What would we do without email? It seems kinda strange in the era of a million different messaging apps, but email is still somehow king of communication. Nothing else has held up as well as email and I guess that’s a good thing. But something has started happening over the last few years and I’m sure you’ve noticed it, especially if you use a popular email service such as iCloud or Gmail. More and more, it seems that people don’t know their own email addresses.
The “mistakes” that get emailed
Oh boy… this is what really prompted me to try to convince you it’s worth extra money to have your own email domain. Like I said, people don’t know their own email address and I have been sent all sorts of “fun” things over the years, and more so recently.
In order to protect the innocent I’m not going to post any screenshots because some of it is sensitive. In fact, a lot of it is sensitive. So sensitive, I’d just be posting a picture of a black square. So there’s really nothing to see.
Here’s what I have seen in my old Gmail account that I’ve had since 2004. Yes, my email account is old enough to vote!
- Pay stubs (I mean full pay stubs – full name, address, employer’s address, SSN, the only thing censored was the bank account!)
- W-22 (I don’t like filing my own taxes, I’m not filing yours!)
- Music compositions for an upcoming school play.
- Notices from a school before I even had kids – let alone in that grade.
- Report cards from the same school.
- Plane tickets (free trip?)
- Hotel booking confirmations
- Theater tickets
- And probably my absolute favorite that went on the longest before anyone caught on: financial loan reports from a used car dealership – I’m talking the full mack daddy report: aging loans, defaulted loans, good loans, new loans past 30 days, etc. I received these weekly reports for about two or three months.
It’s actually really scary how much PII has been leaked to me in 18 years. If I was a criminal, I could have had a lot of identities, access to a few bank accounts, etc.
And the really scary thing? 1/4 emails was from an external sender – meaning someone put in the wrong email address. 3/4 of the emails were sent from someone with the same first initial and last name as me! Those pay stubs? Yeah, they were emailing from their work email to what they thought was their personal email.
How a personal email domain fixes this
First, it adds some extra data security – you own the domain, which means you can setup a catchall email address. For example, let’s say you have someone in your family who is named Tonya. That means if someone sends an email to [email protected] but they meant [email protected], the email to “tony” gets delivered to a special mailbox that will accept email even if the address doesn’t exist. You can search that mailbox and find that email and send it on to Tonya.
Let’s use an example from above – it’s the end of the year and I need to send my W-2 to my personal email. Rather than mistype a @gmail.com address and now my email is in someone’s inbox (best case, it doesn’t exist so it bounces), I can mistype an address @mydomain.com and it’ll land in my catchall mailbox.
It also lets you setup special emails. Lets keep going with our tax example. You could setup [email protected] and then have everyone in your house forward their W-2s to that special email and you can do their taxes. And then you know that anything related to taxes will be in that inbox.
How to run your own email server
If all this sounds great to you, you should know it’s also pretty easy to setup. You just need a domain name and a hosting account! If you’re more well versed in managing Linux email servers, you can get a VPS, dedicated server, or Proxmox VE dedicated node, and run your own email server using Postfix, Sendmail, and a webmail client.
Don’t forget! Protect any domains you own from spoofing attacks that are not actively sending email.