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How Do I Send Free Anonymous Email?

Hiding your identity is possible but can be complicated.

Anonymous?
(Image: canva.com)
Sending anonymous email ranges from easy to complex, depending on the likelihood of someone going the extra mile to identify you.
I want to send email to a person I’m talking to on a dating service, but I don’t want them to be able to get my real email address and find me. What do I do?

This is a common question.

What you’re looking for is the ability to send email anonymously. It’s simple in concept, but the details investigators and law enforcement might take advantage of quickly get complicated.

Let me ask: how paranoid are you?

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The most basic approach to anonymous email is to set up an account at a free email service using fake information. It’s still very easy to reveal other information, though, that a sufficiently motivated entity such as governments or law enforcement could trace. You may need to use additional resources like TOR, a VPN, or a remote location to hide more. Any characteristic of your email, all the way down to writing style, can be collected and possibly used to identify who you are.

Hiding an email address

Hiding your email address is easy.

  1. Create an account at one of the free services, like Outlook.com, Gmail, Yahoo!, or others.
  2. Use fake information when setting it up. Make sure there’s nothing that is in any way tied to you.
  3. Use that account to send your message.

Your real email address isn’t included, so it’s never sent. The email comes from the fake account, sometimes called a “burner account”.

Keep it for a while to see if there’s a reply, or abandon it — it’s your choice.

This is a simple process and answers the question exactly: how to hide your email address.

But there’s more.

There’s more to email than addresses

IP addresses scare many people. Most are concerned that it’s easy to locate the person using the computer at an IP address. That’s not true. However, law enforcement can get close.Tweet this! With the help of the ISPs involved, they can locate the home or business to which an IP address has been assigned.

Your IP address is often included in the administrative information (aka “headers”) included with every email you send. It’s always sent if you use a desktop email program, and sometimes included in web-based email.

Knowing the home or business associated with an IP address is often as good as identifying who sent the email.

If you are concerned the authorities might get involved, using that fake email account from home might not be the best thing.

The solution?

Go somewhere else — the further from home, the better. A library across town, for example, or a coffee shop with free Wi-Fi.

Anonymous proxies and services

Another approach is to use an anonymous proxy or gateway. One example is TOR, The Onion Router. Connections made using TOR are routed through several computers all over the planet. Each step is encrypted so the path cannot be traced. Most importantly, the source cannot be identified.

Routing through all those computers adds latency. It can be quite slow. Virtual private networks, or VPNs, can be faster, but may be traceable.

There are also online services that will send messages on your behalf, presumably without information that could be used to identify you.

The concern is security and privacy. How will the email provider respond when faced with legal action requiring them to expose the source of a message? Many will not, and some are set up so they can’t. But you’re trusting them deeply.

Like the coffee shop, it might still not be enough.

There may be more than IPs and addresses

Some email programs include the name of the computer on which it’s being run in the email header.

For example, the network name of the computer I’m typing on right now is NOTEN2020.

When I send an email using my desktop email program, “NOTEN2020” may be included in the email headers. This happens either because it’s the local network name of this machine, or the email program just includes the machine name in a header.

The machine name isn’t necessarily enough to identify you, but used in conjunction with other information, it could.

For example, you might send your boss regular emails. If the headers of an anonymous email include the same machine name as your regular correspondence, that’s a giveaway.

Correlating the characteristics of an anonymous email message with other messages from a known source is a common way to identify the anonymous source. Everything from nuances in the email header to your writing style, spelling, and typographic errors can all contribute to a so-called “anonymous” email being identified as coming from you.

Practical reality

The original question was about online dating. As long as there’s no reason to get the authorities involved, setting up an anonymous email account is probably enough. It’s a reasonable precaution for connecting to people you don’t know.Tweet this!

On the other hand, if you’re a political dissident, involved in corporate espionage, or in other sensitive situations involving sensitive information, think about the best way to make those contacts. There are many  techniques that could be used to identify you if powerful entities have a reason to do so.

