The benefits (and risks) of having multiple email accounts

When deciding between using several or just one email account, it comes down to choosing between security and convenience. — dpa

Rather than using just one email address for all purposes, consumer protection experts say you're better off with several email addresses and using each one for a specific purpose.

But doesn't this mean a far larger logistical effort from the user?

"I have to manage the passwords for all email addresses, check the accounts regularly and make sure that I am responding to the correct email address," says consumer protection advocate Ralf Scherfling.

Ultimately, it comes down to choosing between security and convenience.

If you do have multiple accounts, you can take advantage of the various inbox folders that most email clients and web-mailers provide. These can pre-sort email, saving you time, says IT expert Thorsten Jekel.

Sometimes you can even specify that emails in defined subfolders are automatically deleted after a set number of days. Spam emails that don't automatically end up in the corresponding folder should be marked as spam so that the filters can learn.

Then there are disposable addresses which are automatically deactivated after a single use or a short period. "This is particularly useful if you want to retrieve information, but don't want to receive spam emails," Jekel says. These disposable addresses can also be used for one-off registrations.

Email addresses typically are also used when signing up to Internet services. But "not every online retailer or forum provider deals with this data carefully," warns Tim Griese from Germany's Federal Office for Information Security (BSI). For that reason it increases your security to use several email addresses rather than just one.

One way to avoid or at least minimise spam is to have an address that's as rare as possible, Griese advises. Even so a certain amount of risk is inevitable. "The more frequently you give out your address, the higher the likelihood that this address will get to spammers," he says.

The form of the email address should depend on what the account is used for. In the case of business, official or friendly correspondence, it makes sense to use your actual name or at least part of it. But for things like newsletters you can use a more general or cryptic name.

More important than the email address is the password used for it, Griese says. The longer it is, the better. You should include upper and lower case letters as well as special characters and numbers.

A secure email account is particularly important because many services send verification codes or links such as password resets via email.

You should also heed the rule "one service, one password" because otherwise if your account is hacked the hackers will have access to all the services that depend on that account.

If you consider abandoning an email account you should either close it or just stop actively using it. Either way you should let your contacts know and also inform them what your new email address is.

It can also make sense to get all emails from other accounts sent straight to your main account. Most email services offer this possibility, Jekel says. — dpa

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