.

I looked at three services: Yahoo AddressGuard (part of the $US20 per year Mail Plus service), Gmail disposable addresses (free), and a relatively new one called Anonymizer Nyms ($US20 per year). With Yahoo's feature you choose a single unique prefix for all of the addresses you create, such as "erik-", and then append a suffix for each new address. I tend to use a site's domain name for the suffix, so an e-mail address might look something like You can add notes about when and why you did business with the company when you create the address.

With Nyms, you select a unique name for each address by visiting the Nyms Web site or by using software on your PC. All your Nyms addresses end in "", and mail sent to any of them ends up at whichever e-mail address you list in your account. Of the three services, Nyms offers the most features, such as the ability to specify an address's expiration date.

If you respond to e-mail sent to the Nyms or Yahoo addresses, your responses show as coming from the temporary address. In addition, either service allows you to create a new address in roughly 30 seconds with a toolbar bookmark.

Gmail's feature is more convenient than Yahoo's or Nym's in that it requires no additional setup, but it carries some significant drawbacks. To use it, you add "+anyword" to your regular Gmail address, as in Any such e-mail will come to your regular account.

Because you don't specifically create an address, however, you can't simply delete it if spam starts flowing. You must create a mail filter to block or delete any mail sent to the address. Also, if you reply to a message, the reply shows as coming from your regular Gmail address. And finally, smart spammers can just strip out the "+sleazycompany" and use your true address. Still, it's better than directly handing out your actual e-mail address.

I regularly use Yahoo's service because I'm also a fan of the site's new Web mail interface. But if I didn't already have a Yahoo account, I'd probably fork over the $20 for Nyms, since it works smoothly with any other e-mail account.

Join the newsletter!


Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Erik Larkin

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers


This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang


It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries


As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr


The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?