Long-lived temporary email addresses

Wednesday, February 15th 2012

I recently wrote a post about creating temporary email addresses to avoid spam and other harassments, see Disposing of the nuisance. The email service I suggested there was one-way only, i.e. it allowed you to receive emails to the temporary address but not to send them. I added that I had found a fairly neat solution to this which I would explore another time. That is what I propose to do here.

The requirement is an email address that 1. is temporary and can be deleted whenever you wish, 2. allows you to send emails as well as receive them, and 3. does not reveal your permanent email address. Can this be found? Yes, very easily!

For such purposes I use the excellent GMX email service. The important features of GMX are these: It is free; it is speedy and efficient; you can use it as a Web email service or connect it to your desktop email client with either POP3 or IMAP; and, most importantly for our purposes, it allows you to create aliases.

In this context, an alias is an email address that stands in for, or masks, another email address, so that the masked email address is not revealed. If you use an alias to sign up for something on the Internet and then find the address is being abused, you can simply delete the alias without harming your true address.

You will find GMX at http://www.gmx.com. It can also be accessed as a .co.uk address, a .fr address and, probably lots more. For now, I will stick to the .com version.

GMX home screen
GMX home screen

When you reach GMX’s home screen you see the usual sign-in windows and a big green button to Sign Up Now. Click that button and you are taken to the sign-up screen.

Sign-up screen
Sign-up screen

These reduced-size images are not very clear so, if you wish, you can follow the instructions on the GMX site as we go. (Click on the images to see larger versions.)

The sign-up screen asks you for a minimum of information (remember you can give any name you like and any date for the date of birth). Think up an email name (that’s the part that precedes the ‘@’ symbol and click on Check Availability to see whether it is available. For this example, I called myself Lorem Ipsum and chose loremipsum as my email name. Fortunately it was available.

Welcome screen
Welcome screen

Having signed up successfully, you are taken to your email account and shown a welcome screen. This offers you the chance to import your other email addresses and your contacts list. Do that, if you wish, otherwise click on Go to GMX mail.

You now have a new email address, in my case loremipsum@gmx.com, with which you can send and receive emails. To use it as a Web email, simply sign in on the home screen and access your account. The whole thing is laid out very clearly and I doubt whether you will have any trouble finding your way around. If, however, you wish to operate your email address through your own desktop email client, click on Settings (top right).

Settings
Settings

This brings up a smaller settings screen where you can change your “theme” or decor, and down the left-hand side you will see a list of functions. The bottom one is POP3 & IMAP. If you click on it, this is what you will see:

POP and IMAP settings
POP and IMAP settings

Here you will find listed the settings you need to put into your email client to connect to this account. Also provided are “recipes” for setting up the most commonly used email clients.

Now we can think about the important and useful task of creating an alias which will behave as a normal email address, delivering incoming emails to the account here, but which can be deleted when no longer required. For this choose Create Alias Address on the left-hand side of the settings screen.

Creating an alias
Creating an alias

You can take this opportunity to enter your “real name” (the one that precedes your email address in the From: field of any emails you send) by inserting it in the Sender Name box. This name can be changed at any time.

To create an alias, click Create New E-Mail Address just above the list of addresses (there will only be one address at this point, of course).

Create and check
Create and check

Think up an email name (I used “spamtrapaddress” for illustrative purposes), enter it in the box and click Check to see whether it is available. (This is necessary because all the addresses you make up are unique within GMX.) Assuming that the name you have chosen is available, click Create, and the job is done! Your new alias will be visible as an addition to the list of email addresses. Emails sent to it will be delivered to the inbox of this account.

At the bottom of the screen is a disclaimer that it might take up to 24 hours for the new address to take effect but, in my experience, it has always worked straightaway.

Alias list
Alias list

Clicking OK will take you back to the main email account screen and there you have access to your inbox and to the Compose Mail function for writing emails.

Compose email
Compose email

If you select Compose Mail, an editor opens. At the top, the From: window has a drop-down arrow. Clicking this gives you a list of your email addresses to choose from. In each case, there are two versions, the address accompanied by your name and the “naked” email address. Select whichever you need for the particular email.

If you are writing emails in your desktop email client, you will not have access to the drop-down window of course and will have to adopt whatever convention applies within your software, such as writing in the sender’s address manually.