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74 comments on “How Do I Send Free Anonymous Email?”

  1. If it’s easy to set up an anonymous email account, does that mean it is nearly impossible to find someone’s real name by an email address. Question is…if my husband has set up an anonymous email for himself & he wants to keep private can I find the email address or not?

    Reply
  2. In the general sense – it would be extremely difficult. Nearly impossible for most. It normally takes some kind of “extra” knowledge — like access to the computer used when using the account, or assistance from the anonymous email provider (which typically happens only as the result of a court order).

    Reply
  3. I can recommend you myTrashMail.com for all your anonymous emailing. Its free and they have several other email services like rss email and temporary email.

    Reply
  4. Your site came highly recommended. Thanks for your time.
    My question is, I have created an anonymous yahoo email account with anonymous profile information etc.
    I now hear that the company who has received the one and only email I have sent from that account (which has now been deleted) has contracted someone to ‘trace’ the origins of my email.
    Am I safe or should I be worried? Are there any further precautions that I should take?
    Thanks again!

    Reply
  5. If I set uup an email on yahoo (like the above one I have) no one can tell it came from my home computer. I was interested because if you chat with people and then decide to start emailing I wouldn’t want them to trace where I was.

    Reply
  6. So, can an email account from an anonymous hotmail account be traced back from the computer at which the account was set up?

    Reply
  7. What about tracing it back to the internet service through which it was set up? Can the public do that without a court order?

    Reply
  8. Well, I would like to believe that sending and email from Hotmail means that you are anonymous but that is not what I have heard. This site http://www.johnru.com/active-whois/trace-email.html for one, informs users how to locate the IP address of the original sender, so I would have to say that your information here, that your IP cannot be traced without Microsoft’s help is not correct.

    Reply
  9. For mail sent using Hotmail, the instructions you point to will only find the IP address of a HotMail server, and NOT the IP address of the computer that was used to compose and send the original email. I stand by my article.

    Reply
  10. whenever i telnet to port 25 of yahoo.it is connected but after helo when i write mail from.a message “530 authentication required for help go to help.yahoo.com” appears.what kind of problem is this.does any body know.
    immad

    Reply
  11. I would take it to mean that Yahoo doesn’t want you telneting in to send email. You’ll need to use an email client that supports sender authentication, and use yoru Yahoo account.

    Reply
  12. I don’t know the service specifically. I’d set up an account, send an email to my regular account, and examine the resulting headers to see how truly anonymous it is.

    Reply
  13. To test this out, I just set up a Hotmail account and sent myself an email. There, in the headers, was my IP address clear as day.

    Perhaps this wasn’t true when the original article was written, but it’s certainly there now. 🙂

    Reply
  14. I can’t believe what I’ve been reading about not being able to trace an e-mail distributed from Yahoo or Hotmail back to a PC. Of course you can. The source IP (as well as the IP for Yahoo and Hotmail) is in the full headers.

    And once that IP address is available, what can happen to you is limited only to the skills and desires of the person who know it. I use free web-based geolocator services, coupled with post office carrier routes, to ascertain the physical residence for the IP and the street address associated with that residence. There’s supposed to be a 155 meter margin of error for geolocating, but after typing that address into a personal information search engine with reverse address lookup (e.g. Intelius.com / Infobel.com), I got some names and Google search on these names helped turn up evidence that helped me establish with 90% plus probability that person as the source of the e-mail.

    Reply
  15. Right, Did you know that within the header of messages sent via Hotmail, Yahoo and others reveals your REAl IP address? That is a trail right back to you. If you want to send real anonymous email messages use a service like Ultimate-Anonymity http://www.ultimate-anonymity.com as messages sent through them are truly anonymous and not traceable back to you. They also provide “disposable email addresses” which means you can setup addresses as will, use them ,then delete them when done.

