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Checking your email can feel like a chore. As data mining and the sharing of information becomes more common, we’re getting more and more spam and junk emails in our inboxes than ever before. You give one website your emails so you can get pricing on new windows for your home, and suddenly you’re receiving five home improvement email newsletters a day. You didn’t even sign up for these. How do you keep your personal email address private?
Online privacy isn’t just keeping your identity from being stolen. It’s also about keeping your life clutter-free. Whether you’re an iPhone user who gets access to the iCloud private relay feature Hide My Email or surfing the web from your PC, there are options for keeping your real email address private. Think of it like a virtual private network (VPN) for your email.
Email relaying or masking allows you to create a forwarding address that reroutes to your personal email. You can deactivate and reactivate as many of these faux addresses as you’d like. The inactive addresses will continue to receive the spam mail, but based on your permissions, you’ll never see the spam in your personal inbox.
Let’s delve into the different types of email relaying, how to use them, if they cost anything, and where you can find them. Get ready, you’re about to enjoy a spam-free mailbox for the first time since you created your 2000s hotmail account.
DuckDuckGo Email Protection
Tips to avoid spam
Apple’s Hide My Email
Apple’s proprietary Hide My Email feature is available to all iPhone, iPad, and macOS users that are subscribed to iCloud+, which starts at 99 cents per month and increases from there.
Hide My Email is optional but generates a random email address when activated. This email then forwards all communication to your personal email address. If you ever want to stop receiving communication from the sender, you can easily disable (but not delete) the fake address. This also means you can return to it in the future.
It’s a great addition to Apple’s services, but it’s not perfect. If you navigate to a third-party site, such as Instagram, you may not have access to the feature. Hide My Email relies on your device recognizing an email request box and populating the option. If the option doesn’t automatically populate, you have the ability to go into your settings and manually generate a new email address.
How to use Apple’s Hide My Email
If you have iCloud+, the Hide My Email feature should automatically populate when you encounter an email request box. There are two separate ways this will populate.
Sign in with Apple
- When you’re signing up for a new app or service, use the “Sign In With Apple” option if available.
- Click the “Hide My Email” option when prompted.
- Choose “Continue” to mask your email.
Hide my email
- While visiting a webpage or in an app, click the box where the email should be entered.
- Choose the “Hide My Email” feature that automatically populates on your device.
- Choose “Continue” to mask your email.
As you can see, it’s a pretty easy smart feature that takes very little time to use. If you don’t see the “Hide My Email” option populate, the site may not have the coding necessary for your device to automatically recognize it. You can still manually populate a fake email by going through your settings.
How to manually generate Hide My Email
- Go to Settings.
- Click on your name to access your iCloud settings.
- Click iCloud.
- Scroll down and click Hide My Email.
- Click Create New Address.
Now you’re ready to use that manually created email address to enter in place of your real email.
How to hide your email while composing a new message
- Click New in your email app.
- Click the email address in the From box.
- Choose the Hide My Email option.
- Finish composing your email.
This allows you to automatically send an email to a new contact without compromising your current privacy. This works in Apple mail or iCloud mail. It will work with most email domains used through Apple’s email app.
DuckDuckGo Email Protection
DuckDuckGo is committed to protecting your privacy. The DuckDuckGo Email Protection feature not only reroutes messages to your inbox but also removes all tracking links that can be traced back to you. The best part? The service is free.
You sign up for a duck.com address and you can begin using it right away. It even has alias features similar to Hide My Email on Apple devices. This allows you to create multiple aliases that you can use and deactivate similar to Apple’s proprietary service. There’s even an option to reply to emails from your aliases to continue to protect your privacy.
When we signed up for this service, we weren’t able to verify the email on our Chrome browser on our MacBook. We were able to verify it on our iPhone though, so we know it works. We were immediately taken to the Autofill page where we could generate new private addresses.
Because DuckDuckGo is transparent about its security practices, companies know it’s stripping emails of trackers. This may lead to certain sites blocking duck.com email addresses. In that case, you would first need to sign up for a new email account through an email host such as Yahoo, Gmail, Outlook, or AOL. You would then route that email to your duck.com email, which would route to your regular email address.
It sounds like a lot of work, but it takes less than 30 minutes to set up, and you just may feel like a sneaky spy. Cue the theme music.
How to use DuckDuckGo Email Protection
DuckDuckGo’s email protection service is available through an app or browser extension. Compatible devices are macOS (currently in beta testing), iOS, or an Android device. Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, and Brave are compatible with the browser extension offered if you’d prefer to use a computer rather than your phone. This extension is not available on Safari.
Make sure to check your email spam after signing up. Our confirmation link went to our spam folder.
On a mobile device
- Download the DuckDuckGo app from your app store.
