Chances are, most people don’t pause before choosing an online email account.  Naturally, it goes without saying no second thought is ever given to what that chosen virtual name truly says in any sense besides strictly lexis tense.  However, the harsh reality is that email addresses can hurt far more with guilt by association than help build even a well-deserved guilt-edged reputation. Following is an expose into what email addresses really say in far more than one way.

Exactly what is an email address

As most likely known long ago, email addresses functionally equate to “keys” that can unlock “doors” by presenting unique credentials for the purpose of authenticating and distinguishing each individual user.  Do you recall the last (or first) time you saw multiple email addresses that were also identical? Of course not.  Thus, there’s only one logical conclusion that can possibly be left to reach:  The entire purpose of an email address is identifying each specific individual –  just like normal legal names.   Unfortunately, unlike legal names, email addresses are never exactly the same; which is exactly why they tell more than you probably think.

Information returned by an email address search

Many email lookup search sites exist that return full results that list detailed personal data about the subject, which can typically include:

  • Full legal name
  • Aliases
  • Age
  • Asset ownership
  • Arrest records
  • Criminal history
  • Employment history – including current and previous employer names
  • Race
  • Gender
  • Photograph(s)
  • Street address
  • Possible family members’ names
  • Previous places of residence
  • Social media membership and most recent activity

Keep in mind that the above list is merely a truncated menu of tasty morsels to munch on as food for much further thought.  Bottom line is that you should consider dropping out of sight via opt-out on every email lookup site.

Protect your good name

Many ecommerce sites share or sell lists of customers’ names with other vendors. While highly questionable as unethical and even quasi-legal, this practice is very common in all online business segments.  Thus, the first time you sign up with any commercial website, take a very close look at the fine print between or below the last line of standard ‘Terms & Conditions.’  Also, carefully review the information on their privacy policy.

Don’t hesitate to contact site operators directly about any unclear issues.  But do hesitate long and hard if the standing policy doesn’t allow at-will opt-out of some or all ongoing email marketing campaigns and promos.

Likewise, when mass marketing emails arrive from senders you don’t recognize or whose auto-solicitations you no longer wish to receive, scroll to the very bottom of the message and click a small-font hyperlink that reads “Unsubscribe.”  Then allow 10 business days for messages to stop arriving.

Watch how you pay online

Whenever you send money to friends or family or purchase goods or services via PayPal, the payee(s) will see your email and/or physical address, phone number and sometimes even your full legal name.  While PayPal claims this is designed to protect all parties concerned, it can also compromise senders’ privacy and/or security.  Therefore, limit contact data that displays to payees via the account ‘Profile’ interface.  Also, before sending any funds, make sure payees are ‘Verified’ members. This signifies that their credentials are pre-authenticated by PayPal.  Stories are legion of scammers creating ‘shell’ PayPal accounts to obtain payers’ personal data for illicit gain.

Another vital preventive step is to avoid paying for any online purchase by debit card.  Use a credit card, which lets you review all proposed charges before finalizing the sale.  Also, prior to entering any data whatsoever into any ‘Checkout’ webpage, look in its top left corner for a small padlock icon should be displayed next to the URL prefix “https” If those items are not visible, navigate elsewhere immediately.

Be careful about email registration sites

Be aware that most sites require email address entry or pre-registration before new users may join ongoing conversations by posting new comments or live chat rooms. Thus, you must watch how much and what you say at all times.  This is particularly true for virtual dating domains that are frequent hangouts for fraudsters.  The best overall antidote is a two-pronged approach that consists of refraining from revealing your real name and using a ‘dummy email’ reserved for exclusive use in such casual environments.