A mail box with envelopes streaming through the slit. The box is marked burn and has flames in the background.

“Burner email” is just an entirely too exciting synonym for disposable email addresses. They’re meant to be temporary and immediately disposed off. You know, just like “burner phones” that special agents on TV might use, but in the form of an email account that you will use to make a one-off online purchase. Let’s delve into the cloakless-and-daggerless world of burner emails.

Table of contents

    The privacy benefits of burner emails

    Aside from getting to use the killer adjective “burner” in your speech, burner emails are also a big improvement for your online privacy. Ecce table:

    Protecting personal information online
    Your actual email address likely has your real name and surname on it. Even if it doesn’t, you may have included said email on some social media site or app that openly displays your name and surname.
    Avoiding digital footprint and tracking
    Your digital footprint grows more significant the more details you provide online. Using one email to register everywhere you go makes creating an image of your online ecosystem easier.
    Reducing spam and phishing risks
    The more you use your real email, the more likely you are to use it on an unsafe website or for it to leak. This may lead to you receiving spam or even phishing emails on your main account.
    Limiting exposure to data breaches
    Data breaches dump any information a website or service holds on you into the hands of hackers. This may include your name, email used to register, and so on. Even a simple name and email combination improves the chances of trapping you in a successful phishing attempt.
    Enhancing control over personal data shared online
    Surprise! Your email is part of your personal data. Whether it features your full legal name or not, it’s a bit of information you are giving online. But nothing personally identifiable is given out if you use a burner email.
    Providing a layer of anonymity in online interactions
    Online, nobody knows that you’re a dog — let's keep it this way. As mentioned before, having your main/official email address scattered online decreases your privacy.

    Practical applications of burner emails

    There are more than fears motivating people to get burner emails. They are also handy for handling various online activities. Here are some examples: 

    Signing up for free trials or services

    Free trials, services, and sometimes even downloads often ask you to input an email address (so as to send marketing offers later). But if you don’t plan to use the website or service again, why not slap them with a burner email address? 

    Avoiding promotional emails while shopping online

    All the stores want your email for practical reasons — you want to track the order progress, after all — but it’s also part of their marketing efforts. But if you have a burner email, you can make your purchases without fear of being flooded with annoying reminders to buy more. 

    Registering temporary social media or forum accounts

    Some platforms still limit their offerings to registered users. And if you just want a simple question answered without engaging with the platform long-term, you need a burner email address. That way, you can keep your official address safe for the account you really want to create and maintain. 

    Testing apps or services without revealing your real email

    You can trust app ratings on app stores this much. At the end of the day, the app may have features you don’t like or don’t serve your specific needs. It would be a bummer to use your real email to log into such an app, leaving it forever in the hands of the developers. But if you have a burner email… 

    Participating in surveys or polls anonymously

    Will you win the prize for participating in a survey or poll? Unlikely. But we all want to express our opinions online — surveys and polls are part of that. So, use a burner email for these efforts and keep your real email a secret. 

    Creating and managing burner emails

    You don’t need computer nerd knowledge to manage a burner email or a temporary address or two. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t be more efficient about it. Here are some best practices to follow:

    Use unique, strong passwords for each account 

    This is an essential thing to remember about online security. If you repeat passwords, a password only needs to leak once to compromise multiple accounts. Remembering a dozen strong passwords is hard, so you better use a password manager. 

    Regularly review and delete unneeded burner emails

    Keep your online presence clean and tidy by deleting unnecessary burner emails (unless you used a temporary email address, in which case this step sorts itself out). This is important if those burner accounts merely forward emails to your inbox and don’t have their own. This way, you’ll prevent your inbox from overflowing with scams. 

    Choose reputable burner email services for better security

    Yes, you’re using a burner email to limit your exposure online. However, such email services will still handle your sensitive data. Don’t put yourself at risk by using just any old service — find the ones you can trust. 

    Keep a record of service-burner address pairs

    One of the reasons is to remember which service uses which burner email address for when you want to log into the services again. Your email is often your username, and if you forgot the pairing, it may be hard to recover it. And if the burner is forwarding emails to your primary email address, it’s essential to know if you’re getting any spam addressed to those specific email addresses. If nothing else, it will show you which particular service leaked your data. 

    Surfshark’s Alternative ID: beyond burner emails

    A burner email is cool and all, but it doesn’t cover all your bases. If you want to be really hard to identify online, use Surfshark’s own Alternative ID.

    Alternative ID is a service used to generate entirely new online personas. The personal data these newly-minted made-up people have can be entered into various online forms instead of your own.

    This also includes burner emails! Any 2FA authentication, email verification, and log-in link emails will be forwarded to your actual inbox without revealing your true identity.

    In conclusion: use burner emails wisely

    In a world gripped by the need to extract maximum profit out of everything, your mere email address is a lucrative target for marketing companies and spammers. Keep it close to your chest by using a burner email. Or go even further: with Alternative ID, you can get not just a burner email but a whole new online persona.

    Get a trustworthy burner email service
    Surfshark’s expertise in cybersecurity applied to temporary emails


    How do I get a burner mail?

    To get a burner email account, search online for services that provide such a… service. A burner email will be easier and faster to set up than just creating a new email account on a regular service. 

    What is a burner address?

    A burner address is an email address tied to a disposable email account or a service that forwards emails to keep your real address secret.

    Can burner emails be traced?

    A trustworthy burner email service shouldn’t be traceable. However, there are ways to identify yourself anyway, like mentioning your personal details in the mail, clicking links in emails received via the burner address or invisible pixels. 

    Is it good to have a burner email?

    It’s good to have a burner email address as it can be used for setting up accounts online and whenever you’re asked to give out your email and don’t want to.

    Are temp emails safe?

    Temporary email addresses and burner emails are safe as long as they are provided by a trustworthy company. As the service is supposed to either forward emails to your main inbox or just serve as an email inbox, an unscrupulous provider could have a way to read your messages.

    How do I create a burner email without a phone number?

    You just need to find a service specialized in burner emails — it should work without providing a phone number. If you’re a Surfshark subscriber, you could try Alternative ID.

    What do people use burner emails for?

    People use burner emails to:

    1. Register for one-off online purchases
    2. Register for surveys
    3. Create throwaway accounts on social media
    4. Register on apps they’re not sure of 

    Is a burner email free?

    While there are a lot of free burner email services, the most long-term and reliable ones are paid, like Alternative ID.