close banner

State Records

state records colored logo

Reverse Email Lookup

A reverse email lookup is a search or query performed to obtain information pertaining to a particular email address. The process employs the use of databases, directories, and online repositories to uncover details of an address.

Due to prominent usage statistics and the anonymity emails can offer, emails are a popular medium for most internet scams and spams. Email scams are often referred to as "phishing attacks," "phishing scams," or "phishing emails". A phishing email is a cybercrime that exploits misleading or deceptive emails to steal personal, financial, or business information.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, victims of internet scams submitted an average of 3.26 million complaints to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) between 2018 and 2022 (not including those reported to other agencies). Phishing is ranked among the top three reported scams.

Given the popularity of phishing emails and new methodologies developed daily by scammers, security agencies routinely educate consumers on spotting phishing scams and tools they can use to identify and guard against online threats. These include email spam filters, security software, and two-factor authentication. A reverse email lookup is one of the most popular mediums adopted to identify the person behind an unsolicited or suspicious email.

Are Email Addresses Public Records?

Technically, no. No U.S. federal, state, or local law provides explicit access to personal or private email addresses. Email addresses are classified as personal data (personally identifiable information or PII) and protected by privacy laws.

However, there is one caveat to remember.

Email addresses created, received, or maintained by a government agency "in the course of its official business," including personal email addresses of public officials, may be subject to disclosure, as these conform to the core objective of the freedom of information act (FOIA). Thus, in many cases, a public body will warn complainants or consumers of the requirement for disclosure. For example, individuals contacting or doing business with the City of Miramar, Florida, are informed of the state's open records requirement and advised to contact the city government in writing or by phone.

Because there is no conclusive answer as to whether email addresses are releasable under the FOIA in the United States, the agency that oversees a FOIA (for example, the Government Records Council in New Jersey) or a court may have to perform a balancing test to weigh the public interest in the disclosure of an email address versus the public interest in non-disclosure.

Notwithstanding, members of the public often share their email addresses on social media platforms and in other public domains. Hence, a person's email address may be discoverable without a FOIA request.

What is a Reverse Email Lookup?

A reverse email lookup (sometimes called an email lookup) is a simple way to determine the source of an email. Several reasons necessitate an email address lookup, including verifying that an email address belongs to a particular person or company, ensuring that an email is not spam or a scam attempt, tracking down an old school friend or colleague, and so on. A reverse email lookup not only allows an individual to learn the identity of the person or company who owns an email address but also uncovers other public information about them.

At the center of any reverse email lookup is an unfamiliar email address and a computer software called a "reverse email search/lookup tool" that will be used for the investigation. Various reverse email lookup tools are available on the internet; some are available as add-ons or extensions.

What Does an Email Search Reveal?

The data revealed after an email search or lookup is particular to the system used for the query. A typical email search will provide inquirers with the following information about an email address owner:

  • Name
  • Aliases
  • Present location
  • Physical address (past location and current address)
  • Birth date or age
  • Phone number(s)

Many email search tools augment the data provided to users. As a result, a person may uncover other details about an email address owner besides the listed ones. This includes the owner's social media profiles, criminal background, court judgments, bankruptcy information, associates, relatives, job details, property records, marriage history, and other shared information. In addition, a reverse email search may provide information regarding the contact details and social media accounts associated with a specific email address.

How Does an Email Lookup Tool Work?

Email lookup tools are website applications that collate data on a person using their email address. Overall, there are two types of email lookups. One uses data other than an email address (e.g., a name or phone number) to provide a search subject's email address and other information. Meanwhile, the other works in reverse: it requires an email address to fetch information about a person. The latter is known as a reverse email lookup tool.

Email lookup tools are commonly available as a search engine or fillable online form. To use an email lookup tool, the user must input an email address and hit the search button. Additional details may be required, such as if the subject is an only child, has lived in a particular city, or has been arrested once. On average, it takes a few seconds to obtain results from an email lookup tool, although some systems require a few minutes. The comprehensiveness of the search results depends on the service provider's database. Several databases provide basic information for free but require payment or a subscription to access a data enrichment service.

The pricing models used on email lookup websites and reverse email lookup tools vary. Some offer a trial (usually seven days) for under $1, while others charge around $5 for a single inquiry. Whereas some offer the trial and single inquiry as one package, others require a monthly subscription ranging from $14 to $35 or higher. Sites that offer monthly subscriptions may also offer two- or three-month packages at a lower rate combined.

