October 22, 2015

Graymail and Catch-All Aliases

We all receive too many emails and one of the major reasons for this is Graymail. As explained in this post, “Graymail is the term used to describe the email you subscribed to (website updates, newsletter, …) but that you don’t want to receive daily and may even perceive as spam.” It’s all the notifications like the latest eBay special or the multiple updates posted to Facebook in the past week.

So, when you are signing up for a newsletter or a new service, one thing you really need to watch out for is the (usually default “checked”) box that references something about future notifications from the service provider and their “partners”.

But despite being extremely careful about ensuring that box is not selected prior to submitting a form, you might still receive emails that seem legit, but that you did not opt-in for. So, how does one catch the culprit out? By this simple little trick.




Presuming you’ve already purchased your domain name and configured your MX records to have your custom [email protected] email address, the simplest way to achieve this is to add a domain alias (also known as a “catch-all”) to your list of email aliases. A catch-all alias is a wildcard. It works by catching and forwarding anything sent to a non-existent email address at your domain to a designated account.

Here’s how to this in atmail cloud:

  • Log into your Webadmin dashboard and navigating to Services > Email Aliases
  • Select Alias Type: Domain Alias (Catch-all)
  • Enter your domain into the “Domain Name” field and then your destination address into the “Forward To” field
  • Finally, click “Add Alias”

If I owned domain.com and the account I wanted to forward to was [email protected] then the final set-up would look like this:

You probably don’t want to use your primary email address as the destination for your catch-all as it might end up flooded with the notifications that you are actually trying to avoid. Instead, use a secondary account that you can configure for access through your fat client or switch to via your web interface.


With the catch-all configured, you are ready to execute!

Whenever you subscribe to a newsletter or sign up to trial a new web service, simply enter an email address at your domain that will remind you of the service you are signing up for. For example, if you sign up for a travel newsletter, sign up with [email protected] (provided, of course, you don’t have a legitimate account already using that username). This means all newsletters they send you will end up in your catch-all inbox addressed to “[email protected]”. If you see an email roll into that inbox that you did not sign up for, check the “To” field.

If the sender of that unwanted email is NOT the travel website you signed up for but the email is addressed to “[email protected]”, then you know they have either shared or sold your details to a third party… Leaving you perfectly positioned to unleash the fury! (Or to simply unsubscribe. Whatever works for you).

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