How To Trace an Email Address

Email spam is an annoyance for all and can leave unsuspecting users vulnerable to malware attacks or even identity theft. Fortunately, a great way to detect spam is by tracing the email address via email headers. Email headers provide data from where the email originated, including IP address and server information.

Every email application (Microsoft Outlook, GMail, Yahoo, Live, Hotmail, etc.) provides ways to view the email header. As more and more people get online, there are more and more scammers out in the world sending fake emails. The following steps will walk you through how to trace an email address for free to assist in avoiding email phishing scams as well as other types of abuse.

What Are Email Headers?

Each email you receive comes with a header. Email headers don't contain any personal information; rather, they contain information about the message and its originating IP address. The header information can help you find the IP address that sent the email.

In this sense, it's not necessarily possible to trace an email back to the person or entity that sent it. At most, the results of the trace will show you the origination IP and the computer name that sent the email.

Why You Need Email Headers

Email headers are essential to track down any malicious emails, spam, or other reasons to track where the email came from.

If someone is spamming you or sending you threats via email, you can use the email header data to possibly trace the originating IP to locate the sender. Additionally, using email headers to trace an email address will allow you to flag emails from particular senders to avoid future email phishing scams.

How Do I Get The Header To Start The Email Trace Process?

Each email program will vary as to how you get to the message options. Let's cover the basics to start the trace...the rest is up to you.

To clarify, you can see that no matter the program, the headers are usually just a right-click away.

Trace email header from Outlook 2010, 2013 and 2019 (Windows Only)

1.  Add Message Options to the Quick Access Toolbar by selecting the down arrow in the upper left corner and choosing "More Commands...".  If you already have Message Options on your Quick Access Toolbar, proceed to step 3 below.

Headers from Outlook

2.  When the pop-up window comes up, follow these steps:

2a.  Choose All Commands from the top dropdown.

2b.  Scroll until you find Message Options... then select.

3c.  Select Add in the middle of the console.

4d.  Message Options...  (should now show up as a chosen command).

5e.  Select OK.

Headers from Outlook

You should now see the Message Options icon in your Quick Access Toolbar at the top left corner.

3.  Select the email from which you wish to get the headers.

4.  Then select the Message Options icon in the top left corner.  A box similar to the one below should appear.

Headers from Outlook

5.  Copy the data in the Internet headers box by clicking within the box and pressing Ctrl+A to select all the text. Then press Ctrl+C to copy the highlighted text.

6.  Paste (Ctrl+V) the data into our Email Header Analyzer Tool To Find Spam and click Analyze.

Trace email header from GMail

1. Open an email within your web browser. Select the drop-down arrow next to the Reply button in the top right corner and choose "Show Original".

Trace an email from GMail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.  Once the new page opens (the example is not shown for security reasons), press Ctrl+A, then Ctrl+C to copy all of the data within the window on a PC. On a Mac, press Cmd+A, then Cmd+C to copy all data within the window.

3.  Paste (Ctrl+V) the data into our Email Header Analyzer Tool To Find Spam and click Analyze.

Trace email header from Yahoo!

1. Open an email within your web browser. Next, select the “...More” drop-down arrow and choose "View Full Header".

Trace an email from Yahoo!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.  Once the data window opens (the example is not shown for security reasons), press Ctrl+A, then Ctrl+C on a PC. Likewise, on a Mac, press Cmd+A, then Cmd+C to copy all data within the window.

3.  Paste (Ctrl+V) the data into our Email Header Analyzer Tool To Find Spam and click Analyze.

Trace email header from Live.com, Hotmail.com, and Outlook.com

1. Open an email within your web browser. Next, select the Actions drop-down arrow and choose "View Message Source".

Trace an email from Live, Hotmail, and Outlook

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.  Once the data window opens (the example is not shown for security reasons), press Ctrl+A, then Ctrl+C on a PC. On a Mac, press Cmd+A, then Cmd+C to copy all data within the window.

3.  Paste (Ctrl+V) the data into our Email Header Analyzer Tool To Find Spam and click Analyze.

I've Got The Header Now How Do I Start The Trace?

The next step is to paste the header data into our Email Header Analyzer Tool. Our tool should return the IP attached to the initiating point. However, there are exceptions to this.

You can use our IP Address Lookup Tool to look up the IP address to determine the originating location of the email. IP address location information DOES NOT contain your street name, house number, or phone number. The trace email info will most likely determine the city and the ISP the sender used.

However, you will not be able to find a physical address. If the matter is serious, local law enforcement could subpoena the ISP that controls the IP address, which would provide the police information about who is assigned that IP address.

Can You Always Trace An Email Address?

Yes and No. For example, someone who sends a message to your Hotmail account shows in the X-Originating IP section of the headers. However, someone who sends you a message from GMail will ONLY trace back to a Google IP address.

Once again, tracing an email address to its owner can be overwhelming based on an IP address. However, it does give you a starting point and a rough idea or location. The first step to trace an email address to its owner is to follow the steps above and then see where the results take you.