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Mark Roudebush at Method recently sent me two ultra-clever Gmail tricks for tracing and preventing spam. Here’s what he wrote:

1. The Plus Hack

You can create alias emails for things like shopping sites, places you know will spam you, or anything you want to track to see who they are sharing your email with. To do this, simply put a “+” after your account name and add words.

For example, I could do “mrmarkymark+onlinepurchases@gmail” or “mrmarkymark+spam@gmail.com”. All of these will come into my inbox, but they can easily be filtered to a folder, to spam or even to the trash.

2. The Dot Hack

Apparently, Gmail doesn’t really acknowledge dots in your account name. So I can use “mr.marky.mark@gmail.com” or “mr.markymark@gmail.com” or without any dots at all, “mrmarkymark@gmail.com”.

This should help if someone can’t remember where that damn dot was in your email address, or again, if you want to distinguish the sender so you can filter emails. I belong to some email groups that send a lot of mail. This is a great way to keep those emails organized so they don’t clutter up my inbox or get mixed up with things that need my immediate attention.

Thanks Mark!

Note to spammers: The example emails are not Mark’s real email addresses, so don’t even think about it.

14 Comments

  • Chris Barker

    gravatarApr 15, 2008
    7:48 am

    Awesome share, thanks for passing that along.

  • Don Schenck

    gravatarApr 15, 2008
    8:53 am

    You can also use googlemail.com instead of gmail.com.

  • Sam

    gravatarApr 15, 2008
    9:51 am

    It even works on email addresses you set up through Google Apps for your domain! Awesome!

  • Nik

    gravatarApr 15, 2008
    10:05 am

    Nice list! The plus hack doesn’t work for all websites. In fact, the majority I’ve tried them on, has failed since (just as the . used to be troublesome to register) many websites don’t recognize the + as a correct email symbol.

    If all else fails, I just make another gmail account just for registrations :). (Since you can have all your mail forwarded to one account, this isn’t a problem either).

  • Arno

    gravatarApr 15, 2008
    10:18 am

    Note that addresses are not case sensitive too.

    It’s not a Gmail functionality, but MTA one. (Posfix/Sendmail/etc).

    Nice tip btw.

  • Amit Elhanan

    gravatarApr 15, 2008
    12:05 pm

    Yeah, thanks for that, I will start using the plus hack for differentiating between different sites I sign up for. especially with all the cool web 2.0 sites that are popping up.

  • Stephane

    gravatarApr 15, 2008
    12:53 pm

    Hello,

    This will not help with the spam problem.

    Think about it, nothing is simpler for an email address harvester than removing what’s after the “+” and add that to the email database…

    Those are neat tricks to keep your emails organized (with adequate filters), though !

    St├ęphane

  • Chanpory Rith

    gravatarApr 15, 2008
    8:24 pm

    Hey everyone, thanks for the extra Gmail hacks. I didn’t even realize googlemail.com works with any gmail account as well. Sweet.

  • IPTVSpy

    gravatarApr 15, 2008
    11:18 pm

    Here’s another, to fend off a new attack that employs a vulnerability with GMail forwarding and filters.

    http://diggreponsitory.blogspot.com/2007/12/spammers-penetrate-gmail-spam-filters.html

  • Jan

    gravatarApr 15, 2008
    11:43 pm

    I have something even better. I use 4 POP mail accounts that are flooded with spam. I noticed the spam filter in GMail is very good, so i’ve redirected all the mail going into the pop accounts to gmail. From Outlook i only check GMail now instead of 4 accounts and all the spam is caught by GMail :)

    Other benefits include: – all email in one place – can access all my emails from any internet enabled device

  • Mookie Crunchbucket

    gravatarApr 22, 2008
    2:33 pm

    Yeah, but I feel sorry for that mrmarkymark@gmail.com SOB…

  • kit

    gravatarApr 23, 2008
    11:09 am

    Honestly, the + trick has been around for years. This is so outdated.

  • Steven

    gravatarApr 8, 2009
    8:26 am

    Kit – thanks for being so honest. However, ‘outdated’ doesn’t mean what you think it means. This information is old, but still very relevant and obviously helpful to a lot of people.

    I’ve owned my own domain name for years, so I’ve always used a suffix for each account I set up – lifeclever.good@mydomain.com as an example – I used to use procmail to forward *.good to my actual inbox and trash everything else (now I use a gmail domain catch-all address)

  • Home Security Man

    gravatarApr 21, 2010
    1:36 pm

    nice pointers — and always good info. While not necessarily great anti-spam tactics, we’ll have to use all the knowledge we’ve got to be smarter than the spammers – Google’s “this is spam” button is likely the best part — as the more people that click on it, they quicker they begin to recognize it as true spam. now to prevent hacks into your gmail account!