Google Apps: Use Nicknames & Catch-All To Avoid Spam

Justin Pot 14-07-2012

Do you use Google Apps for email on your domain? You’re going to want to learn these two tricks, which give you access to as many incoming email addresses you could want without creating new accounts.


Multiple incoming email addresses are useful for preventing spam, because you can track who is giving out your email address. For example, if you give Best Buy the email address “” you’ll know if they give your address to someone else, because you’ll see unrelated messages sent to that address.

Even better, if that address is spammed constantly you can set up a filter to block all mail going to it. That’s only one use case. I’ve thought of a few more, and I’m sure you will too.

Wait, What’s Google Apps?

google apps spam

Do you have absolutely no idea what Google Apps is? Basically it’s access to all of Google’s services, such as Gmail, Docs and Calendar, all on your own domain. So, you can use the Gmail service without having “” in your email address; instead, it will be at your domain.

Check out our Google Apps Manual The Free Guide To Your iPad The iPad is an e-book reader, a newspaper, an entertainment center and a workstation. This device can do a lot in a very small package. Read More to find out more, including how to set this up on your own domain.


Are you not interested in Google Apps, but want something similar? Check out one of the most popular MakeUseOf posts of all time – One Awesome Gmail Tip You Don’t Know About, Seriously 1 Awesome Gmail tip You Don't Know about. Seriously. Read More . The trick it revealed wasn’t well known back in 2007, and many people still don’t know it today. You can place and remove periods wherever you like in a Gmail address and it will still go to the same sender. So “” goes to the same account as “” or “”. Check out the article for more information 1 Awesome Gmail tip You Don't Know about. Seriously. Read More .


Let’s get started by exploring the “nickname” function in Google Apps. It’s easy to find – head to the “Users” section of the Google Apps Dashboard, then pick the user you want to add a nickname for. Click that user and you will end up on the “User Information” section of his or her settings page. You’ll see this field there:

google apps spam filter

You can basically add as many email addresses as you like. This will not create a new user with a password; it will simply create a new email address that forwards to a given user.


This is useful for security and spam prevention, but also because people frequently try to guess email addresses and suck at it. So it’s good that you can add any common misspellings of your name to the list, and that you can add different first/middle/last name combinations just to be sure. That or you can make up new email addresses altogether. It doesn’t matter.

Best of all – because doing this doesn’t create a new account it doesn’t count toward your limit of free accounts.


Are you basically the only person who uses your Google Apps domain? Don’t bother with nicknames – there’s an easier way. Head to your Email Settings page in the Google Apps Dashboard and you should see the “Catch-all address” option:

google apps spam


Set this to forward to your account and any email address@yourdomain will go to you, unless of course you’ve set up an account or nickname that uses it.

Just like that, you can use any email address you can imagine, provided it’s on your domain. So if a scummy politician asks for your email address you can give them “” and it will get to you.

You can literally make up email addresses on the spot, and provided they end with your domain you will receive them.


Do you want to know which emails are going to which address? That’s understandable, especially if there are a few addresses you use for specific purposes.


You can do this easily by setting up filters in Gmail. Create a new filter and put whichever of your new email addresses you want tagged in the “to” field. Create an appropiate tag for the filter to send messages to and you’re pretty much done. All incoming letters will be marked accordingly.

Other Uses

This isn’t just about spam prevention, of course. Multiple email addresses are also useful for security. You can have a different address for every online service you sign up for. In the event of a major leak your primary address isn’t compromised (it’s even better if you use a different password for every service, but that’s another story).

Multiple email addresses are also just plain cool. You can give different addresses to work colleagues, to friends and to family without having to check 5 different email accounts: they’ll all go to the same one.

Those are just the uses I thought of, naturally. I’m sure there are more. Share whatever you think of in the comments below.

Related topics: Desktop Email Client, Email Tips, Google Apps, Spam.

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  1. Anonymous
    February 27, 2016 at 2:47 pm

    Great post, but one issue is that if you reply to any of the emails sent to custom aliases, it exposes your primary email address. Has anyone found a 'reply as original recipient' feature on gmail or another client?

    • Devon
      July 15, 2016 at 2:32 pm

      Since you can create any alias you want under your domain, just make one up and go to your gmail settings > Accounts and imports > Send mail as and type one of your aliases (or even random characters if you activated the catch-all feature). It'll send a confirmation to make sure you own the address and after you click the confirmation link, you'll be able to send as that email alias and won't have to reveal your true email address.

    • Devon
      July 15, 2016 at 2:33 pm

      There's even a setting in gmail where you can always reply to that conversation using the alias you're emailing from.

  2. Anonymous
    October 18, 2015 at 9:20 am

    Nice post.
    I'm working now since years using a catch-all address.
    But in the meantime a couple of addresses are "burned" and receive a lot of spam mails etc.
    I'd like to block them completely. Best would be that google rejects them!
    Has anyone found a way how to do this with a catch-all account using filters?

    • Justin Pot
      October 18, 2015 at 3:05 pm

      In Gmail you can set up a filter that trashes any email sent to a particular address, yes, just head to the settings.

  3. illegal3alien
    July 16, 2012 at 6:17 pm

    I've had this setup for a while on one of my domains. It's much easier and more secure than turning to disposable email addresses all the time.

  4. Lauren Ledbetter
    July 16, 2012 at 4:58 pm

    This is incredibly helpful!

  5. venkatp16
    July 15, 2012 at 1:53 pm

    very useful info.

  6. silent
    July 15, 2012 at 1:45 pm

    You forgot to mention the notion '+'. For example:,, and will all delivered to more, each of those emails is sent to with 'TO' field using the '+' format.

  7. Ben
    July 15, 2012 at 11:43 am

    Great info!

    • Justin Pot
      July 16, 2012 at 2:11 am

      Happy to be of service.