For the next two weeks, readers are submitting their best life hack for a chance to win an autographed copy of our new book, Upgrade Your Life.
If you own a domain name with an active catch-all email address, you know how spammers can pummel you with junk mail to every [email protected] email address they can automatically generate. When you have your own domain, you can to use site-specific addresses when you register for web services to track down spam sources (like [email protected]), but once you do that, you've got to keep your catch-all address open to junk mail as well. But Google Apps user Ray has a clever system that filters out catch-all junk but still lets him track exactly who's selling out his address. Here's how to set it up.
Editor's note: this method involves a few steps that take one or two reads to get your head around, but it is pretty ingenious. Ray explains:
In Google Apps, set up a new user account. This is NOT going to be your actual email address. Set the username to something that will stand out among your other user-names (if any). In this case, I'm using "spam-trap".
Go back to the Google Apps Dashboard, and click on E-mail under Service Settings. Select "Forward The Email To... and enter your newly created account in the Catch-All address field, as shown.
Go to your email login page, which is usually: https://www.google.com/a/yourdomain.com, and login to your newly created account.
Click Settings > Filters > Create New Filter. In the To: Field, enter "." followed by a short sequence of numbers or letters. Make it something short, and easy to remember. This will be your secret email suffix, and is the key to this whole system working.
Click Next Step, and enter your real address in the "Forward It To" field. You also might want to add a label to make checking how your filter is working easier later. Click "Create Filter."
Now, whenever you need a trackable email address, give it in the form of [email protected] If you want to be able to track spam, give a custom address to each site that requires an email address. Using the name of the company or web site works great for this. (Ed: Like [email protected])
The filter you've set up will forward any incoming mail in the correct format to your real address, while stopping all of the garbage emails that spammers send out in the hopes of finding domains with active catch-all addresses.
This system works better than Gmail's plus addressing, because sometimes poorly-designed web forms will not allow + characters, and since you're using your own secret suffix, it's unlikely that a spammer would take the time to reverse-engineer your naming system. If you do start getting spam, you can block it easily via another filter, and if you're using custom addresses, you'll also know who sold you out to the bad guys.
Periodically you might need to login to your catch-all address, and create special filters to let certain legitimate mail through. In particular, check mailing lists you subscribe to, which often use a special address in the To: field, and thus will get caught by your filter.
This system can even be adapted to non-Gmail/Google Apps users who use desktop clients. The key is a catch-all address, the secret suffix, and a filter to block out everything else.
Congrats, Ray! Your hack just earned you an autographed copy of Upgrade Your Life!
Send us your hack for a chance at your own copy. We especially love the hacks illustrated with photos, video clips, or templates, so make your submission a show and tell. Another book contest winner to come tomorrow.