When a site rejects email "sub-addressing"
Rob Pegoraro, Special for USA TODAY
Q. I tried to sign up at a site using the plus-sign trick to create a custom e-mail address, but the sign-in page rejected me. What’s going on there?
A. The reader who raised this issue was trying to use a tip I shared here last July -- creating a bonus e-mail address by adding a plus sign and the characters of your choice to the username part of your e-mail address.
Google’s Gmail and such competitors as Microsoft’s Outlook.com allow this “sub-addressing” option. It’s a handy way to generate a new e-mail address--to register a second account at a site, to ease filtering messages from that company, or to track which firms sold your address to third parties--without changing any settings in your mail account or having to look anywhere for new messages but your usual inbox
This practice may also reduce the amount of spam you get, although at least some spammers know to strip out the plus sign and everything after it. And it’s not against the rules of the Internet, such as they exist: There’s an entire specification documenting the finer points of sub-addressing.
But sub-addressing won’t work if a site rejects a “plus-ed” e-mail address as invalid.
The two biggest sites to present this obstacle to my reader were TransUnion’s credit-report site and Experian’s ProtectMyID.com identity-theft-prevention site.
(Yes, Experian is the company that recently lost the records of 15 million T-Mobile customers to a hacker. The irony of that firm hindering customers from cloaking their e-mail addresses is duly noted.)
“TransUnion does not accept special characters in e-mail addresses,” a spokesman said. “Our system requires an e-mail format that is compatible with all e-mail services.”
But the core Internet specification for e-mail doesn’t ban plus signs in usernames or other special characters. This problem is only about TransUnion’s mail system; if it can’t handle usernames that aren’t just letters and numbers, the company might want to shop around for something more tolerant.
Experian had a more helpful response.
“We are aware of the issue and addressing it,” ProtectMyID PR manager Sandra Bernardo e-mailed Thursday. “These types of email addresses should be accepted by early next week.”
It’s unclear how many other sites have this hangup, although it’s not hard to finddiscussions in which people complain about it without naming the offending Web properties.+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++=++++++
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