Track Your Vendors and Eliminate Spam with Canary Domains

By , April 5, 2013

( User Level: General )

The other day I came across a great blog post that explained how the author setup a domain name with “catch-all” or “wildcard” email forwarding which enabled him to track which of his online vendors were selling his email address or otherwise spamming him.

This is called using “canary email addresses”, I’ve been doing it for a long time with my own personal email domain.

How Canary Email Addressing Works

You would grab a domain name separate from what you use for your main personal, work, hobby email and websites. It can be anything and it doesn’t have to be pretty because humans will rarely even see it.

Then, every time you find yourself creating an online profile at a website, or ordering from an online store, you simply use the name of the vendor on the left side of the email address:

walmart@my-whatever.org
facebook@my-whatever.org

You can even put full domain names,

somepage.co.uk@my-whatever.org

Or even longer descriptors:

paypal.com-work-account@my-whatever.org

You make it a habit to use these canary addresses every time you create an account online, and then in your local mailreader you filter all messages addressed to @my-whatever.org into your “catchall” folder, away from your main inbox.

If one of your vendors sells or rents your address you will know because when you start getting junk mail in that folder you will be able to look at what address received it and then know who sold your email address.

You can then report that vendor, shame them on twitter, rant about it on your blog, and most importantly you can setup a rule in your mail reader to discard any further email from them. (On our system at easyDNS you can even add a mailmap with the value DISCARD so the mail gets discarded here on our system, it never even makes it to your mail reader.)

I recently blogged about my own experiences catching one of my own vendors from the past red-handed, selling my email address out to all kinds of people, you’d be surprised how often it happens. (I should also mention at this point that easyDNS never does this).

You could grab a dedicated domain name for this and have this up and running in minutes for as little as $15/year using our DomainPlus package on easyDNS.

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