How do I stop companies from sharing my email? [ASK MR. NOOBIE]

No more spamQUESTION: How can I stop receiving emails from other companies after I use my email address to get a recipe online? – Charlene from Darien, CT

ANSWER: You have described a very common problem on the Internet, Charlene. You visit one website to get some information (in your case a recipe) which requires your email address. As soon as you provide your email address, it is sold to other organizations most likely as “someone who cooks” or “someone who likes recipes” or worse yet, “someone who likes double chunk chocolate chip cookies”. The more specific a company can profile you, the more valuable your email address is.

I wish I had an easy answer for you, but I don’t. You are going to have to contact each company sending you email and ask to be removed from their mailing list. You could also relentlessly unsubscribe to each unwanted email you receive which, if the business complies with the CAN-SPAM Act, should at least stop the email from getting to you.

Stop the problem before it happens

I also want to give you a couple of suggestions to prevent this problem in the future. For starters, when you visit a website, pay special attention to any checkboxes that might be checked by default with wording like, “Yes, please send me special offers from 3rd party providers…” If you don’t like what you see, uncheck the box before submitting your email address to a website.

Another option is to use a separate email address for your online activity. This will stop any unwanted email from getting to your true, personal email address but it may also cause you to miss email you really want from the website you are visiting.

One last option is to just let the email come in but use your email software’s filter rules to filter the email to a separate folder or even straight to the trash. This is the online equivalent of throwing away the junk mail in your mailbox without ever opening it. You still receive it but you don’t pay any attention to it. Sometimes this approach is easier than trying to stop the email from coming in the first place.

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  1. Erik Deckers

    Here’s one technique I use sometimes to take advantage of Gmail’s filters:

    Gmail ignores anything that comes after a ‘+’ in an email address. So if my address was, I could put “” Since Gmail ignores the ‘+espn’, it will still come to me.

    Then, if I start getting a flood of emails to “john.smith+espn” I can know exactly where it came from and who’s responsible. Then I can set up a Gmail filter to automatically delete any messages sent to that address.

    Now, this doesn’t always work. Some companies’ email systems will reject the + symbol, which means I either need to accept it, or send it to a second email address that I use just to sign up for those giveaways.

    • Patric Welch

      Great advice Erik. I wonder how many of those other companies intentionally don’t allow the + sign.