When you attend a conference or event for work, you're always required to register for that event using specific personal information... name, address, email address, etc. A lot of times, these conferences will also have some sort of vendor fair where vendors can show off their goods and services. These vendors almost always offer some sort of SWAG (Stuff We All Get) to entice you to stop and listen to what they have to say (pens, stress balls, t-shirts, etc). Seems harmless enough, right? The problem is that in order to get the free stuff, they swipe or scan your attendee badge. In the process of doing this, they are getting the personal information you used to register for the conference.
At first, this may not seem like a big deal. The conference ends, you go home and life is good... until you start to receive all the spam associated with the vendors who scanned your badge at the conference. While I have posted tips to reduce the amount of spam you get (click here), this situation can be completed avoided from the beginning. Here's how.
Before registering for your conference, you want to create an email alias. Not all ISPs and mail providers allow you to create an alias free of charge, so you may need to ask the respective provider what your options are.
What is an email alias?
An email alias is nothing more than an email address that forwards email sent to it to the official email address. For example, if my email address is "email@example.com" and I create an alias "firstname.lastname@example.org", all email sent to that address would automatically be forwarded to my "email@example.com" address. Think of aliases as email forwards. Because it forwards all email automatically, there's no need to set up the new address in your mail client. It's completely automatic and just works.
Creating an email alias with iCloud
If you use iCloud, setting up aliases is fast an easy. Simply visit www.icloud.com, log in and open the Mail module. From here, click on Settings (the icon in the lower left-hand corner that looks like a gear) then Preferences... Now click on the "Accounts" tab.
To create an alias, click on "Add an Alias..." and enter the information. I plan to attend a technology conference in 2014, so this is what my alias may look like:
As you can see, you can even color-code mail sent to that alias to help make it stand out.
When you are done entering the necessary information, click "OK", and you're done! If you want, send yourself an email to the newly-created alias, just to make sure it works ok.
Now that you have your new alias up and running, it's time to register for your conference or event. Remember, do not use your real email address. Use the new alias instead.
What to do with the alias after the conference concludes
You will want to leave the new alias active through the conference and even a few weeks after the conclusion, just in case there is something of value that comes through. After that, it's time to go back into your mail settings and delete the alias. When this happens, all email being sent to that alias will cease to make it to your Inbox. In other words, you have pulled the plug on all that potential spam and severely minimized the risk of getting more spam as a result.