We often get email from people we don’t know. Such emails are usually unwanted or unsolicited. But in some cases, you may just need to figure out who the person behind the email address is. This article examines a number of ways to do reverse email search.
The process of finding a person’s name using their email address is known as reverse email search or reverse email lookup. The default and intuitive way of doing this is by using a Google search. However, if the person does not have a website and has not used the email address in public forums, a Google search may just be useless. Here are some other methods you can try:
1. Facebook For Reverse Email Search
As of this writing, Facebook has 1.23 billion monthly active users and you need an email address to become a registered Facebook user. The chance that the person that emailed you has a Facebook account is relatively high and unlike most other social networks, Facebook allows you to search for people by email address. Just paste the email address into the Facebook search box and you will instantly see whether there’s an associated Facebook profile or not.
There are however some security settings associated with this feature so a user could potentially restrict others from doing a reverse email search for their Facebook account. Most people however are not that secretive or savvy and often leave this option at its default setting of “Everyone”.
HINT: You will find the reverse email lookup setting in Settings >> Privacy >> Who can look me up?
When you do a Facebook email search, there’s a chance you won’t find any Facebook profile. Or you might find a fake Facebook profile instead that reveals no personal details about the owner. In any case, reverse email lookup using Facebook is one quick way method you might want to try first.
Related Reading: Six Facebook Privacy Settings You Need to Check Now
If you are able to find the Facebook profile associated with the email address, you may then find the rest of the information you need from the person’s Facebook profile. If the person is using a fake name but has pictures that look real, you can do reverse image search on the pictures to find out who the person in the picture is.
Google Images has a powerful reverse image search feature built in. Just press the camera button and upload an image you downloaded from the person’s Facebook profile. You may be able to locate other social media profiles or websites where the person has used the same picture.
Another popular reverse image search engine is Tiny Eye.
2. Reverse Email Search Using Email Headers
Besides the content of an email message that is visible at first glance, all emails also contain email headers. Emails headers are a little complicated and contain quite a lot of information. They are often helpful in checking if an email was actually sent from the address it claims to have been sent from. For the purpose of reverse email search, however, the only piece of information we need from an email header is the IP address.
To find the IP address from which an email was sent, just open the email header and search for the string “Received: from”. The IP address usually follows. If there are many entries in the IP address, select the last one. Now copy the IP address into an online IP address tracking tool (or trace route tool). You will be able to determine the location of the sender this way.
IP address tracking tools will tell you where in the world an IP address is located along with a bunch of other information. While you will not find a person’s name from the IP address alone, knowing what country and city an email message originated from is often helpful in the determining the sender’s identity.
Note however, that IP address tracing may not always be very accurate. People often work behind proxy servers or virtual private networks (VPNs) and in such cases, their actual IP address is masked and will not be the IP address contained in the email header.
3. Username Search On Social Networks
If the email address you’re looking up is say, email@example.com (that’s a dummy email address but the username part is valid), it is very possible that the sender might have used the “ehickioya” string for more than just email. Maybe they used it as username on other social media sites or something. If you start searching through the different social media sites one by one, the process can easily become tiring. A good way to find out would be to try Googling ehickioya to see what turns up. But an even better way might be to use a service like Knowem to search for the username on multiple networks at once.
Searching for ehickioya on Knowem and checking for availability in the microblogging section will show that the “ehickioya” username has been used on Twitter. That’s me on Twitter.
If you use Gmail, you could also install the Rapportive extension for Google Chrome. This extension will help you find details about people that send you emails. Who are they? Where are they located? What are their Twitter and LinkedIn profiles? Etc.
4. Email Lookup On People Search Websites
There are a number of websites out there that allow you to search for people by just entering an email address. Spokeo, Pipl, PeopleSmart, and Lullar are some popular ones. Services like these combine different online sources including forums and social media sites in building up their databases. They also offer multiple search options. So you can do a name search instead of an email search for example.
The reverse email search methods described here are totally legal since the records are public. There are many situations where you might need to use one or more of the methods described. Most times however, real scammers/spammers and people who send phishing emails are clever enough to hide behind temporary email addresses or even proxies and VPNs. In such cases, it might be impossible to find the actual identity of the email sender or the process might require legal backing.