My Big Mistake: Skipping the privacy setting on a new site

It’s been years since I set up a website from scratch with a new URL. But when my husband needed a new email address for our new life in Nashville, I volunteered to put a little something together on the fly.

Here’s what happened.

  1. D.J. needed a new address.
  2. He and I brainstormed a new URL: addressyourstudentloans.com, and I popped on to Bluehost to register the domain.
  3. The BIG MISTAKE: I registered the site and decided to skip the extra $11 a year for privacy in the listing.
  4.  After I created the email address, I thought he needed a little bit of a site just so people would have more info when they saw his email.
    4a. The MINOR MISTAKE: I thought I’d be able to throw up a quick site, but I obsessed over it for 3 hours and am still not happy but had to stop.

Back to the BIG MISTAKE

Like I said, it’s been years since I registered and launched a new site, and I didn’t think anything of it when I skipped the privacy upsell. This would hide my personal info on the Whois database. My other sites have my business address and phone number, and there has never been a problem.

But boy have things changed. And I should have known.

Super-Horrible Spam Attacks

Within 24 hours of the launch, I got the first phone call. “We are a service in [name of country, city, area, etc.], and we want to help you with your new site.”

Five minutes later I got another. Then another. Then another. And now my phone looks like this:

The calls are coming from all over the world. And they’re relentless. Some are obviously from call centers overseas, complete with the awkward pause before they start speaking. Others seemed to be from real-ish sales reps. Of course I stopped answering after the first five, but my phone keeps ringing and ringing!

And that’s not counting the emails

As the spam attack began, I wondered why my email wasn’t being flooded. The inbox looked about the same. But I looked into my spam folder, and there they were! Among the Nigerian princes and hot stock tips were dozens of solicitations. UGH!

So how can you avoid this?

Please learn from my mistakes, and if this happens to you, here are some things you can do.

  1. Don’t Put Your Main Email Address into Registrations
    I cannot believe I was so stupid as to put my real info into Whois. Yes, to get a site, you need verifiable email and phone. But you can use cool things like Burnermail to generate an email address to protect your real one. Or you can create an account just for registrations that you don’t actually use.
  2. Don’t Use Your Main Phone Number
    Ugh! Again I’m so stupid to use a real number. I don’t know if I will ever be able to answer the phone again. Some people suggest that you get a prepaid burner phone that you just use for registrations and nothing else. You turn it on to verify the registration, then you can store it in a drawer forever.
  3. Buy the Damn Privacy Protections
    If I had just paid the extra $11 a year, none of this would have happened. The registrar (Bluehost) would have masked my real info. Most sites do this, but I’m not as smart as most.
  4. Get Gmail
    One of the best things I discovered from this mistake is that Gmail spam filtering ROCKS. Not one of these spammers have gotten into my inbox.
  5. Get Truecaller or Mr Number or One of the Other Phone Spam Apps
    If you look at the screenshot of the calls above, you’ll see that some are marked as spam. That’s because Truecaller monitors my calls to block known spammers. Two weaknesses: 1.) Not all spammers are listed in their database, and 2.) Spammers have gotten great at spoofing phone numbers that are not in spam databases. So many of the spam calls still get through. But it does stop some.
  6. Use a Third-Party Phone Tool/Multiple Phone Numbers
    My business phone number comes through Vonage, and they’re automatically forwarded to my cell. To stop the onslaught on my phone, I was able to adjust the settings of the Vonage forward. Now calls to that number pretty much go straight to voicemail. If the person leaves a message (like most real callers will), I get an email with a transcript within a minute. I’d rather be able to answer the phone directly when clients call, but until things calm down (and I totally hope they do!), I’m leaving the voicemail on. Vonage also blocks some spam before the phone even rings.

    Another solution is to use Google Voice, which I used to use but stopped because I thought they were abandoning it (they finally updated it, so it’s good to go!). Google Voice gives you a main phone number you can give out, then you can route all your other numbers through it. It’s not a phone service. It’s a phone management tool. Manager Molly uses it to protect her main phone number. She’s smarter than I am. Google Voice has a spam filter as well.

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Comments 3

  1. Beth,

    Great heads-up on this. But I’m wondering, if you register your domain with an email address you don’t plan to monitor, how will you be notified that you need to renew your domain registration? Perhaps the domain registrar takes care of notifying you at your real email address that you gave them when you set up your account?

    1. Post
      Author

      Great question. My provider has my main email address and will notify me through their system. They surely don’t want to risk losing my money. 🙂 🙂

  2. Beth, I recently experienced multiple callers & emails from filling out a request for private healthcare provider info. My husband & I are considering our own small business & wanted info on health insurance. I only had my phone # & thank God I used a gmail acct. I’ve been blocking phone #s & texts ever since. I hope this will end when healthcare signups deadline 12/15 hits. I sympathize with you & appreciate you sharing your website foillables because we might be setting up a new website too! Thank you once again for all your expert help, Your faithful follower.

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