Internet start-up DecoyMail, Phoenix, has developed a tool for direct marketers, list managers and Internet users to create anonymous decoy e-mail addresses and track all e-mail activity related to those addresses.
DecoyMail was founded by Rodney Joffe, an Internet entrepreneur and anti-spam advocate who heads the think tank CenterGate Research Group. Joffe also has a long history in the direct marketing industry and developed DecoyMail specifically for that market.
“This was really designed for the direct marketing world, because those people don't know how to go about decoying e-mail,” Joffe said. Decoys, which are an established component of direct mail marketing, are phony addresses used for a variety of purposes, such as verifying mailing dates and content, spying on competitors' mailings and tracking unauthorized use of a rented list. DecoyMail allows marketers and list managers, brokers and owners to conduct those functions for e-mail campaigns, Joffe said.
“Now you have the ability to create and delete e-mail boxes and track any mail that goes to them without anyone on the outside knowing that it has anything to do with you,” he said.
The service works by assigning users a real domain name — a random string of letters, such as nebog.com — and allowing them to create an unlimited number of mail addresses connected to that domain. The mail sent to those addresses would be forwarded to the users' real e-mail boxes with a description of who sent the e-mail. On its Web site, DecoyMail users can access their account information and view a more detailed description of which e-mail alias addresses generated which mail.
Joffe said DecoyMail has applications for consumers as well, though he granted that it is likely to appeal only to serious Internet users. He is positioning the service as a sophisticated, yet easy-to-use spam filter. A consumer can sign up for various Web sites and e-mail lists with multiple decoy addresses. As the consumers receive e-mails to those addresses, they can tell which lists rented their names to third parties, which sent unsolicited e-mails and so on. It is all manageable from the single DecoyMail account, and the e-mail addresses can be rendered inactive if they become spam depositories.
Unlike many Internet tools, DecoyMail is not free. A single account costs $25 for three months, $125 for six months and $200 for a year. There is also a $25 set-up fee. Joffe said the fees cover DecoyMail's costs, which include the servers supporting the operation, the bandwidth for storing the e-mails and the price of the domain names.
Consumers and businesses can use free, throwaway e-mail accounts, such as Hotmail, to set up and implement decoys, Joffe said.
“But the problem is that they will get lots of e-mail to Hotmail and they would have no idea where it's coming from,” he said. Additionally, the user would have to set up a different account for every alias and remember passwords for all of them.
DecoyMail, which is live, is set to begin an advertising and marketing campaign geared to the direct marketing industry. It is unaffiliated with any of Joffe's other firms, which include Whitehat.com and American Computer Group.