If you’ve never used a temporary email address you might be surprised to learn how they are used by people in all sorts of online situations.
Let’s get the record straight from the start. When we validate emails at Email Hippo we recognise every temporary email address as being a risky email address. We explain more about why that is in other articles. For now let’s just think about who would use one and why.
Ordinary people use temporary email addresses to avoid spam
Email marketers have painted themselves into a tricky email marketing corner. Because people have learnt to be spam wary, a temporary email address can be a tempting way to exist online without leaving much of a trail. An email address that is only temporary allows people to interact online and avoid; “all those annoying emails you get when you buy anything online these days.” (That’s our quote by the way, paraphrased from years of servicing the email marketing business.)
Picture the scene. Mr. X is doing his Christmas shopping online. He’s buying from companies he isn’t interested in and he doesn’t want to hear from again. When he comes to check-out he has to fill in a form, even when he’s shopping as a guest without an account, he still needs to leave an email address to receive confirmation of the transaction. Hmmm. All he has to do is head over to a site offering temporary email addresses and he can get himself a brand new, shiney email address that he can use just for Christmas. He doesn’t care if the company he’s buying from emails him every day with special offers, he’s not going to look at it again and his day to day email address is left clean. Happy Christmas.
What do you think?
People are buying more things more often online. Surely it’s right that they can use temporary email addresses to buy what they want without being hassled in their “real” inboxes?
People use a temporary email address on any site where they have to leave an email address but don’t want to have an inbox filled with marketing emails long after the event.
Is a temporary email address a way to be more secure online?
We identify temporary email addresses as risky. Ironically, some people use them to feel more secure. By having a temporary email address, transactions can be isolated from other email addresses that are used for more important communications. Temporary email addresses (often called “burners”) can make online activity seem more secure as they don’t contain personal and private emails from say, banks or government agencies. So if the temporary address is hacked there is less valuable information to access and use fraudulently.
Temporary email addresses - staying private offline and online
Mr X might also use a temporary email address when he doesn’t want anyone else reading his emails. Dating? Online gambling? One thing to bear in mind that Mr X might not realise; very few disposable email services offer private email inboxes. In the majority of cases, emails can be viewed by anyone using the service. That gives businesses data risks from broadcasting personal information.
Software developers use temporary email addresses
There are more reasons for using email addresses with a short shelf life. A quick test of any online process is a handy use for a temporary address. Emails that aren’t important enough to keep, and don’t matter for more than a moment or two are ideal for sending to an email address that doesn’t matter either. Forgotten password? Who cares?
Fraudulent activity and temporary email addresses
Our statistics show that emails from temporary email providers are one of four indicators of likely fraudulent activity. At Email Hippo we use recognition of email addresses as a way to block users from defrauding our online services. A temporary email address raises a flag that there is likely to be something fishy going on. It’s a shame in a way that all temporary email address users are flagged; as you’ll appreciate by now that there are some pretty sensible reasons for good ‘ol Mr X to use that temporary email address. However, if he’s online with a company that’s checking email addresses he is likely to find his transaction blocked, which will be more frustrating than finding unwanted emails in his inbox.
If you’re a marketer and you’re finding lots of temporary email addresses on your lists, you ought to consider how transparent your opt-in processes are and whether you could improve your online credentials. If your customers believe you will keep your opt-in promises they will be more likely to allow you into their “real” in-box.
If you’d like to read more about temporary email address information, or are thinking about setting one up for yourself, take a look at these articles;
- Security bias, with information about setting up gmail filters - Gecko and Fly.com technical article