Reverse Email Lookup
Typically, when conducting a search for email, we are trying to find the email address of someone who we know or have heard of so that we can contact them through the Internet, rather than carrying out a reverse email lookup. Internet communication is fast, almost effortless, and efficient, so it is no wonder that it has become so popular and that we would wish to find the email addresses of people who are important to us or who we have some motive to contact.
The electronic traces left by the process of sending email opens up the possibility of the opposite approach, also -- using a program or service, we start with an email address on a message we've received and track it down to its source, finding out how who wrote to us and possibly finding out if they are who they really claim to be in the process. This is known as a reverse email lookup.
When you're thinking of conducting a reverse email lookup, you have several options. You can pay for a search, try to find information yourself by using a search engine like Google, or even hire an Internet trace investigator to conduct a massive search for the source of an email (which is typically only done when the email's contents are vitally important or seriously threatening, since the cost of a reverse email lookup like this can be very high indeed).
However, you can also start your search for free -- most services allow you to retrieve a small amount of information about an email address without signing up or paying anything. This is just to get you interested enough to buy their services, of course, but you can still use this information to your advantage.
Search on a search engine like Google, Ask.com, or dogpile.com for a "free reverse email lookup," and you will receive many hundreds, and probably thousands, of answers. Go to one of these and enter the email address whose source you want to investigate in the search bar that will be offered on the page. The site will search for a few seconds, and then provide you with some 'teaser' information -- typically something like the town where the person who owns the email is located, rather than more specific data like a name or address.
It should be noted that many of these reverse email lookup services can only handle email lookups for a few Western countries, such as the United States, Canada, Great Britain, France, and Germany. Emails originating from outside these countries may be marked as 'spoof email addresses' even when they are actually real email addresses. You should not automatically assume that an international email is fake simply because a four-second search on the Internet does not reveal anything about it.
You can still make good use of the information you get from a free search. Just seeing the location of the sender is informative -- if the person claims to be from New York and their email account is linked to California, it doesn't necessarily mean that they are doing something underhanded, but it does show that some further investigation is in order. At the very least, learning the sender's general location through a reverse email lookup can tell you whether it's worthwhile to spend money to learn more about them.