07-14-11 - Good advice

Never give your real email or phone number to :


Car dealers

Mortgage brokers

Web sites

Unfortunately the tools for this aren't as nice as they should be. For example Google Voice sort of intentionally makes it difficult to use them as an anonymizer. eg. you can't have a GVoice # that doesn't correspond to a physical phone, and it's a pain in the ass to dial out with your phone and make it route through the GVoice # so that people see that number in their caller id.

Similarly, to sign up for things you often have to give an email that they check, so you can't just make one up. Ideally you would be able to give a temporary email address, which routes through to your real one for a week or so and then expires. Email providers could easily give this to you (and just limit the # of outgoing mails to prevent spammers from using it). But they don't actually want to protect you from advertisers.


Branimir Karadžić said...

I wish phones just ring if people who are on contact list call and everyone else GTFO to voice mail. There is script for this for N900 but I haven't bothered to install it, I just ignore calls from people I don't know, and my voice inbox is forwarded to Google Voice.

For signing up I use http://www.bugmenot.com/ or http://www.mailinator.com/. In most of cases BugMeNot already has login, and mailinator is for sites that do need to verify your email address. :)

Łukasz Mendakiewicz said...

Regarding the e-mail address, I use 10minutemail.com which automatically gives you, well... a mailbox valid for 10 minutes. Perfect for sing up on random websites.
However when you need a true long lasting e-mail address for various needs, you have to be aware that in Gmail (maybe other providers too) you can suffix your name with +anything, e.g. myself+companyX@gmail.com, myself+companyY@gmail.com. Both will be directed straight into your inbox unless you set any specific filter to them (e.g. move to spam :)).

sylvain-v said...

Łukasz: this trick with email+something@somewhere.com works also with most email servers. Testsed on Hotmail, my work and home emails...

cbloom said...

Mailinator looks sa-weet !

Thatcher Ulrich said...

IMO nowadays the cure is worse than the disease. I give out my phone # and email pretty liberally (and my email address has been on my web page for years).

Phone spam is rare; if it happens I don't engage at all, I just tell them to put me on their no-call list. That is quick and quite reliable unless they are actually robo-dialing criminals.

The pseudo-spam problem (from people with whom you have some dealings), isn't that bad. Pseudo-spammers are legally required to have a reasonable unsubscribe procedure and in practice it generally works. If not, I have the gmail "Spam" button as a satisfying backup.

cbloom said...

"Pseudo-spammers are legally required to have a reasonable unsubscribe procedure"

is that true? My understanding is that all the no-solicit laws have a huge loop-hole in that anyone who has an "existing business relationship" with you is allowed to contact you, and they exclude solicitations from that contact.

So for example if you have cable with Charter, Charter is allowed to send you constant offers about upgrading your cable to cable+phone or whatever.

cbloom said...

Anyway it's also a question of what kind of time-wasting you prefer.

I'd rather spend a few minutes on the net getting a fake number than spend a few minutes in the fucking Chase automated phone tree trying to get a person to take me off the call list.

Darius Kazemi said...

spamgourmet.com is my fake email provider of choice.

Thatcher Ulrich said...

Citibank is the only company I have a business relationship with who are cheesy enough to spam me with no email unsubscribe. Figures it would be the bank whose online interface I depend on. I'm considering closing my account because of that, but it would be a big disruption so I haven't yet.

But, I'm not sure how giving them an alternate email would have helped me. I can still physically block them; it's just that I don't because they're my bank.

I used to give different providers different emails but nowadays I think it's +EV to just give everybody my normal email.

For phone stuff, you just wait for them to call you. If they never call, great, you win. If they call, you already have a human on the line and it takes literally 5 seconds to dispose of them forever.

old rants