Wherever we go on the web, we’re asked to sign up for new accounts—for streaming platforms, app trials, delivery services, and so on—and that puts a strain on the email accounts and cell numbers we use every day.
Even when these services you sign up for are legit, you don’t necessarily want a deluge of promotional offers, feature updates, and other miscellany filling up your inbox. Then there are the services that you’d rather just try out first, before you start sharing anything personal like an email address or phone number.
For all these reasons, a disposable email address or phone number (or both) can be very handy. If a particular service starts spamming or robocalling you, you can just close down the temporary contact and walk away.
When it comes to email addresses, you’ve got a number of free or freemium options to pick from—email addresses don’t cost much to set up and maintain. With the more high-maintenance cell numbers you’re going to need to pay, but it doesn’t have to be very much, as we’ll explain. Here are some of our favorite options for both.
Disposable Email Addresses
Sign in with Apple
If you’re using Apple devices and apps, the option to use disposable email addresses is already baked in—as long as the app or website you’re signing up for offers a Sign in with Apple button. You’ll register with your Apple ID, but you’ll see the option to Share My Email or Hide My Email depending on how much you trust the service.
Choose to share your email, and the app or website gets the email address associated with your Apple ID. Choose to hide your email, and Apple generates a disposable email address for you, which relays messages to your main address. From an iPhone, iPad or Mac you can disable this forwarding at any time, or disconnect yourself from the newly created account completely.
Sign in with Apple, free with an Apple ID
10 Minute Mail
10 Minute Mail creates, as its name implies, email addresses that last just 10 minutes. For those 10 minutes, you can check any incoming messages through a simple web interface (in case you need to verify the address exists after using it), and you can get an extra 600 seconds added to the life span of the email address if you need it.
This is for truly disposable email, though—where you want to sign up and then forget the sign-up ever happened. You should still be able to log into the app or service you’ve signed up for, but once the email address gets trashed, you won’t be able to reset your password, delete your account, or do anything else you need a working email address for. Depending on the service, you might be able to change your disposable email address for a real one, if it turns out that you want to keep your new account long-term.
10 Minute Mail, free on the web
Guerrilla Mail isn’t going to win any web design competitions, but it does a very good job of generating disposable email addresses for you, and that’s what counts. The site gives you plenty of flexibility in picking your temporary address too, with a choice of domain names (after the “@”) and the option to scramble up a new address at random with a click.
You don’t get any forwarding options with Guerilla Mail, just a web inbox where messages arrive and stay for an hour (read or not). You can use it to validate email addresses if that’s necessary, and the address will stay active until you click the Forget Me button—at which point the service you signed up for will have no way of reaching you.
Guerrilla Mail, free on the web
Few disposable email services have the polish and the features of Burner Mail, perhaps because it’s funded by premium, paid-for accounts (though you can still create up to five temporary addresses for free). You can use it as a web app or as a Chrome extension, and if you install the browser plug-in you can simply click a button to generate an email address when you’re signing up for something new.
Once you’ve created a burner address, it can be set up to forward messages to one of your other email accounts, and you can also check out incoming messages through the Burner Mail web app (no forwarding necessary). At any point, you can change the address that emails are forwarded to, or get rid of a temporary address completely once you’re done with it.
Burner Mail, freemium for Chrome and on the web
Firefox Private Relay
The Firefox development team has been expanding its talents into the fields of file transfers and password management, and now it can help you protect your main email address too. Private Relay is a new Firefox extension currently in alpha testing, which once installed pops up whenever you need to enter an email address on the web.
At the moment the project isn’t accepting new testers, but once it’s more widely available, Private Relay will appear as a button you can press next to fields that ask for an email address. Firefox then creates a disposable address for you, which passes on messages to your real account. When you no longer need the alias, you can simply delete it.
Firefox Private Relay, free for Firefox
Disposable Cell Numbers
Burner is one of the most well-established and longest-running burner number services around—obviously, as it nabbed the best name—and you can rely on it to generate working mobile numbers that don’t necessarily have to carry on existing for very long. Your new number functions just like a real one inside the mobile apps, with support for SMS, MMS, and voicemail as well as calls.
When you decide you’re done with a particular number, you can trash it and you need never have to hear from anyone who had that number again. You can try Burner for free with one number for a limited time. After that there are a variety of payment options—you can either pay as you go per number or sign up for a monthly subscription.
While there are other options for generating temporary cell numbers, we’d recommend Burner as the most robust and reliable—you try any of the others at your own risk. As we said at the top, generating mobile numbers requires a lot more heavy lifting than creating temporary email addresses, which is one reason why these types of services aren’t as common.
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