IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

How to create a fake identity and stay anonymous online

Photo by gaelx / Courtesy of Lifehacker

You don't need to have evil motives for wanting to fake your identity or go incognito online; for many people, it's a matter of privacy and avoiding spammers and scammers. Thankfully, there are a great many tools for staying anonymous online. Here are a few of the best.

The browser's incognito mode
The private browsing mode in Google Chrome, Firefox and other browsers records no information about your browsing, including form data you enter, files you download or history of pages you visit. It's handy for many things beyond porn. To launch a window in private browsing mode, use these keyboard shortcuts:

  • Chrome and Opera: Ctrl+Shift+N
  • Firefox, Internet Explorer: Ctrl+Shift+P

For Safari, go to Safari > Private Browsing.

What about mobile devices? Use an alternative mobile browser that will clear your browsing history for you automatically, such as our pick for best web browser on iPhone, Atomic Web Browser, or Android browser top pick, Dolphin.

Private browsing tricks
If you want to open your browser in private mode all the time, add a simple switch to your browser's shortcut.

We've also previously mentioned a Firefox extension called Private Browsing Window, which starts a new private browsing window in Firefox without closing your old ones.

Beyond private browsing: How to clean everything
Even with private browsing mode, traces of your browsing session still stay behind on your computer,  such as DNS lookups and Flash cookies. Here's how to get rid of those sorts of bits and really browse without leaving a trace.

Proxy servers and VPNs
Although private browsing mode is great for preventing sites from writing trackable cookies and other info to your computer, it doesn't completely make you anonymous. If you want the most assurance that others won't know who you really are, you'll want to use a proxy server and/or a virtual private network connection so you can appear to be someone and somewhere else.

The free Tor software is one of our favorites for anonymizing our online sessions. It routes web requests through multiple tunnels, preventing sites from knowing who or where you are.

If you want to set up your own secure, encrypted system to access on the go, you can do this using Hamachi and Privoxy, tunneling traffic using your own home computer.

Another alternative is previously mentioned Windows app CyberGhost VPN, which is free for up to six hours of surfing or 1GB of downloading.

Disposable email addresses and anonymous email sending
Disposable email address services hide your real email address and keep the spam out by giving you a temporary email address that forwards to your real one. There are so many different disposable email services to choose from, and we've mentioned quite a few. Spamgourmet is one of the earliest services and still great. You might also like Trashmail, which as we mentioned before, offers Firefox and Chrome extensions for convenience.

When it's time to send an email message or SMS, use a tool such as previously mentioned Sharpmail.

Fake identity creators
Trying to stay anonymous can be difficult with all the forms websites require you to fill out. You can make up fake information yourself or, better yet, use something like previously mentioned Fake Name Generator to create a realistic fake ID that'll fool web forms.

Looking to disappear and establish a new identity in real life? We've got some excerpts from "How to Disappear" that can help you formulate a plan to ditch Big Brother and disappear forever.

This is a piece writtenfor Lifehacker's Evil Week, which is all about topics such as password cracking, social hacking and other questionable tricks to make sure you're in the know. Knowledge is power, and whether you use that power for good or evil is in your hands.

You can follow or contact Melanie Pinola, the author of this post, on Twitter or Google+

More from Lifehacker: