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Thursday, May 12, 2011

How Can I Trace an Email and Identify the Sender?

Stop me if you've heard this one: A kind, casual internet user is going about his or her day when suddenly, a disturbing email arrives from an unrecognized sender. This sort of thing happens every single day, and often the email title can take the form of an inflammatory declaration. Perhaps it was even sent to a hundred of your close friends, family, or even your co-workers. Believe it or not, it's not entirely uncommon for someone to receive an email with a header that reads like 'I don't like the way you're coaching the local little league team' or even 'I have been sleeping with your significant other' - except with correct names of people and places being used. Sound like a nightmare? What should you do if this occurs?

You trace it! Though the internet is vast and there are many ways to remain anonymous, it's not impossible to follow the clues and find the letter's origin. Usually, you'll be told that you need to grab the email headers by going into your settings. And then, you'll be instructed, you'll need to grab the IP address from the headers and run a trace on that to find the author's ISP. This is the sort of advice I come across time and time again.

My problem with this advice is that it can return misleading information. In fact, information provided in an email's header is often reversed and it can lead to you tracing your own ISP instead of the sender's! Furthermore, you want specifics - not just the general area of where the email came from, but the name of the person who is suggesting something accusatory or malicious. This is why you might want to consider hiring a private investigator over, say, a computer technician who will deal primarily with data and not with names. A programmer may not appreciate your lack of interest in the technical side of things, whereas a private investigator can understand and empathize with your terrible situation.

In any event, a private investigator will probably utilize a reverse email search - a free service that can be found all over the internet. Other simple first steps will be taken, too - such as throwing the user's email address into a few search engines to see what else pops up. You can attempt these methods as well, of course, but you may bump into walls where a private investigator has contacts and resources to fall back upon.

More and more private investigators are spending time and money to become well-versed in internet-related subject matter so that they can conduct these sorts of investigations. On the other hand, you need to careful because there are a few 'sleuth scams' out there that will promise you unbelievable results - which is why you need to do some research before you decide on who to hire. And remember, a professional trace can take weeks to complete properly - so beware of those promising instant results! Still, with a little persistence and a lot of patience, you can get to the bottom of this sort of situation - which is much better than being left feeling helpless and victimized!

1 comment:

Lacey said...

Very good article! Most people have no idea that they can trace back emails. This can help people with how to become a private investigator with their own information. Of course they need to be careful, like you said, or they'll just be searing themselves. Sometimes it's easier to just let the professionals do the work. :)