How To Safeguard Your Primary Email Address

In this article, I’ll explain a number of simple options to help safeguard your primary email address. Not only against spam but, more critically, against that all-important piece of personal data being compromised.

It seems hardly a week goes by without yet another major data breach and the latest instance is alarming in its scale. As reported by Troy Hunt, owner of the popular breach notification service “Have I Been Pwned”, this latest breach involves almost 71 million email addresses. The most alarming statistic is that about 35% of those email addresses are not already included in Have I Been Pwned’s database, meaning that there are around 25 million new email addresses that haven’t previously been exposed.

Limit Exposure

The simple fact of the matter is that the more times we use our primary email address to sign up for accounts, newsletters, online services, giveaways, etc. the greater the risk of it being compromised. The secret then is to try to limit that exposure as as much as possible.

I currently have email accounts set up with Gmail,, ProtonMail, and my ISP, with the ISP email address being primary. I use those secondary email addresses to sign up for critical accounts. For example:

  • I sign into my Microsoft Account via an email address. I do not use that email address for anything else. It is a single-purpose email address
  • I sign into my Google account via a Gmail email address. Again, I do not use that email address for anything else and it too is a single-purpose email address
  • I sign into my PayPal account via my ProtonMail email address. Ditto as above

These are several examples and, rather than continually exposing your primary email address, there are numerous free webmail services available to take advantage of.

Use Temp/Disposable Email Addresses

Another way to limit exposure is to use temporary/disposable email addresses wherever possible. These types of non-forwarding disposable email addresses are not suitable when long-term ongoing communications are required but are eminently suitable for any one-off use, such as to receive a software giveaway, or sign-up for free online services.

I use and recommend TempMail. It’s free and provides a superb service. As soon as the webpage finishes loading, a new disposable/temporary email address is generated almost instantly. The beauty of this service is that it also provides its own integrated Inbox. So, if you need to verify/confirm the email address or receive one-off info, such as a software giveaway’s license code, you can do so right there within TempMail.

Enable 2FA Wherever Possible

In my humble opinion, 2FA (Two-Factor Authentication) is probably the most effective method for safeguarding a primary email address. On sites that support it, 2FA is very easy to set up. Simply access your account settings and look for any reference to 2FA or 2SA. Generally, there will be two options for verification: either via a secondary email address or via a mobile phone number. Choose one, input the necessary info and away you go.

I prefer the mobile phone option. I’ve previously received comments from folk who are reluctant to reveal their mobile phone number under these circumstances but I have several accounts protected in this manner and my mobile number has never been subjected to abuse.

Once set up, you sign into your account in the normal manner, using the registered email address (or username), plus password, and that’s when 2FA kicks in. You’ll receive a unique verification code via your chosen option, type that code into the spaces provided on the account’s sign-in webpage, and then proceed as normal. The beauty of this method is that even if your login credentials have been compromised, the bad guys still need physical access to your mobile phone to complete the sign-in. In short, they are well and truly snookered.

Check For Compromised Email Addresses

I can recommend two services to check if an email address has been compromised:


Minimizing exposure to your primary email address will not only help minimize spam but, more importantly, help lessen the chances of your all-important email address being compromised.

Stay safe out there!

4 thoughts on “How To Safeguard Your Primary Email Address”

  1. Hi Jim. My primary account was pawned in October 2013. It was an Adobe account and the breach included an internal ID, username, email, etc. The account was closed that year. Might this explain why my Hotmail Junk folder gets hit with repeats of almost the same companies each time they get Deleted. Am considering altering my primary account, but this would be a long process, notifying many of the change. Having registered programs (some lifetime), how might you suggest this task gets done, Mindblower!

    1. Hey MB,

      Once a primary email address has been widely used over an extended period of time, creating a new primary email address entails a lot of work. It would require manually changing from old to new for every account and registration, there is no simple/easy solution that I am aware of.

      1. Thank you Jim. Seeing as how I enjoy my primary email address, I suppose deleting the Junk folder monthly is the best solution, Mindblower!

  2. My method of protection is simply not to use the internet very much.
    These last few months I’ve only had this nasty little phone for internet use and since the screen is small I can’t see enough to have a productive experience.
    So effectively I’m weaning myself off the net. And the reality is I don’t have a heap of time to browse anyway.
    So no online shopping anymore. I just go without now. My new house is filling with crap anyway no matter how hard I try to prevent it.
    Seems this stuff has legs of its own!
    And no more subscriptions, no FB or any other social media, and on it goes. I ditched the lot one by one when I was moving house.
    It’s quite a relief actually as I really don’t have the time anyway.
    I’m old now and slowing down but my days are still full with real people again.

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