What happens when you want to get rid of an alias? Click on Settings and then on Create an Alias Address. (Refer to the image labelled Alias List above.) Above and to the right of the list of email addresses you will see Delete. Highlight the address you wish to destroy and click Delete. The alias disappears from your list and anyone who now sends an email to it will receive an error message saying that the address does not exist.

You can set up a special email account just for the purpose of creating aliases or you can create aliases (up to 10 per account) within your default account. In either case, any alias you create is a unique address within GMX and cannot be traced to your default address.

Once you are used to creating aliases and later deleting them, the process will seem very quick and easy – a case of it being easier to do than explain how to do!

Though this process is more complex than setting up HMA addresses, it has the advantage of providing more facilities, in particular the ability to send emails as well as receive them. Also, GMX has other facilities that you may find useful such online file storage and an organizer. Altogether it is a service of which I think highly.

Copyright © 2012 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

About SilverTiger

I live in Islington with my partner, "Tigger". I blog about our life and our travels, using my own photos for illustration.
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8 Responses to Long-lived temporary email addresses

  1. Thrawn says:

    I use Yahoo Mail, which provides a similar service with up to 500 aliases, and allows you to create a unique ‘base name’ for them, so you don’t have to check each address for uniqueness.

    As a bonus, you can have mail automatically sorted into folders based on the address that it was sent to, so if you use aliases for everything (which is easy to do when you’re allowed 500 of them), then your filing is really easy🙂.

    • SilverTiger says:

      I am know of Yahoo mail (I have one of my accounts there) and there are no doubt many more than can be used to create temporary addresses.

      As I have several accounts with GMX, I am familiar with how it works and it is very easy to use – hence my use of it as an example.

  2. InnerPieces says:

    I have a question you might be able to help with (I can’t seem to get a response from the GMX team or find any relevant information in the help, forums, etc). I’ve noticed when I set up aliases, the email sent from the alias always displays the sender name for my primary address. Having the sender name as the same across all aliases seems to defeat the purpose of an alias. Is there a way to set the sender name to something specific for each alias?

    I really want to use GMX. I simply don’t want to have to change my sender name every time I send an email.

    Thanks!

    • SilverTiger says:

      It depends on whether you are using your GMX alias through a desktop email client or through the GMX Website. If you log onto your account on the Web and click “Compose Mail”, it brings up a form for composing an email message. In the “From” field there is a drop-down window which lists all your aliases. You select the one you want. You can even have different signatures for each one and when you select your alias it will insert the associated signature..

      If you are using GMX via your desktop email client then what happens depends on the specific client you are using. It most probably won’t automatically give you a choice of email names to use. If you are using something like Thunderbird, you may be able to set up a separate profile for this and then select it in the drop-down window.

      If you want to stay anonymous, it’s best to use the alias through the GMX Website because if you send emails from your desktop client, even if you put the alias in the “From” field, a certain amount of information about you is included in the headers.

      Ask again if anything is not clear.

      • InnerPieces says:

        That’s great! Thank you!

        I do use the GMX website client. My concern is… let’s say I have the email address Yogi and also the alias Booboo. My display name is set to Yogi Bear. If I send an email from Yogi it would display to the reader as Yogi Bear . I noticed if I sent an email from Booboo it would also display to the reader as Yogi Bear . What I really want is for the display name to be different between my alias and my main account when a receiver reads it. So the reader would see Yogi Bear and Booboo Bear . I’m not sure of a way to do that without manually changing the display name before sending an email.

        For the record, these are just generic examples. 😉

        • InnerPieces says:

          My apologies. The examples should read Yogi Bear (yogi@gmx.com) and sending from BooBoo would display as Yogi Bear (booboo@gmx.com). I forgot the brackets would not show up in the comment. I would want it to show up as Yogi Bear (yogi@gmx.com) or BooBoo Bear (booboo@gmx.com).

        • InnerPieces says:

          One more apology is in order. I looked at the drop down list you describe before posting here and I was only seeing both aliases with the same display name next to them. However, upon clicking the link for “missing an email address? click here”, it refreshed the list. Now I have two of each email address. One has a display name and the other does not. I tried sending myself an email selecting an alias without a display name. Low and behold, as the receiver I did not see the display name. That is good enough.

          Thank you very much for your response and the original article. You are the reason I decided to try GMX in the first place as an alternative to… well check today’s date and you know who… I cannot thank you enough because GMX serves my needs exactly.

          Great writing and good luck to you!

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