    Reply
  16. Ultimate Anonymity has been around for 10 years or more. I think I signed up with them in 98 or 99 and I still use them on a regular basis. Very good outfit in my opinion with some really cool software and services.

    TO

    Reply
  17. I just signed up for Ultimate Anonymity. Very cool site. Its service strips the headers and allows you to send an anonymous email and make the ‘from’ line anything you want. You can do this from their secured web form or download software and send anonymous messages right from your desktop. There are some really cool tools there.

    Reply
  18. Thanks for the heads up on Ultimate Anonymity. Seems they deliver exactly what they promise. Very good service and the Anonymous Remailer appears to be VERY reliable.

    Reply
  19. You probably did get a spam trap as they ae not uncommon. Also, neither one of those are on a secured (SSL) page which renders them useless and not private. Ultimate Anonymity provides a sample of their secured web based remailer at https://ultimate-anonymity.com/web-based-remailer.htm

    It being just a sample will allow you to send yourself a message so you can view the headers to see it is really anonymous however, your message will be replaced with a plug (it is a sample). the subscribers interface has no plugs or advertisements in the header OR the message. I also like the fact that you can manipulate the “from” Line to appear as anything you desire.

    Reply
  20. Finally I found an anonymous email service that is totally free and simple to use, no forms to fill out. It’s great.
    go to: ENOTE.com

    Reply
  21. Beware of confusing pseudo anonymity with real anonymity. Any “anonymous email service”, especially those that you have to pay for or use web forms, has limited anonymity at best. That anonymity CAN be broken, sometimes with a simple court order or even a letter from an attorney threatening legal action. True anonymity on the other hand is much more secure if you exercise proper care.

    The path to truly anonymous email begins with learning about PGP (or GnuPG which does the same thing free and open source) encryption and Mixmaster remailers.

    Reply
  22. Hi,

    Would like to comment on Ultimate-Anonymity.Com.

    The provided Remailer works just fine. You can use anyname@anything.anywhere. It doesn’t have to be .com or .org or .net. You can use Yourname@YourStreetName.WhateverYouLike and the delivery time is not so bad (quick, for such service). Some other similar services can’t even get your anonymous email delivered AT ALL.

    A spam? I don’t know, but my opinion, it looks like it BUT they gather much information for subscribers. Mostly, it’s free information on the net if you know how to find it, but then again if you ask me to find such information, it’ll take me ages to simplify it. That, I’ll agree.

    As for their LIFETIME subscription, I think this is a way to draw you closer to use it. I read some reviews and it looks like they’ve been offering this LIFETIME issue since the day they activate their website. But then again, I could be wrong, since I only observe their website around 2008-2009.

    They’ll give you some useful software. I don’t know if they are cracked or not, but they work just fine.

    They will give a detail about how to surf anonymously and provide some working proxy servers and TOR. (Now this TOR is a free service, so this proves that they provide free information for a price, IF you don’t know how to find one.)

    They will provide you with web-based proxy sites if you don’t know how to configure your browser(s). All is about information.

    Reply
  23. The person who wrote the intital article is clearly not up to scratch although some of the commenters seem to be..

    It’s too complicated to briefly explain, but basically unless you take some very explicit steps, your real IP address can be viewed in the email header (check source) and this is traceable back to you.

    If you use an anonymity service, it is also traceable back to you if you have paid with a credit card, Paypal or any service based in Europe or the USA.

    Reply
  24. Ive used ultimate-anonymity [broken link removed] for years wiff no problems at all. They actually provide their own proxy which is quite fast (not to mention reliable) and works on both http and https (SSL) pages. they provide anonymous usenet access, Anonymous email and sms text messaging all of which I use on a regular basis. For the one time price you just cant beat it. I paid with cash through the mail using a one time disposable email address. They been around since 1997 so that has to count for something.

    Reply
  25. You can actually send anonymous email quite easily using Gmail, which doesn’t provide the IP of the sender (although as is mentioned many times on this website, you need more than just an IP to track someone down). If you are still concerned about IP tracing though, it takes about 5 minutes to set up a Gmail account.

