Wednesday, February 26, 2014

No. 1 secret Gmail feature to track and counter email spammers

2/26/2014 03:34:00 AM

You have stumbled upon a web site which looks interesting. You are asked to use your email address to sign up as a member before you can continue to read more content. However, the web site may "sell" or "give away" your email address to other web sites which they will spam you. You will have no way to tell which web site has given away your email address. Even worse is that you have no way of stopping the future spammers in spamming you. There is no way to even predict which spammers will come up in future so you cannot set a filter to filter away their emails. Worrying about this consequence the only way you can avoid this potential issue you may simply avoid the signing up and let go of the potentially good content or service.

Do we have a way to resolve this issue?  Yes. Gmail comes to rescue.

One of the least talked about features of gmail actually offers you to not only be able to track the source of your email address leakage but also to setup very precise filter to filter away the future spammers.

The secret gmail feature

Gmail lets you add specific ad hoc keywords within your gmail's email address so you can create an unique email address every time you register to a web site. For example, if your email address is [email protected], you can add "+whateverkeyword" behind the "abc" to create an unique email address. Gmail system will ignore whatever starting from the character "+", i.e. the "+whateverkeyword" part, and send the email straight to "[email protected]" anyway.
[email protected]
= abc+whatever
Using it to sign up to any website

However, the received email will still be showing "[email protected]" as the receiving email address (the to: field). Since this receiving email address can be very unique and precise down to one web site or one person, you can create a specific email address, say, [email protected], to sign up as a member.
Use to sign up to
Tracking who's giving away your email adress

In future if you happen to receive a lot of emails from lots of unknown web sites to the [email protected], you will know that "xyzwebsite" has sold or given away your email address to their customers.
Use the "Show Detail" option in the Gmail's email header section to show the "To:" email address.
Stopping the spammer

Since the receiving email address will contain the unique email address you have used to sign up, you can setup a gmail filter with the condition of messaging containing the "[email protected]" keyword and automatically label it as "Spam".
Setup up Gamil Filter to auto move email containing "[email protected]" to "Trash" label

There is one minor downside, however. If you forget a password and email used to sign up for, you will need to recall the email address. So you should not delete the sign up confirmation email but only to archive it in gmail for future reference. You can then search your mail archive to recall  the unique email address to login or to initial a password recovery process. It is, however, a small thing that won't take up much of your time.

Hope this helps.