It wasn’t very long ago when everyone just assumed that emails were perfectly safe and private. The government wasn’t allowed to snoop on our phone calls whenever they felt like it. Without having a good reason and a search warrant, they weren’t allowed to have access to sensitive information in our email as well.
However, the notion that our email was private evaporated very quickly after Edward Snowden’s groundbreaking revelations about the NSA. As more was uncovered about Google’s practices, there was a flood of people anxious to keep their email account anonymous. However, how can one be certain that their email is, in fact, anonymous, you ask?
While total anonymity is, and never will be, 100% guaranteed, I can vouch that you can get as close to it as possible if you follow the steps presented in this article.
Step 1: Choose an anonymous email account provider
To make sure your email doesn’t fall into the hands of malicious users who want to gain access to your personal data, you need to be smart about your choice. To make a smart decision, you need to be well-informed about the kind of provider you’re looking for.
- What is anonymous email: An anonymous email account can be defined as an email address in which the sender’s address and personal identifying data will remain hidden from the recipient. Anonymous emails are specifically designed so that the email recipient remains unaware of the sender’s identity. In other words, an anonymous email gives you the ability to send an email that can’t be traced back to you.
- How anonymous email works: There are a number of methods you can use to hide your real identity via email, but the safest of them all is simply choosing an anonymous email account provider. The approach that private email service providers use simply relies on the following—two-way email encryption, a hidden IP address or IP address blocker, email password protection, and automated email deletion or expiration.
- How to find a good anonymous email provider: A reliable and quality anonymous account provider should include some of the following features—encryption, safe logging, IP protection, solid privacy and refund policies, competitive prices, and free trial.
There really are many services out there which claim to provide completely anonymous experience for your emailing needs. Some get by on advertisements, some are quite altruistic, and others are anonymous services from larger companies. Let’s start with the easiest and perhaps least anonymous, and work our way down.
Yes, you can use Gmail to send anonymous email as well. You just have to always make sure to follow these three simple steps:
- Fake personality: You will need to create a full Google account without providing your real name, birthday, location, or any information that may give away your identity. This is the part where your imagination comes to play.
- Connect to your VPN every single time you use it: A good VPN encrypts your online activity and erases any traces of your activity by routing your connection. This eliminates the possibility of hackers or other users tracing the online activity back to you.
- Operate in a private window: For a little bit of extra protection, it is always a good idea to just switch on the “incognito” mode. You probably know that your web browser is tracking you. Cookies, even though they are intended to optimize web performance and show you targeted ads, know exactly where you’ve been and what you’ve done. Still, even by going “incognito,” sites can record your IP address, so there are obvious loopholes that prevent you from enjoying total privacy with this method… unless you use a VPN which hides your real IP address.
Additionally, we should point out that even though this process seems pretty safe and brings a certain level of anonymity, there are still gaps in this method that may reveal your true identity. For instance, you will be required to share your phone number to verify the fake email address. Unless you have a spare phone number that isn’t connected to you, you’re going to be obliged to share your own, which is, in fact, sharing your personal data. To circumvent this issue, I recommend using a burner phone with a temporary number.
As you can see, using Gmail does provide a bit of anonymity. If you want the whole package, I recommend looking for some of the different options that we’ll discuss below.
Guerilla Mail: Send and receive using a disposable email
This is the anonymous email account service provider that I personally use whenever I want to send something that can’t be traced back to me. Guerilla Mail is a disposable or—better yet—a temporary email provider whose inbox messages only last about an hour or so. As a matter of fact, everything is deleted within one hour of the activity.
While its main strengths may lay in the anti-spam fight, it is very much recognized for its ability to provide anonymous email accounts. Take a look at some of the most prominent features of Guerilla Mail:
- Guerilla Mail is a free email service
- All the incoming emails are kept for just an hour
- Users can use scrambled email addresses for extra protection and privacy
- Guerilla Mail allows you to use your own domain
With no sign-up process and the ability to send files of up to 150MB in size, Guerilla Mail is a great anonymous email service provider that provides you with a lot of options to send anonymous emails or even host your own domain.
Hushmail: Comes with high praise
Even though age doesn’t really indicate quality, the fact that Hushmail has been around since 1999 gives a little bit of reassurance that it knows what it is doing. Settled in Vancouver, Canada, Hushmail is the world’s premier end-to-end encrypted email service
With Hushmail, you can send encrypted messages to users of Hushmail and also to those who use Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook, or other email clients.
Some of the features that users may find useful include:
- 10GB storage
- Two secure web forms
- Multiple layers of security
- Private, ad-free accounts
- Unlimited number of email aliases
- Accessiblity on every device
- Dedicated customer support service
To be fair, Hushmail is meant for corporate clients looking to protect their activities against hackers. It’s a great choice if you’re in law, health care, security, or other sensitive career fields with content which has to be protected at all costs.
