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Revealing Fraud in E-Mail Addresses

Question : I get a ton of e-mail messages purporting to be from banks and Web sites that are obviously not from those institutions even though the return address looks real. Is there a way to find out where these messages actually came from?

Answer : Although you probably won’t be able to trace the fraudulent message directly back to its human sender, you can usually poke around inside the message’s full header field to see where it might have come from electronically. Check your particular e-mail program’s settings for displaying “full” or “long” message headers — in Outlook Express, for example, you can see the full header by right-clicking on a message in your mailbox window, selecting Properties and clicking the Details button.

The full header shows the path that message took across the Internet from sender to recipient. Even if the return address is forged with something like admin@irs.gov, if you look closely, odds are you’ll see other addresses in the “Received:” lines in the header that give some indication of the message’s origin. A detailed explanation of how to read e-mail headers is at http://spamlinks.net/track-trace-headers.htm.


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