How to Track an E-mail - Part 1 Simple E-mail Analysis

You receive an e-mail from a customer - requesting information on your products, price etc. or placing order. Normally, you would like to find out more information about this customer before parting with requested information, especially if the information is of sensitive nature like price list, discount rate etc.

There may be other occasions when you want to find out more information about e-mail sender - for example, to locate the identity of a spammer or someone whose identity is suspicious.

How do you go about it ? You only have an e-mail, which is perhaps the easiest thing to acquire in the Internet.

Though Internet is anonymous - there are few tools with which you may dig out some information about your customer before entering into a negotiation. For example - if you receive an e-mail from a 'customer' with US postal address but discover that the e-mail has been sent from an African country - you know what to do !

Analysis of Given Details

Every e-mail has at least three distinct elements

  • From: (e.g.
  • To: (e.g.
  • Subject (e.g. Want to buy Your products)

The simplest test is to put the tail of sender's e-mail address (e.g. for in your browser's window and check if there is a web-site at this URL.

If you find a valid and business like web-site at this URL - your job becomes easier. One can dig out significant details from web-site as also other sources. Please see Faida article - 'How to evaluate a business web-site' for details.

However, if you can not find e-mail sender's web-site at URL - do not jump to conclusion that the sender is phony. Lot's of people use business e-mail address without web-site. In such cases, you need to determine if this guy is one of them or is using an anonymous web-based free e-mail, disguised as business e-mail. Your next task is to find out ownership details of the domain name.

Tracing Owner of Domain Name

Internet Corporation For Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is the nodal agency that supervises registration of domain names. Information on ownership of domain names can be located from ICANN approved registrars, who maintain public access database (called whois) on ownership of domain names.

Please visit such a whois (e.g. and check ownership of domain name.

If the sender is using a business e-mail - the domain name should be registered in sender's or his/her company's name.

When e-mail Sender Uses free web-based E-mail service

What happens when the e-mail sender uses a web-based free e-mail service (e.g.,, etc.) ?

Well, you can still find information about the sender by analyzing the e-mail header.

We shall discuss header analysis in next issue

Happy and Productive Surfing

Dr. Amit K Chatterjee

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Source: FAIDA - Newsletter on Business Opportunties from India and Abroad Vol: 5, Issue 10 ; November 5' 2004

Author : Dr. Amit K. Chatterjee
(Amit worked in blue-chip Indian and MNCs for 15 years in various capacities like Research and Information Analysis, Market Development, MIS, R&D Information Systems etc. before starting his e-commerce venture in 1997. The views expressed in this columns are of his own. He may be reached at )

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