How to Trace E-Mails Sent to You

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How to Trace E-Mails Sent to You

Most people don’t know it, but it’s possible to find out a lot about an email that has been sent to you. Sometimes you may want to do this if someone has contacted you and you want to know if it’s from a legitimate source. Other times you may want follow up for reasons of your own choosing. Regardless of your reasoning, here is how to do it.

Get the IP Address of the Sender

The first thing is to get the (Internet Protocol) IP address; it’s the physical address of the computer that was used to send you the message; virtually all email programs provide a means for finding out what it is, the trick is in figuring it out for your particular email program.

If you happen to use Yahoo mail, you can find out the IP address of the sender by clicking on the icon that says “More Actions for Selected Emails” when you hover over it. First open the email, then move your cursor over the icons at the top of the page till you get to the one just described. When you click on it, you should see a menu choice called “View Full Header.” Clicking on that should open a little popup window that shows all of the IP addresses of the computers that passed the email from the send to you. The IP addresses are the numbers separated by dots, such as 12.345.678.999. To find out who the sender was, scroll all the way down to the bottom and find the last IP address in the list (ignore all the other stuff around it). That’s your sender’s IP address.

Other email programs have other menu options for doing the same thing, generally they can be found by reading the user’s manual or clicking on Help.

Find out More About the Owner of that IP Address

Unfortunately, you can’t get a specific name from an IP address (at least not without a court order) but you can find out some information about it by going to a web site that provides the information that is available, such as IP2Location or GEOBYTES. At either site, simply type in the IP number you found and let the site do it’s magic. Generally you’ll be able to find out which country the email came from, which part of the country (for some countries including the U.S.) and in many cases even the nearest city. You should also be able to find out who the Internet Service Provider (ISP) is of the person who sent you the email, which means if you wish to lodge a complaint, all you have to do is contact them and supply the IP address and they will take it from there.

Use a WHOIS Site to Find out Information About the Host

To send an email across the Internet, someone has to host the email server; in many cases it’s the same as the ISP, in other cases, however, it’s not. Either way, you can find out who is hosting the email server for the person that sent you the email by going to a site such as ARIN. Once again, just type or paste in the IP number you found originally, and you should get back all kinds of information about the host.