How to Identify Unknown Mail Senders

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  • 24 Aug, 2021  |
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1 How to Identify Unknown Mail Senders

Sadly, unless you’ve got several different jobs, the odds are that a huge amount of the emails you receive every day are basically unwanted. Spam mail makes up a massive proportion of all online traffic, and thanks to spam folders it generally goes unnoticed. But it’s certainly not unlikely that you’ll find yourself receiving an email from an unknown source, and needing to identify where it’s coming from. Whether it’s in relation to your work, or simply connected to an important email, it’s worthwhile knowing how to trace the source of unknown online traffic. We’re going to look at a few of the most effective methods for working out where unknown emails come from.

Online Services Provide Reliable Results

First off, if your privacy is at risk and you need to get information on a sender as quickly as possible, the most reliable method is an online tool. You may not be aware of it, but there are many online services designed at finding out where emails are coming from. They work in a number of different ways. Some check the internet for all publicly available information on a sender, compiling the data to give you a comprehensive overview of who they are. Others focus on domain names, using them to narrow down the number of potential results by searching information on a single company or domain. These services are not generally available free, though many of them offer free trials that give you a number of searches. As we’ve already mentioned, they are generally the most reliable, and fastest, way of finding where a message is coming from. They also verify the addresses, ensuring that they’re still up and functioning.

Social Media and Reverse Searching

Social media platforms form the most visible and accessible online footprint for most people. Whether professional or personal, the vast majority of internet users have some kind of social media account. And these accounts are the ideal tool for finding out where an email has come from. Facebook actually lets you search for email addresses associated with accounts, meaning that all you have to do is copy and paste the address into Facebook’s search function, and you can find out if there are any accounts associated with the address. Twitter is another easy way of finding out where an email has come from, as it also allows you to perform a search with an email address. This is a pretty good idea as your first step in locating the source of an email, as it’s quick and also costs nothing. However, if it’s clear that your email is coming from a domain associated with a business, you may have less success than with a personal account.

Search Engine Results

Perhaps the most obvious, and straightforward, tool for finding where an email has come from is simply putting it into a search engine. If your email is coming from a professional account, the search will use the domain name to determine the name of the company. With this information, it’s far easier for you to determine exactly who is sending you messages. There’s also a chance that you’ll be able to find out who the message is coming from if they’ve used their email on any forums - even if it isn’t the entire address, you’ll still be able to get some clues if, for example, they use the same words in their username.

Spam Notice Sites

When you put the address into a search engine, there’s a chance that you’ll find yourself on one of these sites. They’re really useful, especially given the volume of spam that the average internet user is faced with. These sites allow users to post any suspicious emails that they receive so that they can compare notes with other internet users. If your email address is coming from a scammer, there’s a pretty good chance that other users have flagged it up already as unreliable. Check these sites to see if the email address shows up, and what people think about its level of trustworthiness.

Searching for the IP Address

A slightly more technical way of working out where an email comes from involves searching for the IP address. This is something you can do on pretty much all email servers, including Gmail, Outlook, and Yahoo. The method is slightly different for each one but basically involves opening the email in its entirety, including the full header. Once you’ve done this, all you need to do is search through the header and look for ‘from’. This will be followed by the IP address of the source of the email. Once you’ve got the IP address, you can use an online tool to work out the geographical location of the address. Obviously, this isn’t a completely foolproof way of identifying the sender. First off, all you’re going to know is the geographical location, which should give you a lot of information but may not be enough. On top of that, if the source is using a VPN, their IP address will appear altered, meaning that the information you get won’t be accurate.

Tracing Via Text

A final way to work out the potential source of an email is by copying a part of the text into a search engine. This is particularly helpful if the email is a possible scam. By copy and pasting the text, you can see if the email exists online in any other context, for instance as a company’s promotion. Again, this is not so much a definitive identification as it is a way of gathering clues. But in terms of determining the authenticity of a suspicious message, it’s a good way of finding out how seriously you should be taking a message. As we’ve already mentioned, suspicious emails and scams tend to be discussed in multiple places online. If other people are receiving an identical message to yours, you can probably work out the source.

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