Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Fake your online identity

Fake your online identity

Sharing your real personal info over the web leaves you open to spam and scams. Hayden Parkes (aka Robert Irvine) explains how to be someone else online

Generate a fake name and profile

There are times when you can’t avoid using your real name online - for example, when you’re paying for a product or service, or joining Facebook, which insists that “you will not provide any false personal information” ( For other sites, it’s both practical and advisable to adopt a pseudonym as a means of preventing online fraud and unwanted communication.

Inventing a fake name can be surprisingly tricky (and copying someone else’s could land you in legal trouble) so we recommend turning to the brilliant Fake Name Generator ( This ingenious website not only creates phoney monikers of your preferred gender and ’name set' - from American to Vietnamese - but generates a host of other info for your fictional alter ego. This includes a realistic address and postcode (or zip code for US names); a fake phone number that will be deemed valid by automated site tests; a birthday and star sign; physical characteristics such as height, weight and blood type; a job and car; and even your favourite colour. After using the service, we are now Hayden Parkes, a Toyota-driving environmental chemist from Hatton Heath.

There’s also an unofficial Fake Name Generator add-on for Firefox ( that lets you bring up made-up details, wherever you are on the web.

Use a disposable email address

Websites and apps often require you to register using your email address, so they can confirm who you are and potentially pester you with marketing messages - or “keep you informed of our latest offers”, as they put it. You can sidestep this intrusion of privacy and avoid the deluge of ‘grey mail’ and spam by creating a fake, temporary address using a disposable-email service. Sign up with the fake address, click the link in the confirmation message that arrives in your alternative inbox and you’ll be able to access the site without giving anything away.

There are dozens of free disposable-email services and our current favourite is MailDrop ( This couldn’t be easier to use: just enter the fake handle you’d like to use in the box on the homepage - for example, - and click Go. MailDrop will then create your temporary address and accompanying inbox, which you can log into by entering your chosen handle.

Unlike similar services such as Mailinator (, MailDrop has its own spam filters - so even your fake account isn't swamped by junk mail - and provides your address with an unguessable alias for extra security. It also suggests bogus addresses if you can’t think of one yourself.

Fill in online forms using fake info

Entering your name, address and contact details when you fill in online forms is not only tedious (unless you have the info saved in your browser), but places your personal data one step closer to spammers and scammers. The Chrome extension Fake Data ( generates random but genuine-looking info and enters it in forms without you needing to type anything. Just right-click a text box - be it for your name, email or postal address, phone number or location - and choose the relevant option from Fake Data's side menu.

By default, the add-on is set to use US data, but you can change this to ‘en_GB' in its Options to get UK phone numbers, British locations and postcodes rather than zip codes. You can also save custom data to enter in forms by right-clicking. Note that unlike the disposable examples in the previous tip, the fake email addresses created by Fake Data aren’t linked to an actual inbox, so don’t use it if you need to confirm your registration.

Pretend to be in another location

Many websites use geo-location to detect where you are. This might not sound worrying in itself but when combined with other bits of information, it allows them to build up an accurate profile of you. You can install a VPN to disguise your location but it’s a bit like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut, and there are other, more lightweight tools available to use instead.

One of the best is Location Guard (, which stops sites knowing exactly where you are by adding ’noise’ to your location, so it can’t be pinpointed with any accuracy. Available for Chrome, Firefox and Opera, Location Guard offers three levels of noise that can be adjusted on a site-by-site basis - depending on how obscured you want to be. It's more subtle than a VPN, so your spoofed location won’t be in another country but up to 7,116m away, which means you can still get relevant local information. You also have the option to use a fixed fake location - ours was tiny Manra Island in the Pacific Ocean!

Websites can also establish where you are via your IP address, but this is seldom very accurate - for example, IPTrackerOnline ( placed us 2.5 miles away and in the middle of the River Thames! If you really want to hide your IP address, it’s best to use a VPN such as TunnelBear ( or CyberGhost (

Send email from a fake account

Most of us include at least one of our real names in our Gmail address as a way of stamping our identity on it - and to avoid the embarrassment of, say, applying for a job from

In circumstances when you don’t want to reveal your real name and email address, such as when contacting someone anonymously, you can enter fake ’reply to’ details for your account. In Gmail, click the cog in the top-right corner and choose Settings, then click the ‘Accounts and Import’ tab. In the ’Send mail as’ section, click ‘edit info’ and choose an alternative name to use. Next, click ’Specify a different “reply-to” address’, enter a fake email address and click ’Save changes’. Remember to change this setting back for your normal communications, though.


Caller ID is invaluable for deciding whether or not to answer a phone call, but there are times when you might not want the person or company you’re ringing to know your number at all - for example, in case they phone back at an inconvenient time or if you don’t really like them. On a landline phone, you can press 141 to withhold the number you’re about to dial, but did you know there’s a similar feature built into your smartphone? On an Android device, launch the Phone app, press the three-dots icon at the top and choose Settings. Tap Calls, ‘Additional settings’, Caller ID and select the option ‘Hide number’. On an iPhone, go to Settings, choose Phone and move the Show My Caller ID slider to ‘off’.


Earlier this year, the Crown Prosecution Service said that it will now advise lawyers to prosecute people who create fake online profiles to harass others, including setting up accounts in their victims’ names ( However, it certainly isn’t illegal to use a disposable email address or enter bogus personal data when registering with a site, provided the site’s terms and conditions don’t expressly forbid it - dating sites are increasingly clamping down on fake profiles that are used to trick or ‘catfish’ users. Obviously when money is involved, such as applying for a loan or selling goods through eBay, you’ll need to provide your correct details or else risk being charged with fraud.