Every now and then, you’ll encounter a website that forces you to register to view it. Rather than give the website your real email address – often an invitation to spam – you can use one of these tricks instead.
These tricks won’t help you access websites with paid registration. They’re for websites that want you to register for a free account so they can email you and collect data on what you read.
BugMeNot is a database of usernames and passwords for websites that force you to register. If you encounter one of these websites, visit bugmenot.com and plug the address of the website into the box. Use one of the username and password combos to log in. If they no longer work, you can help by registering your own disposable account (see below) and adding it to the BugMeNot site.
There are a number of disposable email services you can use, but Mailinator is one of the most popular. Whenever you need to sign up for a website that requires email verification – and you don’t want to use your own email address so it won’t be spammed – you can use Mailinator.
Note that Mailinator isn’t a private service – you shouldn’t use it for any important accounts.
To use Mailinator, select a random Mailinator email address, like firstname.lastname@example.org. Enter this address when signing up for an account. When you need to use email verification, visit Mailinator’s website and enter the address you mentioned earlier. Anyone can access any email inbox as long as they know its name.
Some websites block @mailinator.com addresses. To get around this, you can refresh the Mailinator website several times and use one of the “alternate domains” instead of @mailinator.com. The email will still go into the same Mailinator inbox, but most websites won’t block the alternate domains during registration.
Outlook.com / Hotmail
Microsoft’s Outlook.com and Hotmail both include the ability to create a temporary, disposable email address. This is one feature Microsoft beats Google on. (Yahoo! Mail also has this feature, but you’ll need to be a Plus subscriber.)
To use this feature, click the Create an Outlook alias option on the settings page. Create a new email address and provide it to the website during registration. You can delete the alias whenever you like – this will prevent you from being spammed at that address.
Gmail has a similar feature, although it isn’t quite as good for this purpose. You can append a plus sign plus a combination of words and numbers to your email address. For example, if your email address is email@example.com, you can give out the address firstname.lastname@example.org. You can then set up a filter in Gmail that redirects all email sent to email@example.com to the trash or a special spam label, preventing it from reaching your inbox. When you sign up for something, you can quickly dip into the trash or the spam label and complete the registration process.
This isn’t quite as nice as a disposable email account as it exposes your real email addresses. Clever websites could automatically erase the +spamhere section of your address, although it’s a feature used by so few users that most websites wouldn’t bother.
This trick can also be used to figure out which websites are selling your email to spammers.
How do you deal with these annoying websites? Leave a comment and share any other tricks you use.
Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.
- Published 12/31/12