Email On Deck: A little spam protection with your email
Email On Deck is another premium site whose focus revolves around temporary, disposable, and anonymous email addresses. Its goal is to help users avoid spam, protect their online privacy, and prevent anyone from having access to their personal email addresses. The team at Email On Deck decided to make it as easy as possible for users to sign up while still protecting themselves against bots.
This is the two-step process. This protects users against bots and spam, and it protects you against the service being down. You get to a screen like this one.
As you can see, the click of one button allows you to get another email address even faster than the first one.
Email On Deck can easily be summarized as:
- Free to use
- Having an easy two-step process to creating a email
- Being a tool used by professionals all around the world
- A filter between your actual email address and spam
- Self-destructing email within a certain timeframe
If you need any further help understanding how Email On Deck works, watch this simple tutorial video.
Trashmail: A browser extension based on an anonymous email
I decided to include Trashmail in this list simply because it offers something very different, unlike other anonymous email providers listed above. This is not only a website but also a browser extension that works well on Google Chrome, Opera, and Firefox.
Trashmail provides a huge amount of control when it comes to managing your disposable addresses even without visiting Trashmail’s site. You can do all of that by using Trashmail as an extension. Some of the most notable features that Trashmail offers are:
- Users can customize their own disposable email address
- Users can specify the number of times that address can forward to them
- Users can set expiration dates for their addresses
Here’s how you can use Trashmail as a Firefox extension:
The extension offers 10 free anonymous emails per month, with more available with a fee of $21.99/year. Note that some other features, like unlimited forwarding and longer expiration date, are only available if you upgrade to the premium version. All in all, it can be quite convenient to have Trashmail in your browser at all times rather than having to go back to the website whenever you want to send something.
ProtonMail: A highly-regarded app
“We’re building an Internet that protects privacy, starting with email.” That’s the motto of ProtonMail. According to its website, ProtonMail is based in Switzerland and is the world’s largest secure email provider with over one million users. The company provides a free, encrypted, open-source email service which works on any computer through the website, and also through their Android and iOS mobile apps.
ProtonMail features end-to-end encryption which prevents anyone from gaining access to your emails. As a matter of fact, ProtonMail provides such a high level of email security that it can’t recover your emails in case you forget your password. The decryption happens the moment you log on, so it doesn’t have access to a means of decrypting your emails without your password or a recovery account on file. Some other useful features include:
- The ability to compose messages with images and text formatting
- Plenty of keyboard shortcuts
- The ability to download PGP keys
If you opt for the free ProtonMail version, you have will 500MB of email storage available and limited usage of 150 messages per day. Premium packages provide more space, email aliases, priority customer support, auto-reply, built-in VPN protection, and custom filtering options. There are three paid packages—Plus, Professional, and Visionary—all of which offer improved features.
Step 2: What you also must consider about your email account
Sending anonymous email online is about a lot more than just using an anonymous email account with a fake name. That’s amateur as there are still two big things which can track you, regardless of whether you say your sender name is ‘John Doe.’
- Cookies: These are small files stowed on your computer which track which websites you visit. You need to set your browser to private mode to combat these.
- IP address: This is your digital fingerprint. Websites record this as it shows where you are in the world and identifies your unique computer.
Dealing with the problem of cookies at the browser level is easy enough. Your IP address is another matter. Simply put, you must change your IP address before you even think about going to an anonymous email provider.
You need to choose a Virtual Private Network (VPN) for this task as one of its primary features is how it changes your IP address from yours to one of their own. For true anonymity, you will want to choose a no-log VPN. Two examples are IPVanish and Private Internet Access.
To make this as clear as possible, the steps you’ll want to take are:
- Connect to the Internet with all of your browsers closed.
- Connect to your VPN’s server.
- Open a private window in your chosen browser. Choose one ahead of time with all of its history erased, and do not be signed into anything like Google, Facebook, or anything else. Just to be as sure as possible that you’re not being tracked!
Your next step is to point your browser towards an email provider we listed above.
Set up an anonymous email account for whatever reason
Those who want to set up an anonymous email account may do so for many reasons. I’ve set one up to anonymously report a crime. Others will do it to speak with their (divorce) lawyer. Some will do it just to fight all the spam that winds up in their main email account.
Whatever your reason for needing an anonymous email account, be sure to:
- Open a private window, and clear all history and cookies.
- Connect to one of the VPNs we recommend which don’t log.
- Use one of the anonymous email providers above.
100% anonymity is out of the grasp of most people, but protecting yourself by using some privacy tools will greatly increase your security, your peace of mind, and your sense of privacy online.
Feature image rvlsoft / Shutterstock