First of all we need to get some terms stated. I have been in the business for just over two years and there is still some confusion over the topic.
Mail forwarding: is a service that allows you to have your mail sent to a “mailbox” and then they will forward it off to your location. This mail is generally sent in bulk to the recipient and is very useful if you travel, or don’t have a permanent address.
Mail Redirection: is when you have mail sent direct to a mailbox and then it is “remailed” to another location. This is mainly used by organisations or individuals who wish to keep their physical address a secret.
Remailing: is as simple as receiving a letter, re-stamping and addressing the letter then posting it again. This is pretty much what happens when mail is forwarded or redirected.
First of all when you think about tampering with mail such as remailing, forwarding etc. you think “dodgy” or is that legal? Quite simply yes, it is legal but it all depends on what the intent of the service is. I will explain why people need to have a fake mail address.
Mail Drop: is defined as “an address or place at which a nonresident person receives mail, often of a secret nature” (2005) Dictionary.com
So why are there so many names for the same services?
It is pretty simple to understand why there are so many names and that is because the vendors that offer these services are trying to obtain as many hits through search engines as possible, they use phrases such as “forwarding” “redirection” etc.
In doing this they can confuse the customer and they will not have a clear understanding of the services that are available.
What service should I use then?
Mail drops are generally the most defined term and are understandably the most common. I define Mail Drops as a mailbox that has been purchased on your behalf and all mail within the mailbox is sent to your predefined recipient address. Most Vendors provide shared mail boxes, where you share a box with many users for a cheap price, or dedicated services where you actually rent the whole mailbox. You should look at how manageable your account is, can you have multiple predefined recipient addresses, and can you see what mail you have and how much mail you have in the box at any time.
Why would people even use such a service?
Anonymity is the simple answer, or people who choose to keep their identity secret from others. There are many reasons for doing this, the most legitimate reason for using such services is for people who move around and do not have one stagnant address. Although the services are set up by legitimate vendors, there are the customers who wish to evade the law and have private documents sent without detection. These customers can harm or damage the vendor’s reputation and if any prohibited material is detected they can often face heavy charges.
There are many vendors out there who provide this service, I am not going to recommend any particular vendor but I do advise that you shop around and take a look at their history and talk to other customers who have used their services. All the vendors are located in multiple countries; you should take a look at their country of origin, what privacy laws are enforced there, what is their law enforcement like? Then take a look at the site. Read their privacy statement, try to understand it. Make sure you fully understand their terms of service. You do not want to be stuck with a huge fine, or if you’re trying to keep yourself anonymous, you don’t want to have your private information public. Or worst of all have them read your private mail!