What is the catch-all forwarding address?

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We don’t recommend using the catch-all address.

Using the catch-all address will cause you to get more spam, and may cause spammers to “forge” your domain name in spam they send. We don’t recommend it unless you absolutely need it.

The catch-all address is a special kind of forwarding address. If you turn it on, it accepts mail sent to any address that you haven't specifically created.

For example, imagine someone sends an e-mail message to “unknown54@example.com”. If you've turned on the catch-all address, the message will be forwarded to the address you've chosen. But if you don't have the catch-all address turned on, the message will be rejected with an "unknown user" error.

The catch-all address can be useful if you need to receive any misaddressed mail: for example, using the catch-all address would make sure that you receive a message accidentally sent to “inof@example.com” instead of “info@example.com”.

What about spam?

Although the catch-all address can be useful, it has a (possibly major) drawback: If you use it, you'll probably receive much more spam, because some spammers send mail to random addresses such as sales@example.com, jobs@example.com, list@example.com, president@example.com, and so on.

In addition, using the catch-all address can tempt spammers to forge addresses at your domain name, since it creates an infinite number of “valid” addresses that they can use in their forgeries.

You'll have to decide whether the extra spam is worth the convenience. The spam problem is such a nuisance that we don’t recommend using it, but it's up to you, of course.

If you want to turn the catch-all address off to stop extra spam, just do this:

  1. Login to the account management control panel
  2. Click E-Mail Options
  3. Locate the "Catch-All Address" line and click Delete

Rejecting certain addresses while using the catch-all for others

If you want to use the catch-all to accept mail sent to most addresses, but reject it anyway for a small number of addresses, our "Rejecting Mail" page explains how to do that.

Catch-all rate limits

Our mail servers accept up to 1,000 delivery attempts per hour per e-mail address (400 of which can be from one sending network), deferring extra mail until the rate drops. This limit offers some protection against spammers who try sending you many thousands of messages.

All addresses handled by the catch-all are grouped together for rate-limiting purposes. If the catch-all handles more than 1,000 messages per hour, even if it does so on behalf of many different destination addresses, future catch-all messages will be deferred. This causes a delivery delay, and is another reason we discourage customers from using the catch-all to handle mail for known addresses.

A technical note about bounce messages and the catch-all address

Due to virus and spam outbreaks, our mail systems won’t accept most “bounce” messages sent to catch-all addresses. This makes sure you won’t be completely overwhelmed by erroneous “bounces” if a spammer or virus sends other people messages using a random address at your domain name as a forged “From” address. However, you might still receive some erroneous “I’m out of the office” autoreplies and similar messages; the only way to stop those is to disable the catch-all address completely.

Rejecting “bounces” sent to catch-all addresses should not affect normal mail, because you should always send outgoing mail from a real mailbox (or forwarding address) you’ve created. Any “bounces” will be returned to that address, not to a catch-all address.