You know that moment when you want to claim that discount for giving up your email address but aren’t sure you want to subscribe to whatever SPAM that site plans to send you? Or when you want to send an email to someone but wish you could do it without giving them your email address? There is an easy solution to both of those dilemmas and many more: Get a burner email address.
Or maybe you want to give out your phone number to that hottie you just met but fear you’ll end up with a stalker if that goes south? Or maybe you are selling on Craigslist and don’t want that random couch buyer to be able to call you later. A disposable phone number, one you can shut off at any time without losing touch with friends and family who have your real number is the easy solution.
These are the sort of problems that once only concerned mobsters and thieves but, in this era of eroding privacy, this is the sort of thing we all have to deal with. Fortunately, the solution is easy and cheap. In fact, if your needs are simple, this is probably free.
Use your Apple ID’s email hiding feature
If that’s an iPhone in your pocket, signing in with a disposable email address is right there, too. If the site you are signing up for has a “Sign in with Apple” option. Just choose that option on the sign-in page and follow the prompts till you see the option to “Share my email” or “Hide my email.” Choose the latter and Apple will generate a disposable email address for you. It will forward any emails sent to you at that disposable email but you can cancel that email address whenever you like. You get to sign up for that discount but the website did not get your email address! Win!
Get some disposable email addresses of your own
If the “Sign in with Apple” option isn’t available or you don’t have an Apple ID, you can get your own disposable email addresses from many places for free or for a small fee.
There are lots of sites that do this. Most of them look like they were born in 1990s internet and never got updated. Take a look at E4ward, spamgourmet.com, or Guerrilla Mail if you want to remember what the Internet used to look like or prefer your disposable email account without design flourishes. They all do a good job of creating a disposable email address. Spamgourmet offers an entire scheme for limiting the SPAM in your life. Guerilla Mail gives you lots of options when it comes to choosing your email addresses. And e4ward lets you use your own domain.
I like my burner email address to have all the modern flourishes – including a Chrome extension so I don’t have to remember another Web site address. I’m also willing to pay for things if I want to get crazy with a lot of burner addresses. And I want to be able to send emails from my burner email address, as well as receive them, so I opted to get my burner emails at Burner Mail. This site will give me five free email addresses, creating a burner is a one-click operation, and – for $2.99 a month – I can create custom burner addresses or go above the five-address limit. This site lets me send emails from my burner address, too, if I subscribe. (Most other sites only receive emails.)
Get a burner phone number
Getting a burner phone number is slightly more complicated but it can be very handy if you want to use an online dating app, sell things on Craigslist, publish a business phone number online, or for many other reasons. It’s super easy to get a second phone line from all sorts of places – often for free – so I’m not going to give you a comprehensive list of ways to do this. But here are a few good options.
Signing up for a free phone number from Google Voice is super easy and fast. You can choose your area code and number and use it from your phone or from the Web. It is a feature-rich service that offers texting, calling, voice mail, forwarding, and the ability to have callers announce their name before you answer. It will only let you have one extra phone number per smart phone. It’s not a true burner number because it doesn’t deactivate on its own and will stay live for 90 days after you cancel it but it’s a great, free second phone line. You can change the number any time you want.
If you have a Windows computer, you already have Skype. If not, you can download the app to your phone or computer and make anonymous calls — and video calls, which is what the site is most known for — for very little – if any (you get a little credit to start) – money. If you want a phone number that people can call and text and that you can use as a second line from your phone or computer, you can buy one for $6.50 a month or $39 a year.
If you want a true burner number – one that when you trash it, it is gone – try Burner. It routes calls and texts to your phone but hides your identity when it does it so that people only see your Burner number. For $4.99 a month, you can send unlimited texts – including pictures — and make as many calls as you like. You can also change your number once a month as part of that subscription.