Can you still track an email if the account is closed?
Need to trace an email address to find or identify the sender? You can still achieve this even if the email account has already been closed and is no longer active. It may be a bit more difficult, but it is still possible to identify the person behind that email address. In this article, we will try to address the additional issues an investigator faces when trying to investigate an old or government email address that has been disabled.
First what we need to do is find out if the email address we are trying to research is still active or closed. If the email address we are investigating is opened for the sole purpose of contacting our customer and then closed immediately after sending an email, then it will be difficult to trace. But if the account has been in use for years but was only recently deleted after the offending message was sent, it may be a very simple investigation. In fact, the email address can be found in an instant database service.
To determine if an email is active, you need to test it using one of the many online services that will tell you if the email is active. You can also email the account from a fake email account and see if it bounces. Of course, there are many more technical methods you can use, but in this article we’re covering the basics.
If we’ve found an email to be inactive, it cuts our investigative techniques in half. Because we can only analyze incoming email data. In an ideal investigation, we’ll probe the sender’s computer by analyzing the information we can capture when they open a pretext email we’ve sent them.
So we’ll have to parse the incoming headers and extract the IP address, use geo-tracking, IP address locator and good old Whois to identify the sender’s ISP. We may also examine the IP address to see if it is associated with other online activity. But in addition to the IP information, we may be able to tell the senders email program such as Outlook Express.
We can submit the email to a database search to see if it has been used online in the past. We can search the deep web, membership sites, online billing and payment services to see if an email address has ever been used in a financial transaction. Social networks also have an email search function to find or add friends.
There are also paid searches such as online cheating investigations and online gambling investigations that can trace an email to an online gaming site or a classified online personal ad on a dating site. This kind of email investigation can actually return a picture of the person behind the email address.
So, as you can see, it is possible to trace an email and find or identify the sender even if the email address is disabled or deleted.
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