tl;dr At the end of this post, please see the poll about a potential SaaS product that would block the use of “throwaway” emails on your WordPress website.
A couple months ago, a client of mine asked me about ways to prevent readers from using throwaway emails on her website. On her website, she provides a few files for free that users can download in exchange for joining her email list. This is a very common thing that is found on many blogs, and websites that serve up a lot of digital content. For example, you may offer an ebook for free to users who sign up for your email list.
Personally, exchanging my email for something of use to me is a small price to pay, and something I have no problem doing. However, not everyone feels that way, and many users are reluctant to input their emails on a website. A little caution is a good thing – you shouldn’t be entering your email on some sketchy, spammy website, because you’ll end up with an inbox full of spam. Unfortunately, though, there are also a lot of people who just don’t care enough about your business to provide their email, but still want the content you offer.
A very common method used by people of the latter to gain access to free content (in exchange for an email) is to use a throwaway email, an email address that is generated very quickly, and has a brief period of usability. Basically, you go to one of the many websites that offer throwaway emails, get an email address to use, input that address on whatever website requires it, then let it expire. If something is emailed to that address, you’ll have enough time to receive and download any files that are attached. Sure, anyone can create their own throwaway email, but these websites make it virtually effortless.
For my client, she’d been seeing these sorts of emails pop up in her list of entries for months. She was understandably aggravated with people who wanted her content, but gave her bogus emails to get it. I totally get that frustration – it’s rude and disrespectful on the parts of the people who do that. Her question to me was, “Can we block this from happening?”
The answer to that question is, ultimately, no. This type of behavior cannot be 100% prevented. It can be limited, though. If people want to create legitimate emails (i.e. Gmail, Yahoo, etc.) that they use to receive “junk” mail, then enter that on your website, there’s really nothing that can be done.
That said, it is possible to block the use of throwaway emails from known providers. I’ve put together a poll to collect information about a potential service for this. As a WordPress developer, I’d be creating this service with the idea of tight WordPress integration in mind. For example, it would verify user emails on actions like comment submissions, user registrations, etc. It should also work with various, third party plugins, such as Gravity Forms, WooCommerce, etc.
If I were to develop this, it would be a SaaS (Software as a Service) product. The reason for that is because I would be developing, and continually updating, a database of known throwaway email providers, and providing that list to users. The SaaS method would allow for the quickest access to the most current list, as opposed to a normal WordPress plugin. Additionally, that database would not need to be stored locally by users.
If this is something you’d be interested in using as a website owner or developer, please fill out the quick questionnaire below. Even if you wouldn’t use it, let me know by selection “No.” I appreciate any and all feedback.