How to find out who is selling your email address

Years ago, I created my first free email account with Yahoo. My motivation was to separate my email address from my internet service provider. Not long after, SPAM email multiplied in my inbox like weeds in early Spring. As the internet became a part of everyday household activities and my email address was distributed to both individuals and businesses my inbox became a mixture of personal messages and solicitations. So, I created a second email address to give to personal contacts to separate the email I wanted to read from the growing number of solicitations in my original inbox. We’ve all been there!

It’s nice to have one address for everything but receiving so many unwanted email messages daily that I don’t want isn’t nice. Thankfully, modern email service providers do a good job of moving egregious SPAM automatically to the trash folder. Additionally, nowadays mail programs provide several ways to manage unsolicited emails including such things as blocklists and filter rules.

In case you didn’t know, there’s a better way to manage multiple email addresses; Use disposable addresses or an alias. With a disposable address, you can have a unique email address that uses the same destination inbox as personal messages. But then you can set filters to put the disposable messages into specific folders. For example, with Gmail, you can add “+Keyword” to your base Gmail name.  So [email protected] and [email protected] would deliver to the same inbox. 

A second way to use disposable/alias emails is to find out who is selling your email address. Using my above example, I could create a filter for [email protected] based on the ‘to’ field of the incoming email. Now, if I only use that email address for the ABCompany site and I start receiving emails from unwanted sources to it, then I know they sold that address. 

To end this post, I’ll show how to create a disposable address on two popular email providers, yahoo!mail and Gmail. 

Onward and Upward!

(photo credit: Finding by Taymaz Valley via Creative Commons )

For yahoo!mail

  1. Inside yahoo!mail select ‘Settings’ (gear icon) in the upper right of the screen.
  2. Now select ‘more settings’ and then ‘Mailboxes’ from the left-side navigation.
  3. Now look for the Disposable mail address section. With a free account, you can define the base of the disposable email address one-time-only (choose carefully). Once you save the base then you create up to 500 disposable addresses. Yahoo takes the base and appends a dash and then you specify the keyword.

So for example you can create disposable email addresses for merchants, lists, or topical areas. 

[email protected]

[email protected]

[email protected]

  1. Now in that same ‘Settings’ area look for the selection for ‘Filters’ in the left-side navigation. 
  2. In the Filter creation, set the rule for “To/CC” to match your unique email address and then have it move those emails to a unique folder. 

For Gmail

  1. Google makes the disposable email addresses much easier to setup. Simply add a ‘+’ to the end of your address and then a keyword. For example, if your email is [email protected] then you can use any email address Smileez+<keyword> and it will deliver the message to your same inbox.
  2. Try it by sending yourself an email.  You’ll notice the difference in the ‘to’ field of the email you receive.
  1. Then in the Gmail settings define a new filter
  1. Set the filter to where the ‘to’ address is the same as what you defined in step 1.
  2. Then define a treatment or destination. Gmail has quite a few options for how to treat emails with matched criteria.