How to trace Email Origin

By G.S. Jackson

When receiving email from unknown or suspect senders, you want to know who or what organization sent them. When you cannot tell this from the "From" field, or when you do not trust the accuracy of it, you can delve into the headers of the email. All email messages contain header information that may not be readily available in the message. Reading these headers can inform you where the email came from and where it has been en route to your inbox. This can protect both home and office computers from viruses if you check this before downloading any attachments.

Step 1

Log in to your email account.

Step 2

Select the message you wish to trace.

Step 3

Open the header information for the email. Different email providers use different methods for viewing headers. For Gmail, click the arrow next to the "Reply" link, and select "Show Original." For Excite, open the message and click "View Full Headers." For Yahoo, open the message, click "Actions" and select "View Full Header." For Outlook, open the message, click "File" and choose "Properties."

Step 4

Trace the path of the "Received" messages in the header. Each "Received" header signals a computer that has routed the message, with the last computer listed first. At the bottom of the "Received" list is the first server to handle it after sender.

Step 5

Check the "Message-ID" header. This is the originating machine of the message.