Disposable addresses

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Anti-spam technique: Disposable addresses
Date of first use: 1990s
Effectiveness: High
Popularity: Medium
Difficulty of implementation: Medium
Where implemented: MTA
Harm: Medium

A disposable e-mail address is an address that can be disabled when spam arrives. Typically, a user has many disposable addresses, and distributes a different one to each correspondent. This makes a point-to-point communication channel with each contact. If one of the contacts exploits the e-mail address that s(he) was given for sending spam, that address is disabled, i.e. disposed of, by its owner. Other contacts are not affected by the cancellation of one address. They can still send e-mail to the user, using the different disposable e-mail addresses they previously received.

Disposable addresses are most commonly used in situations where a user needs to receive e-mails from unknown entities whose future behavior is uncertain, e.g. they may send spam in the future. For example, a user may prefer to reveal a disposable e-mail address rather than a real e-mail address, when filling web forms, sending e-mail to discussion forums to hide his/her address from spam bots, etc.

Using a disposable address is also a clean and easy way of terminating communication with unknown entities, when needed. Unlike e-mail addresses that one can obtain from e-mail service providers e.g. Yahoo!, Gmail etc., one does not have to disable an account (which is considered difficult) or tell a contact that e-mails no longer checked.