At some point, anyone who has an email address is bound to receive messages from a sender they don't know or receive spam emails. This will occur regardless of the safeguards they have set up to protect their account and keep it clean of junk mail. Although in most cases spam emails are relatively harmless because they are easy to spot with their ridiculous subject lines, some are not. Certain spam messages are craftily designed to trick an email consumer into opening them by giving the recipient the impression that the electronic message is personal.
Opening a spam email can put your computer at significant risk, as many of these frustrating messages are riddled with viruses, spyware, malware, and other problems you don't want. Moreover, in some cases, scam artists create phony e-mail addresses that closely match those of other businesses and financial institutions, for the purpose of trying to con you into providing some of your personal information. However, not all questionable emails have malicious intent, because sometimes what appears to be a suspicious message is your friend playing a practical joke on you.
Since you cannot chance trusting that a strange email address is harmless, you need to find out who the address belongs to. Discovering whether or not an e-mail is spam, is simply a matter of determining if the email is “real". You can find out more about the message sender through one of these methods:
Email headers - Retrieve the email message headers for the electronic mail in question. This can be achieved by searching for the instructions on how to find message headers in the email client you are using. The headers can provide you with different details including the owner's actual e-mail address, which may not have appeared in their sender information that is displayed in the “From" box of the message.
IP Trace - Message headers can also provide you with the senders IP address, which is essentially a computer's online identity. You can enter their IP into an IP address trace to find out their computer's geographical location (I. E. country, city, state or region, etc. ). An IP tracking service will not be able to give you the sender's exact location, but it will give you a general indication of their whereabouts. These details may be enough to tip you off on who may be responsible for sending the emails (I. E. a friend).
Conduct a general web search - look up the email address in a search engine to see if any information is returned. If nothing is found, try searching suspicious email sites to see if the address you are investigating matches any of the spam emails in the list.
Reverse email lookup - Access a reverse email address search and enter the e-mail into the designated search box to try and find out the identity of the sender. It's a good idea to try more than one lookup, as not every site features the same emails in their databases.
Remember that even if you are unable to find out who an email belongs to , if you ever doubt the integrity of a message, delete it, because it is better to be safe than sorry.
Lindsay has been writing about web applications for 4 years and is tracking the latest trends in web development. You can check out her latest project at http://www.reverseemaildetective.com