How to find an email source & trace the sender

Updated April 17, 2017

In the header of a received e-mail you will see who the email is to, who it is from and the date it was sent. This information is a short version of the actual header sent with the email. In the full version, the actual IP address from where the email was sent can be found.

Select the email that interests you. The method for finding the full headers and revealing the IP address of the sender varies depending on the email system you are using.

Right-click on the selected e-mail in Microsoft Outlook and choose "Options" from the pop-up menu. Another pop-up appears with the header information in the "Internet Headers" section.

Open the message in Gmail and click the down arrow next to the Reply button. Choose "Show Original" to get the full headers shown in a new window.

Right-click on the message in Hotmail and choose "View Source" from the menu. The source of the email, starting with the full headers, appears in a new window.

Look through the full headers to find the last "Received: from" line. As the email is sent, it is routed through several servers, each of which will show from what address the email was received. The last "Received: from" is the sender and will show an IP address.

Copy the sender's IP address and go to a IP reverse lookup site. Three examples of these sites are IP Tracer, What is my IP Address and Active Whois (see Resources). Enter the IP address in the query box. The site traces the IP address, shows the location details and pinpoints the location on a map.

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About the Author

Stephen Byron Cooper began writing professionally in 2010. He holds a Bachelor of Science in computing from the University of Plymouth and a Master of Science in manufacturing systems from Kingston University. A career as a programmer gives him experience in technology. Cooper also has experience in hospitality management with knowledge in tourism.