I don’t know about you but I’ve completely stopped answering my phone. If you want to talk to me, leave a message. I’m guessing you already know why I made that decision; 99.9 percent of the calls are someone trying to sell me something or to scam me. In case you wonder, I’m including the political calls in the scam category. It’s amazing that my message box is almost always empty.
I only wish I had a similar technique for email. My current ratio of spam to real emails is almost twenty to one. It’s really my own fault, I’ve had the same email address for almost 20 years. Well actually I have four email addresses that I use for specific purposes. One for gaming, one for close friends, one for general accounts and a final one as a spare.
After twenty years, all four accounts have been almost completely overwhelmed by grifters and conmen. Worse, everywhere I go, websites want my email address so I can get more junk mail. Yes, I know they have a link to unsubscribe. Talk about a perfect way to compromise my system, send me a particularly obnoxious email with a poisoned link to unsubscribe. At best, all that unsubscribe does is let your spammer know the email address is live. At worst, well, too much spam might become the least of your problems.
My current Audiobook is Dangerous Personalities by Joe Navarro. I mention that because his description of the predator personality allowed me to see these spammers, telemarketers and scammers in a new light. These people don’t care what kind of havoc they create in your life. To these people you only represent the money they can harvest from you.
These people are no less evil than Jack the Ripper. At least he killed his victims. This class of predators will bleed you to death without regard for the damage it causes to you, your family, your friends and society as a whole. You believe that society comment is exaggeration? Feel free to start answering your phone again.
It doesn’t matter if you’re wielding a knife, a phone or email spam, the damage to all of us is real. How would you feel if your yard was infested with ticks? I know you want to think of them as humans deserving due process and equal rights. Too bad they don’t see us the same way. To them, we’re just a meal ticket.
This week, as I finally decided my only hope was to migrate away from those four addresses, I realized I was making a fundamental mistake. I had been treating email as if it were phone numbers. Ignoring country codes for the moment, phone numbers are limited to ten digits or given the restrictions on area codes, significantly less than ten billion.
Sounds like a lot but these numbers are limited and we seldom have a choice. Email doesn’t have the same restrictions. Within limits, I can create any number of emails I want. I realize I have an advantage in that my hosting company allows me unlimited email addresses. Your mileage may vary but I haven’t noticed Google complain about the multiple accounts I have with them. I can create an email for each vendor I deal with.
For some reason, I’m reminded of a friend of mine that used to represent three different companies. He had three different phones on his desk and a placard in front of each phone so he knew how to answer the phone.
I know, creating 20 different email accounts and checking each one doesn’t seem much better than spam. How about being able to check one email address and know immediately who was selling your address? I can easily set each account to forward the mail to a single account. And nobody ever sees the identity of my main email address. I eliminate email spam by never giving that address out.
If I create an address, JoesPizza@opinionbypen.com, set it to forward to email@example.com and use the new address only for my JoesPizza account, I will know the moment Joe sells my address. I also know that it’s someone spoofing Joe if it comes in from another address. When that address becomes compromised, I only have to change the address for JoesPizza. I can either delete it or add a number and delete the original account. Simple, I only have to check my main account and it never becomes compromised.
When I tried this, Joe immediately became suspicious that I was using his company name in my email. That was an easy fix, JoesPizza@opinionbypen.com became firstname.lastname@example.org.
As I said earlier, your mileage may vary with Google and I don’t intend to create a new address every time I’m forced to create a new account. Most of these people will see email@example.com. You’re right, I don’t intend to forward that address and I certainly don’t intend to check it.
A few of these companies want me to verify my account before they will allow me to go farther, if I never intend to do business with them again, I use a mailinator.com address. Mailinator is a public facing mail service. There are no passwords. Anybody can open any mailbox and they allow you to use any name you want but if you use something like 1YgDliTCMnynIq@mailinator.com, you might be the only one checking that account. I’ll check it once to verify the email address but I’ll never go back again.
I know all of this sounds like a lot of work but given the number of people trying to scam me I think it’s only prudent until we have a better level of security in email. I’ll let you know how it’s working next year. Until then, don’t bother calling unless you’re willing to leave a message.
© 2019, Byron Seastrunk. All rights reserved.