A hand holding an envelope and a masquerade mask, with masked@email.com written on the envelope.

Email masking allows you to give out email addresses without compromising your actual email address. It works almost like post-forwarding. And while your email inbox isn’t exactly your home address, you still want to keep it safe from spam or having its address leaked in data breaches.

Surfshark’s Alternative ID feature offers a simple, automated way to create alternative emails and keep your main email address safe. But it’s only one of a few solutions that can help you achieve similar results. Let’s dive deeper into email masking and how you can do it yourself.

Table of contents

    What is email masking?

    Email masking obfuscates your actual email address by setting up an email forwarding address. This hides your particular address without sacrificing the ability to use it when signing up for things. If your official email address also bears personally identifiable information (like your name), email masking will hide that as well.

    In function, email masking is similar to using an email alias. You may have heard of such a function, like adding +[word] to your Gmail address. For example, taking your email address (generico@gmail.com) and creating an alias for Surfshark registration (generico+shark@gmail.com) lets you sort those emails more easily. However, it doesn’t hide your real name (and what a wonderful name Generico is) or help you generate a totally anonymous email address. Removing your name and surname from the equation makes you more resilient to phishing and other scams.

    How does email masking work?

    Meanwhile, email masking services allow you to easily generate countless email addresses that are completely unidentifiable. They’re most likely to have a nonsensical mash of letters for the name and the services domain for the part that goes past @. Plus, you can easily disable those email masks to stop receiving emails via that channel.

    This is very useful if your email is leaked in a data breach and you start receiving even more spam via that address. Plus, if you know which masked address was given to what website, you’ll see which one suffered a breach or sold your information by looking at the email address the spam was sent to.

    When should you use a masked email?

    While email masking is a great tool for enhancing your privacy, it serves some situations better than others. Here are the best situations to use a masked email address:

    • Making a one-time purchase: if you’re buying a thing from a website you don’t use often, you may consider using a masked email address when setting up the account. 
    • Creating an account on a website you don’t trust: sometimes, you may be asked to enter an email address to use some feature on a website you don’t necessarily trust to not leak or sell your data. Give them the ol’ masked email. 
    • Joining a website you don’t plan to use often: if you plan to use windshield-wipers-r-us.com to buy wipers once a year, they don’t need your official email.
    • Signing up for a service that doesn’t verify your email: a lot of websites try to get your email in exchange for letting you read a whitepaper or something. With a masked email, you can get what you want without exposing your real identity.

    There are also cases where you shouldn’t use a masked email:

    • Signing up for official services: we’re talking about important big-ticket items like government records and medical services. Use your official email. 
    • Setting up bank accounts: financial services are really important in our lives, so it is better not to risk gumming up the works with masked emails. 
    • Working with platforms sensitive to spam: since masked email addresses look autogenerated (as they are), platforms that are always under assault by forces of automated scams (so, social media platforms) may be wary of such email addresses.

    Why Surfshark’s Alternative ID is a good choice

    An excellent way to fulfill your email masking needs is to get Surfshark’s Alternative ID. That’s because it does more than create an email alias.

    Alt ID is a service that generates a full online persona you can use to sign up for websites you don’t want to share your data with. Once you fill in some of the details you want the fake interwebs person to have, the service creates the persona. Afterward, the Surfshark web extension will offer to pre-fill any necessary data fields with your Alt ID details.

    When it comes to email masking, it gives you the standard goods — automatically generated addresses and mail safely forwarded to your inbox. At the same time, you also get the benefit of the address being active for as long as you want and provided by a trustworthy service (as all the audits prove).

    How to set up Alternative ID

    Setting up Alternative ID is really easy and won’t take you more than a couple of minutes if you already have your Surfshark subscription. Here’s how you can do it:

    1. Get a Surfshark subscription if you don’t have one already.
    2. Locate the Alternative ID tab on the Surfshark web app or browser extension;
    3. Create your persona by choosing its gender, age, and location. Then tap Continue.
    4. Check the email address that was generated for you and make changes to it if you want to. Then tap Continue
    5. Link your Alternative ID to your actual email and tap Create Alt ID.
    6. Confirm your alternative identity with a code sent to your email address.

    That’s it. Once you complete the steps above, your Alternative ID is ready to use.

    What are the ways to mask your email?

    If Alternative ID doesn’t seem like the best option for you, there are several ways to mask your email address, all with their benefits and drawbacks.

    Creating a fake email account

    As far as methods go, creating a fake email account is the most straightforward — if you have already created an email account, you probably can do it again.

    Cheap: free email inboxes can be found anywhere online.
    Annoying: your new email account may ask you to set up Two-Factor Authentication and other features that aren’t vital for a fake account.
    Easy: as email services want to court the largest possible number of users, creating an account is made easy for all but the least technically literate netizens.
    Burdensome: you now have to juggle two email accounts, either via two different services or by logging in and out of the one service they both use.

    Creating a temporary email account

    Some services online allow you to automatically and nearly effortlessly create a temporary email account that will be deleted in minutes.

    Cheap: it’s easy to find a free service like this.
    Temporary: useless for services you want to be engaged with for longer than 15 minutes.
    Fast: you don’t even need to enter anything to get that temporary email address.
    Self-annihilating: the services are made with the idea that the inbox will be deleted.

    Creating an email alias

    Email service providers like Gmail allow users to easily make new email aliases. For example, if your email is shark@gmail.com and you want an alias just for GHQ Models’ newsletters, you can enter shark+GHQ@gmail.com as your email address.

    Easy: I literally just described the entire process while I was introducing the concept.
    Not that masking: adding a + to your name.surname@gmail.com address still reveals your name and surname.
    Convenient: all your emails in one plane and one account.
    Not any safer: the emails still go to your regular email.
    Sortable: you can set up filters and sorting based on aliases.

    Employ an email masking service

    An email masking service will generate aliases for you that can then be directed to your actual inbox. It may also strip trackers from the emails sent to the alias, let you reply via the masked address, and have browser extensions that autofill email fields with masked emails generated on the spot.

    Convenience: a dedicated service providing you with countless auto-generated aliases at your fingertips.
    Paid: you have to pay money for it.
    Security: may provide additional services and benefits.

    What are the differences between a masked email and email aliases?

    Masked emails and aliases are very similar in purpose. However, there are two crucial differences:

    1. Masked emails completely obfuscate your identity, hiding even the name of the email service you’re using.
    2. Masked emails are auto-generated and disposable, generated at will instead of being meant for continued use in signup after signup.

    In conclusion: give your email a mask

    Everybody loves your data these days, but we have to keep it to ourselves. One of such methods is using email masking to obfuscate your actual email address. That way, you’re keeping yourself better protected from spam and social engineering attacks. And if you use Surfshark’s Alternative ID, you’ll vanish as if into a digital specter.

    Alternative ID will cloak your email
    Keep your inbox safer with email masking


    Can I mask my email address in Gmail?

    You can create aliases in Gmail by adding +[word] to your email address. So if your address is name@gmail.com, you can have aliases like name+surfshark@gmail.com, name+wikimedia@gmail.com and name+annoyingaunt@gmail.com 

    Can I mask my email in Outlook?

    Outlook users can use email aliases via the Add an alias option:

    1. Go to Add an alias
    2. Create a new Outlook email address to add as an alias or use an existing address. 
    3. Select Add alias

    Can an email address be masked for free?

    An email address can be masked for free by using the email provider’s alias functionality. However, this isn’t full masking as some details (like the domain of the provider) may remain identifiable).