How to Trace an E-Mail--- Part 1

Have you ever received an annoying, harassing or even threatening e-mail?

Typically the police will be too busy to bother spending their limited resources tracing an e-mail, which leaves the task up to you, the consumer.

Fortunately, you don't need a degree from MIT to trace an email.

Start by using your e-mail program's 'help' feature to find the Return Path Header (RTP).

Finding the RTP is the first step in tracing the e-mail.

Once you have the RTP, will notice a large amount of what appears to be coded data. Don't worry, the information you need for tracing is there and in just a few minutes you will know exactly what you are looking for.

The RTP contains a series of numbers that are called 'Internet Protocol Addresses' (IP Address) They look like this; []

Generally speaking, there will be two kinds of IP Addresses in your RTP. There are the 'pass through' IPs assigned to the RTP by the servers that pass the e-mail from the sending computer to you.

The other will be the one belonging to the sending computer.

Some background on IP Address assignment is necessary. Some of this is obvious, but I will write it just to be certain we all understand the process.

Every computer or device that accesses the Internet does so through the use of an internet service. As the computer or other device gains access to the Internet, the Internet Service Provide (ISP) assigns an IP Address to that computer or device.

The ISP's IP Address goes with that computer or device everywhere it goes on the Internet, including when they log into an 'anonymous' email service. Therefore, when they send that anonymous email, the return path header will contain the IP Address assigned to their computer when they logged onto the Internet.

Now, how do you determine which of the IP Addresses are 'pass through' and which is the one that identifies the sending computer?

The most efficient means is calling JD Stone, proprietor of the JD Stone Agency, a California licensed private detective (818) 332-1394, or on the web at

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