    Reply
  26. Well, the IP address can be traced by yahoo, gmail etc.. and even by Proxy services providers, the solution is to use a public place such Internet Caffee where you create a new account and at you send any email you want nobody can trace you except if you open the email account at your place then you provide your IP address again to the email provider…

    Reply
  27. I use sneakemail.com.

    Type in some identification of the place you want to send your e-mail.

    Sneakemail.com produces a combination of random letters and numbers @sneakemail.com

    When you are done with that particular sneakemail address, just delete it from your sneakemail.com list.

    None of the hoops for setting up a regular e-mail address.

    I use this particularly with merchants, when spam is sent to that sneakemail address, I just delete it and get no more spam in that mailbox.

    Reply
  28. I’ve been using sneakemail.com for a few years now, for just such purposes as “George” notes. Unfortunately, they no longer offer a free service, but at $2/month, I find it very useful for signing up for many things online. First, if I get spam on that address, I know exactly where it came from (or who sold the address). Second, I can disable that address with a few clicks of the mouse.

    Of course, getting back to the “political dissident” or “corporate espionage” part of the equation, remember that they have your “real” e-mail address, and know which “anonymous” addresses are associated with it. Also, I know that incoming e-mails do not hide the IP address trail of the e-mail, because my spam reporting tools follow the chain beyond sneakemail’s servers. I have a feeling that outgoing e-mails do so as well.

    Reply
  29. Is it possible to change the computers name? Your computer doesn’t care what it’s called and I believe if it’s not a part of a LAN you wouldn’t be messing anything up by doing just that.

    You absolutely can, I’m just not 100% convinced that – purely from the anonymity standpoint – it would help in all cases. Completely making this up, but for example perhaps there might be traces of the “old” name left on the machine that might be used by an investigator to be able to say “OH! Your machine WAS named NOTENQUAD at the time the email was sent, even though it’s named SOMETHINGELSE now!”

    Leo
    25-Nov-2012
    Reply
  30. Hi Leo
    Great article and for once I will say very interesting comments. Alas I am too old to worry about this sort of thing. But my gut feeling is that you are right as usual. Once one leaves a trail it can be backtracked regardless. Nevertheless it is possible that some of the remedies in comments may well be successful on a superficial level.
    If I may revert to the Questioner, I would have to ask what would happen if this liaison turned out to be successful. Surely the deception would be found out, unless of course the recipient was a complete moron 🙂

    My take on the dating scene (which, I’ll readily admit, I’ve not been in for close to 35 years) is that initial anonymity on online dating sites not only makes sense, but should be totally understood as acceptable by all parties concerned. It’s general knowledge that you just don’t know what you’re getting into, and that keeping things at arms length until you’re comfortable is a valid and proper way to protect yourself from … well, from who knows what. Same applies for things like Craigslist ads and other online services that connect two random people.

    Leo
    25-Nov-2012
    Reply
  31. When I was in college, a friend thought I could use another friend and so she gave my email address to her sister (whom I had never met). Her sister sent the most depressing emails. I only got out of it when I stopped using that ISP. So I understand the questioner’s concern about giving out her real email address.

    That situation left me skeptical, so much so that when another friend thought her cousin could use another friend, I almost didn’t agree to giving out my email address, for fear of the same thing happening.

    I’m glad I consented and used a Yahoo email address. This new friend turned out to be the woman to whom I’ve been married the last 12 years.

    No need to be fake, just disposable. Most people don’t have enough power or influence to get your info from your ISP/email provider.

    Reply
  32. Since IP address is a source to find my location, how can I find out my IP address and of the one who has sent me e-mail, say “spam mail” ?

    You can find out your own IP address via various online services, including this article: What’s my IP address?. The email address of the sender of an email may (and I have to stress may) be in the hidden headers of the email messages. How do see those depends on your email program. And as I said, there’s actually no guarantee that the IP address of the sender will be there.

