Putting a Fake Email Address on a Form is a Bad Idea – Here’s What to do Instead

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We recently ran into the following situation: a sales person was helping a customer order something online. The sales person was filling out the online information, and when it got to “Email address”, instead of asking the customer for their email address, they put “na@gmail.com”, ‘na’ for ‘not applicable’ or ‘not available’.

We asked the sales person why she had done this, and she responded that their online order system requires an email address to be entered on the form or it won’t complete the order, and she didn’t want the customer to get a bunch of marketing email, and the only other option was to put in their telephone number, in which case they would receive lots of texts.

Put another way, the sales person was trying to save the customer from getting spammed. Which is admirable, and we give her credit for that (this is a large national chain, this sales person clearly does not have any input into the email marketing practices of her employer, so this was her way of protecting the consumer).


As we said, admirable.

Except, it means that whomever owns the email address ‘na@gmail.com’ is now getting lots and lots of spam. In fact, this sales person told us that it is a location-wide, if not company-wide, practice when not wanting to give up a customer’s email address.

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Putting a Fake Email Address on a Form is a Bad Idea – Here’s What to do Instead

That led us to wonder how many other organizations – and people – do this. We’re betting that this may be just the tip of the iceberg.

The thing is, there are lots of situations where one is trying to accomplish something online (such as place an order, or sign up for something) and where they won’t let you go to the next step unless you give up your email address. And sometimes they really need your email address – but sometimes they don’t.

So what should you use for an email address if you want to give up an email address that isn’t yours, and won’t cause someone else to get spammed?

What Email Address to Use if You Must Include an Email Address but Don’t Want to Use Yours

The default ‘test’ email address is any email address at the domain “example.com”.

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So, for example, test@example.com, foobar@example.com, pigglywiggly@example.com – you get the idea. You can really put anything in front of the @ symbol, because it is not going to get delivered anywhere, because example.com doesn’t accept email.

Now, some organizations, knowing this, have their system set to reject any email address including ‘example.com’; but some don’t.

If you know of a company or other organization that routinely puts in a “fake” email address that goes to a real mail service or mail server (such as gmail.com), please let us know!

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Putting a Fake Email Address on a Form is a Bad Idea – Here’s What to do Instead

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7 Replies to “Putting a Fake Email Address on a Form is a Bad Idea – Here’s What to do Instead”

  1. I usually use something like ” iamjusttryingtofindoutwhatyouchargeforshipping@yahoo.com” .i assume they will figure it out.
    Using the email for the Whitehouse or FBI works as well.
    Or, just open a new free email account just for that one form

  2. What really annoys me is sites that don’t allow a plus (“+”) in the email address.

  3. Fortunately for whoever, gmail doesn’t allow email addresses shorter than 6 characters on the lhs. (I found that out when I tried to grab “sethb” in its early days.)

  4. I don’t think your idea is any better than the salesperson’s. What if they do need to contact you via email about your order? Much better to have one dedicated email address for this purpose, or use filters on your existing email account to send all emails from these companies to a separate folder for you to monitor.

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