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4 Ways to Outsmart Websites That Force You to Register

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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

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.

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You can integrate BugMeNot into your browser, if you like. Just install the Firefox add-on, Chrome extension, or add the bookmarklet from the BugMeNot website.

Mailinator

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 450348tyhofgdfg@mailinator.com. 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.

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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.

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Gmail

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 example@gmail.com, you can give out the address example+spamhere@gmail.com. You can then set up a filter in Gmail that redirects all email sent to example+spamhere@gmail.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.

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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

Comments (22)

  1. Harry Irvine

    I use 10 Minute Mail. The domain changes periodically to avoid blocking.

  2. Tyler F

    I have my own domain set up with Google Apps, and have 2 addresses, my main address which has a catch-all and a “dontwantemail@” address. So I can go and view the emails in the one for 1 time use if I want to, and go to it in future. Then with the catchall, most sites that I sign up for, I use their name, so facebook@ or randomsite@, then if I start getting spam that is getting through, I know exactly where it came from, and can ban that address.

  3. Bill

    Ten minute mail which gives you a valid email address for 10 minutes (can be extended), will let you confirm the link and then abandon it when you’re done.

  4. ArdvarkMaster

    spamgourmet.com – limited use email address (default is 3) that you modify on the on the fly based on who you are giving it to so each site gets a customized email address.

  5. Seabat

    On time, that’s all! I have one dummy account that I use all the time for such occasions, such as I did here so I could leave a comment. I check in once or twice a month and clean up, as needed. I don’t waste time playing around with silly programs. Spam? I haven’t received any in about two years. Why? Because I used Live and now Outlook.com.

  6. Buttons

    I too use 10 Minute Email. I usually use it for those quickie book downloads or other offers which require some sort of “verification” before they send you a link. (You know, the real scummy sites that actually have something you want?)

    But even better! You may want to just get an ACTUAL free email account somewhere. The only “trick” is to NOT use your real name, address, etc., or anyone else’s credentials, and to always be vigilant with the cookies and cache clearing too. Anymore, I like registering using some well known incorrectly spelled politician’s name – after all, we’re talking about (potential) scum here.

    Just about any service like MSN, Yahoo!, GMail, etc., or even my favorite Netzero, have them. I especially like Netzero for their 10 hour a month free dial-up services (although I’ve not used it in well over 5 years).

    Using a more permanent “spamable” email account also comes in handy for bacon! And who doesn’t like bacon even though we know it’s bad for us? But these free accounts really shine for filtering all that junk. And it’s not like you can’t forward messages either. Think of it like leap frogging.

    So if you happen to get spammed to death on a free account you can just kill everything in the inbox and not have to worry that your long lost cousin in “BFE” finally decided to write – because he has your REAL email address (or another one). The only downside is that you usually have to log in about once a month or every 6 months or so to keep it active.

    It really sucks that we have to play games like that. But, that’s life in the “inter tubes” I suppose.

    ——–
    P.S. If you’re computer is only accessible to you then I’d also suggest writing down those freebie addresses, user names and passwords somewhere too. Either that or keep them in an encrypted file somewhere. (Possibly on a free “cloud” somewhere!)

  7. Redrider

    I use Trashmail. Gives you a disposable address for up to 10 forwards and 30 days for free, and longer validities against payment. Various domain names to choose from, address is random. You have to register with your real email address though (for data protection reasons.)

  8. Richie

    Why go through all that trouble? I have separate email and single password just for that. I don’t use it for anything important just for b.s. registrations. Who cares if i
    Someone gets my password it’s a b.s. email

  9. MrOwen

    It’s important to note that for Outlook.com/Hotmail, you can only create up to 5 alises per year and up to 15 total. Even if you delete an alias, it will still count towards your 5/year but not the 15 total limit.

    http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows/outlook/add-alias-account

  10. Isma'il

    I use http://www.fakenamegenerator.com. It gives you a name, address, birthday, email address that’s usable for verification, and much more.

    Goodbye, spam and other “data mining” operations.

  11. John Adams

    Why so complicated. I have an email address that I use when I think giving it will expose me to spam. It matters not how much spam goes to that account because, I just log into it once in awhile and delete all of it. I do not need anyone or any organization to come up with an email address to which spam may be sent without it bothering me.

    I have been using the same email address for about 15 years. The advantage is if I think I wish to see a reply, I can log on and look at it.

  12. Ushindi

    Personally, I don’t think right-clicking on a request for registration and letting BugMeNot fill in the blanks for me is either complicated or time-consuming – at least not nearly as much as writing long, intricate paragraphs detailing how I’m so smart I neither need nor want HTG’s tips…LOL

  13. mikmik

    What about Mailinator : Let Them Eat Spam? It’s a lot quicker because you just make something up and use @ mailinator ,com. It doesn’t get much easier than that.

    Use any inbox you like

    No Sign-up

    Inboxes are created when email arrives for them

    Make up email addresses on the fly

    Make-up address, give it to others, come here and check inbox!

    RSS/Atom feeds for every Inbox

    Give out a Mailinator address any time you need an email address but don’t want to get spammed!

  14. Scott

    I use several email addresses. I have my main one that I check daily that I give out to others that I know won’t add me to an annoying mailing lists, so friends, clients, etc. Then I have another address that is also has my legitimate information in it, but that I use for places that I know might spam me. Then I have a third one that is totally false information for websites that I’m trying out for a “free” service that I’m not sure I trust. Of course, since I have my own domain and use Google apps, I don’t have to check various services.

  15. David Aris-Sutton

    I use an email I’ve had for years that is Idontreadthiscrap@….. been going strong for 10 years and I just log in once a month click delete and log out

  16. phanmo

    I do the same thing as Seabat; I have a dedicated Gmail address just for signing up to things.
    I used to use the +something Gmail trick but more and more sites won t let you put a + in your address.

  17. Riddle

    Changing the user-agent string to google’s spider will often work :) they need to get listed you know .
    disclaimer : I don’t know how legal is that and I totally don’t care ..

  18. john3347

    I am so amused by those who use Google something or other for spam control. You already know that Google is the most vigorous personal information harvestor in the world. This personal information collected by Google is the source of more spam than all other sources in the world combined. YOU DON’T WANT THE FOX GUARDING THE CHICKEN HOUSE!! This is just idiotic!

  19. Dark Reality

    It’s worth pointing out that some websites’ owners look their site up on bugmenot.com, and delete those shared accounts. Or they’ll simply “ban” them, so when you log in, you see that you’re (they’re) banned for account sharing. Kind of annoying. Shame they don’t just have guest accounts.

  20. OldSalt

    My ISP provider allows up to 5 email boxes on each account. I have one account with 3 boxes through Outlook:

    1) the primary email account used for family and friends,
    2) a junkmail box that is used for any commercial transaction that has the potential for spam
    3) a notify webmaster box for any forum/website issues.

    Each box is linked to the original or main account but incoming mail is directed to the appropriate box and I can select which box (email address) I wish to send from.

  21. DNE

    Can I also point out that it may be pointless to use a temporary email?! A lot of websites use your email as your username. Are you going to remember every new temporary email address for every website? I really believe the best method is to create a second “junk” email address for things like this.

  22. Treasure

    I use leemail.me for a lot of websites. It generates a special email for each website, which is btw easy to remember too as it uses the websites name for it. It connects the leemail email generated to my email and redirects all the mails to my inbox till the time I want them. As soon as I feel I don’t want to receive anymore of it, I can just go and switch off the leemail button for that website. And if suddenly I have an urge to see the mail again, I can switch them on any time.

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