- Sign up for your duck.com email account.
- Verify your email address.
Through a browser
- Visit the start page.
- Sign up for your duck.com email account.
- Verify your email address.
Firefox Relay has the most features and add-ons of any of these email masking services. The options range from free to $6.99 per month, depending on the features you prefer. It allows you to do all the same things Apple and DuckDuckGo do, but some features may be behind the paywall.
Firefox Relay includes email masking, but you can add the ability to block promotional emails, reply to forwarded emails, mask your phone number, and even add Mozilla VPN as a bundle option. Phone number masking is also available through a Google Voice account, so it depends on what’s important to you. If bundling for a fee sounds good, Firefox Relay might be the solution for you.
How to use Firefox Relay
Firefox Relay could be the best option for you if you’re looking to bundle your email relay, phone masking, and VPN into one.
- You’ll need to visit the Firefox Relay site.
- From there, choose your plan.
- If you have a Firefox account, you’ll need to sign in.
- If you do not have a Firefox account, you’ll need to create one.
- Continue through signup and follow the instructions for your specific plan.
- Download the browser extension and activate it.
8 tips to avoid email spam
The internet is loaded with crawlers, scripts, and cookies all focused on getting your information. With a few small tweaks and new habits, you can reduce the amount of data collected on you and your family. Not only will this make you a less likely target for phishing scams, it’ll clean up your inbox, too.
1. Customize your spam filter
You can customize your spam filter to block all sorts of emails from coming through. You can access the directions for Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook, or AOL by following their instructions in the individual system preferences. If you use a different email host, try searching for customization options.
2. Avoid suspicious links
If a link looks more like an advertisement or uses buzz phrases such as “this one weird trick,” avoid clicking. Usually you have to input an email to continue. This leads to the sale of your email address with little reward for you.
3. Don’t open attachments
This doesn’t mean all attachments are bad. If your overzealous uncle from Georgia is sending out family photos regularly, feel free to open those. If an email asking you to open an attachment for a purchase you don’t remember making comes through, that’s one to delete. In fact, checking email addresses for fakes or doing a web search of the place sending you the attachment can help you determine whether it’s real. We also recommend other tips for staying safe online to avoid email scams.
4. Be wary of where you enter your email address
The fastest way to become overloaded with spam emails is to sign up for everything under the sun. Free $750 gift card for completing a few offers? Get five recipes by signing up for that blog’s newsletter? Checking prices for homes in your area? Although some of these may be legitimate, there’s a good chance your email will end up being sold, and you’ll be buried under an avalanche of spam.
5. Don’t engage with spam emails
Are you the kind of person who receives a spam email and either clicks the link in the footer or replies in an effort to unsubscribe? Congratulations, you just verified you’re a real person with an active email address. The best thing to do is to not open these; report and delete them unread. If you do open one, don’t respond or click any links. Report the email as spam and delete it.
6. Make sure to opt out
If you’re purchasing an item or using a service, there may be a box in the checkout phase that signs you up for email marketing. Make sure you’re looking at everything on the website and unchecking auto-signup blocks.
7. Don’t publicly post your email address
If you have a social media account, webpage, or other open and public account, avoid posting your real email address there. Use a burner email or a masking service. There are plenty of people and bots out there looking to collect email addresses to spam.
8. Use a masking service
Any of the options here, such as Hide My Email, DuckDuckGo’s email protection, or Firefox Relay are great options for keeping your email private. Masking your email is the most efficient way to avoid spam.
What is email relaying?
Email relaying is using a fake email address to route traffic to your real email address. This allows you to easily avoid spam or harmful emails as well as trackers in emails you do want.
Is Apple’s Hide My Email good?
Apple’s Hide My Email feature is easy to use and great if you have a paid iCloud+ account. Because it’s already integrated into your Apple devices, there are no additional downloads or configuring you’ll need to do to use the service.
How do I stop my email from being tracked?
Although there are manual ways to go into each email configuration and stop your emails from being tracked, you can also use DuckDuckGo’s email protection service to strip trackers from your email.
There are plenty of ways to customize and encrypt your emails that many of us never even knew existed. If you’re a hands-on user, you could configure your email settings manually. If you’re looking for convenience without all the jargon, a masking service may be for you.
Whether your motivation is to reduce your spam email or increase your online security, masking your email is never a bad idea. Hiding your true email address can make navigating a data breach a breeze. Any of the services mentioned above make it easy to deactivate a problematic email address to avoid any number of negative interactions across the web such as phishing or privacy breaches.
In the end, you want to be mindful of the information you share online. Whether legitimate sources or a cybercriminal looking to infect you with malware, email safety is worth exploring. By hiding your email, you’re increasing your privacy as well as enjoying a clean, user-friendly experience every time you open your mail app.
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