How to Find Email Address by Name

To find an email address by name, a person requires the first and last name of the individual of interest. The next step is to input those details into a "people search engine" (a public records website). Sometimes, websites that provide reverse email search services will also have a people search engine that users can access. Public records sites specialize in gathering all available data about a person to give a well-rounded picture to an inquirer. Therefore, a user may find a related email address.

How to Find Email Address by Phone Number

Similar to looking up a person's email address by name, an individual requires specific information to find an email address by phone number. In this case, it is a telephone number.

A person who has another's phone number can utilize a reverse phone lookup service to search for their email address and other freely available information. Again, sites that provide email searches may offer reverse phone lookup services. Users should note, however, that accurate results may not be provided. As such, verifying any information obtained with a second or third reputable source is always advised.

Where to Conduct a Free Email Lookup

In many cases where an individual performs an email lookup by email address, name, or phone number, the person will be charged a fee to access the search results. This does not necessarily mean a free email lookup is impossible, only that a person may not obtain reliable or comprehensive results using a free reverse email search service.

One tool that can be used to conduct a free reverse email lookup is a popular search engine. For example, individuals can enter a phone number into a search engine to see if any results will carry a person's email address. An inquirer can also employ the same strategy with a name or email address.

Alternatively, one can conduct the email lookup on a social media platform. If the search subject included their email address in their profile or shared it on their feed, it may appear in the search results.

Lastly, an individual can search with a free email lookup service, although the user may find basic details (a person's name, address, phone number).

How to Verify an Email Address

Email verification is a process of checking whether an email is valid or active (i.e. if the owner can receive messages with it). This type of verification is often crucial to email marketers who want to ensure or improve deliverability to their subscribers.

There are a couple of ways to verify an email address, depending on the size of the email list one works with.

  • Send an email to the address requiring verification: This is the common verification method for smaller email lists. How it works is that the sender includes an email verification code or link in the body of an email. The recipient then clicks or enters the code on a suggested website to confirm their email address.
    Individuals working with larger email lists, on the other hand, can benefit from using specialized software (email verification software or email finder tools that have a featured verification application) to weed out invalid or outdated email addresses. These platforms allow persons to upload a. csv file of email addresses for automatic verification at a cost.
  • Use a free email verifier: Free email verification tools are popular among people with fewer email addresses to check. The algorithms used by free email verifiers are similar to their paid counterparts. However, a user of a free email verification service can only check one email address at a time. There are hundreds of free email verifiers available on the internet.
  • Input the email address into a popular search engine: An individual may look up an email address on a search engine. This will not reveal an email's active status, but it may reveal the owner of an email address or where the entity is located. This approach is often better suited to business emails. Furthermore, it is not foolproof, as email addresses can be used anonymously. A reverse email search tool may be more useful for finding the name or location of an email address owner.

How to Trace an Anonymous Email Address

Anyone can own an email address, and unlike most cell phone numbers, the address must not be linked to a person's identity. This in itself facilitates the creation and use of anonymous email addresses. Tracing a regular email address may present little or no difficulties, but tracing an anonymous one can be arduous. Nevertheless, it is possible to trace an anonymous email address with these methods:

  • Open the anonymous email to retrieve data from the full email header. (Remember not to click any links in the body of the email or attachments.) Depending on the email client, the full email header will be accessible at different locations. For example, in Gmail, one can click the three vertically stacked dots at the upper right-hand corner of the email and select "Show Original". In Apple Mail, one can click View > Messages > Raw Source. This action typically opens a new window containing an email's technical data.
    After accessing the full email header, the individual can check the "Reply-to" header line. Sometimes, the sender may use a fictitious name but forget or fail to change their reply-to address. The individual can also check the "Received: from" header line (the header may be named differently depending on the email client), which contains the sender's IP address. Subsequently, the recipient can input that IP address into an online IP address lookup tool to find out the city, state, country, ISP, zip code, time zone, and other public data tied to an IP address. With the IP address search, an individual can know an anonymous email sender's general location.

A few limitations to keep in mind:

  • An email client may not provide IP addresses in the full email header. Gmail, in particular, only releases IP addresses with a court order.
  • More than one IP address may appear in a header line, and more than one "Received: from" line may come up. A scammer might use this strategy to confuse the recipient. Such cases require an investigative approach to decipher the actual IP address.
  • This method may be unreliable if the email sender encrypts their IP address. In such instances, the IP address search will return a false location.
  • Contact the Internet Service Provider (ISP), who may release details about the email address.
  • Enter the email address into a reverse email lookup system, internet search engine, or social media search engine. However, these tools only retrieve available information. Say a person did not post their email address publicly, such as using it to register on a social media site or access a website. In that case, the search will not be successful.
  • Report the case to law enforcement if the email is abusive, threatening, or malicious.