    Leo
    25-Nov-2012
    Reply
  33. One suggestion was to go to a library. Be aware of video cameras. The time email sent or account created can be determined. Get surveillance video and they have the author. I believe , Yahoo and maybe others keep a record of the IP address used to create the account .

    Reply
  34. Please do not encourage lying. I disagree with it because of my faith and a Commandment. How would you like to be lied to? In a way magic is lying (the stuff is trickery and a waste).

    Reply
    • With all due respect to your faith, whistleblowers are one case that I believe strongly calls for the ability to send anonymous mail. Yes, they are lying about who they are – to allow important information to be exposed, and in some cases to save their own lives (as in oppressive political regimes).

      Reply
  35. Dear Leo
    Hi, are adel Itani Beirut an employee in auditing company, we want to ask this question? if three emails address have one IP Address would an email sent to one of the email address reach them all( email Address)?
    Best Regard
    Adel itani

    Reply
  36. I use https://privatoria.net/ to send an anonymous e-mail. It is complex secure service. I set up VPN connection using Privatoria’s server to change my IP. And send e-mails through Anonymous E-mail service of Privatoria. My real e-mail or other data are not required, that’s why i think it’s the best one. Of course there is email encryption.

    Reply
  37. What if you sent up an anonymous email from home but sent the email from Fedex? Can you be tied back to that email? I have deleted the account.

    Reply
    • It’s only illegal if used for illegal purposes. Although. it might be illegal in some countries. I have 2 anonymous email addresses. One is for receiving newsletters, and the other is for signing up for free offers. When they get too full of spam, I switch to another one.

      Reply
  38. In case of high security concerns, please be aware that using a 3rd party place such as a coffeeshop is not good enough to keep your anonymity.
    In many countries authorities have placed cameras to monitor movements (on highways, subways, police cars, crowded places, etc.). Combined with face recognition, it is possible to track who was in the area of the place where and when (timestamp inside the e-mail) the e-mail was sent from.
    Changing the places, every time you send a new e-mail or even changing your e-mail address, won’t additionally protect your anonymity.
    Instead you would have to make sure, you have not been filmed leaving your home and traveling to the coffeeshop.

    Whether or not the authorities are allowed to use the recorded material and use face recognition on it, may be different in the countries around the world. Even if it is prohibited now, laws change and maybe they may do so tomorrow.

    Reply
  39. If I set up an email address using fake info throught my paid VPN service at home on my laptop. Would that be sufficient to hide my real IP in an e-mail header & anything else to ID me…Thanks

    Reply
  40. I set up an anonymous email account with gmail, but when I tried to use it I couldn’t find it. When I wanted to compose an email it would include my regular email as my address, not my anonymous email address. How can I solve this problem?

    Reply
  41. You wrote: “Everything from nuances in the email header to your actual writing style and common spelling and typographic errors can all contribute to a so-called ‘anonymous’ email being identified as yours.”

    This is not always properly appreciated.

    Sometimes the mere fact that an E-Mail is being sent anonymously can be enough to identify you!

    I, for example, could never get away with it — the recipients would only need to ask thenselves, “Now who, in this nest of idiots, would have the knowledge and expertise to send an E-Mail anonymously?”

    In the case of my own workplace, there would be exactly ONE answer to that question!

    Reply
    • To expand on that a tad — any odd little habit manifesting in your message can also give you away, provided only that there is similar text of yours available for comparison. For example, did you notice that the last poster idiosyncratically spelled email as “E-Mail”?

      Reply
  42. actually I think you just can’t sign up traditional email hoasts with just fake informations.. they ask for phone number if you have watched. This can’t just go anonymous.

    Reply
    • I’ve signed up for a few email accounts, at least one with all of the major providers, and I’ve only been asked for a phone number on one or two and even those were optional. You just need to find an email provider which doesn’t require a phone number. Most don’t.

      Reply

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