Have you ever received an email from someone who you don’t know promising to transfer one million dollars to your bank account if you only send him the wire fees? How about a promotional email from someone claiming to be from a large company promising discounts and free giveaways?
We all have email addresses and, as a result, receive a lot of solicited and unsolicited correspondence. Some land in the spam folder, some get bounced before it reaches us; most of the time, it lands successfully in our inbox. The problem is that not all emails are the same – some we want to receive, and some we have no idea who the hell is sending it to us. How do you distinguish a scam email from a legit job interview?
The answer: reverse the email trace.
Trace the Email IP Address
Were you aware that emails have IP addresses similar to personal computers? Well, they do, and they are quite clear-cut regarding the origin of the sender. The most popular email provider out there is Gmail.com. As of writing this article, Gmail has over 1.8 billion users. Those are a lot of emails that go from and to every day. While Gmail does gather an extensive amount of personal data (for marketing and algorithm research), they do a pretty good job of hiding it from both us and third-party identities. An email address IP is never left out in open view and requires you to dig a little deeper to locate it.
Most email info can be gathered in a Chrome browser. To do so, follow these steps:
- Open the email in question. Make sure you are using Gmail.com on a Chrome browser.
- There should be three vertical dots at the top right corner of the email bar. It is located next to the sender’s email address, to the right of the Favorite and Reply icons. Click on the three dots.
- Navigate to the Show Original option. This will show you a separate page with the sender’s personal info, such as name (if available) and location. The information will be located under the SPF line.
You now have the IP address of the email’s original sender. But what do you do with that information? Well, there are several IP tracker tools online that we will discuss in the article below. Some will serve your purposes better than others. After all, the goal is to find as much information about the original sender as possible. Keep in mind that even if you have the IP, not all information will be useful to you. If the sender is a notorious spam sender, yes, you will receive valuable information, and you will know not to trust them. However, if the original sender is just an average person, the amount of information available to you will be limited and not very useful.
Use IP2Location to Trace Email IP
The IP2Location website is a free service that allows users to trace the original email sender’s IP address. Unlike other IP locators, this one allows users to identify both the original IP location of the sender and potential proxy servers that were used to re-route the email. To use the service, all you have to do is copy + paste the IP address you found in the step above into the Look Up search bar. The information that will be displayed will range from country to connection type. Honestly, it’s a lot of technical data that doesn’t quite give you an idea of who the person is. If the email is particularly malicious or threatening, you could use the information you’ve gathered in IP2Location to contact the local authorities and file a complaint. You won’t receive any personal information regarding your target, however, just the publicly available data.
IP2Location offers several yearly per-service features that could come in handy if you wanted to use their extensive database. For example, if you were interested in looking up several IPs in a specific country, you could buy the IP2Location IP-Country Database pack for $49. On the other hand, if you were interested in tracing IPs in a specific city, you could purchase the IP2Location IP-Country-Region-City Database pack for $199. There are many different versions of IP packages to choose from, all suitable for different needs.
Reverse Email Search with Social Media
Since we have established that over 1.8 billion accounts are registered with Gmail, it’s somewhat likely that your original sender used the same email address to sign up for both Gmail and Facebook. Reading through the email will easily give you hints regarding which social networking platform you should look at. If the email contains some kind of promotional offer, it’s worth checking Facebook or a mentioned website. If the email contains a job offer or a resume request, LinkedIn would be your best bet.
Similar to Gmail, Facebook has more than a billion users. The chances of finding relevant information increase with the user base. To search Facebook, simply copy + paste the original sender’s email address ([email protected]) into the Facebook search bar. Look through the results and note any similarities between the email and the Facebook profile.
People Search with Spokeo
Spokeo is a special type of search engine that analyzes and provides results based on publicly available data. Spokeo’s resources rely on public records, social network information, mailing lists, a large email database, and public forum listings. The whole deal with Spokeo is to use someone’s email address and run it through their search engine. The tool will look through its extensive database and locate any relative information to your search inquiry. The search tool only requires the input of a name (alternatively an email address) or a phone. The information that you can expect to receive includes:
- Contact Information;
- Location History;
- Finance Data;
- Criminal Records;
- Social Media Accounts;
- Personal History;
Similar to other email extractors, Spokeo does not look through private calls and private messaging. The service only relies on public records. If you encounter a tool online that promises to access private data for payment, it’s either a scam or a company performing illegal activities.
Unfortunately, Spokeo will only retrieve information regarding IP’s located in the United States. The service does not have jurisdiction in other countries.
Try Legit Email Extractors
Spokeo is not the only email extractor out there, and some services can give you an even more detailed insight into your email sender. Here, the trick is to choose tools with vast contact databases because it increases your chances of finding the info you need. Today, SignalHire is one of the largest contact databases with over 400 million verified contacts that include emails, phone numbers, and links to all available social media accounts on each person in this vast database.
If you only need the tool now and then, a free version with five lookups a month should suffice. Just run that suspicious email address and the search bar and see what you’ve got. If you need to check emails and phone numbers on a regular basis, you can make use of a very affordable monthly plan that starts at $39 (if billed annually) and costs $49 if billed monthly. Right now, this is one of the best and the most affordable databases that have extensive contact data on each profile. Plus, it comes with a handy browser plugin if you need to look up someone’s email and phone number when viewing their social media profiles.
When receiving emails from strangers, no matter how convincing they are written, never click on links in the body of the email. Many online scammers use a technique called Phishing. This technique basically masks an email to look like an original (Amazon, Facebook, your bank) to fool you into clicking on malicious links. Often these links come with downloadable content that includes password savers and spy camera software that hijacks your computer. The potential damages to your security and data could be catastrophic.
Use caution when downloading software from the internet. Most email extractors or IP tracers are online tools or Chrome extensions. These tools do not require you to download any additional software for you to use them. Any tool that promises instant results if you download their software is a scam and is trying to steal your data.