I admit I am a bit paranoid about protecting my private information. I also have an intense dislike of spam mail, both the electronic kind and the junk mail delivered by the mailman. I do not freely give out my email address, telephone numbers, or any other information that I fear will end up as fodder for marketing purposes.
Nicole Perlroth has written a great article entitled Stop Asking Me for My Email Address that has been published in Bits, the personal technology blog published by the New York Times. I suggest it be required reading for everyone who has an email address. You can find the article at http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/01/10/stop-asking-me-for-my-email-address.
In addition, I can offer another idea. There are times when I actually need to supply a valid email address for some reason. At other times, I don't want to deal with the hassle of explaining to some store clerk why I won't give out my true email address. I take the easy way out: I give the store clerk a disposable email address.
A disposable email address (DEA) is a unique email address for every contact or company that asks. In other words, if the XYZ Company wants your email address, you make up a brand-new address and give it to them. When the company starts sending you all sorts of marketing messages, you can read the messages or not, as you please. In most cases, I never see the email messages sent to one of my disposable email addresses.
Disposable email addresses are great when you believe a company may flood you with advertising or other "special offers." Another risk is that many retail stores sell their mailing lists to marketing companies. When using a disposable email address, my attitude is, "Who cares? I won't see the messages anyway." Disposable email addresses work equally well with in-store transactions as well as for orders and subscriptions purchased on the web.
You can find dozens of companies that will provide free disposable email addresses. You can find many of them by starting at https://www.google.com/#q=disposable+email+address.
My favorite disposable email address provider is Mailinator.com. It is simple to use, requires no set-up in advance, and is available free of charge.
Most of the disposable email address providers require you to create accounts in advance of the need. They usually provide various options, often allowing you to select which messages you wish to be forwarded to your normal email address. These usually work well but do require advance planning.
In contrast, you can create a new Mailinator.com email address at any moment, even while standing in the middle of a retail store. Simply give the clerk whatever address pops to mind at the moment, followed by "@mailinator.com." For instance, if I was asked for an email address by a store clerk at a local Target department store, I might give an email address of:
There's no magic to using the word "target" in the address. I could easily use firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or GrumpyDude@mailinator.com or anything else I please. The downside, however, is that I do need to remember that email address if I wish to later read the emails being sent to me.
Assuming I supply an address of firstname.lastname@example.org, any future email messages sent to me by the store are delivered to that address. Mailinator accepts any email messages sent to the service and keeps each messsage for twenty-four hours. That's great if the store happens to send the receipt for your purchase. You have twenty-four hours to connect to www.mailinator.com and retrieve that receipt.
Keep in mind that all email messages are deleted by mailinator.com after twenty-four hours. Obviously, this is not a good solution if you want to go back and find email messages sent to you a week or two ago.
No email messages are ever forwarded to your normal email address. I consider this to be a good thing, but others may want to have messages delivered. If you want to have messages forwarded, don't use Mailinator; instead, use one of the other services listed at https://www.google.com/#q=disposable+email+address.
There is absolutely no security with Mailinator. In fact, there are no passwords. Anyone can connect to www.mailinator.com and read messages addressed to email@example.com or to any other address ending in "@mailinator.com." You don't want to use Mailinator for any messages that might contain sensitive information. Then again, if you are expecting sensitive information to be sent, you probably shouldn't be using a disposable email address anyway.
You can obtain a bit of privacy by using a really obscure email address that others are unlikely to guess, such as firstname.lastname@example.org. However, that strikes me as too complex for most of us to remember, and it still doesn't provide all that much security anyway. "Security by obscurity" is never trustworthy. I would never use Mailinator for anything I want to keep private.
If you don't want to give out your true email address, I will offer two suggestions: First, read Stop Asking Me for My Email Address by Nicole Perlroth at http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/01/10/stop-asking-me-for-my-email-address. Next, read the info at http://www.mailinator.com. Then relax and enjoy life with fewer marketing email messages.