Every day, dozens and perhaps hundreds of e-mails flutter into our e-mail inbox, like autumn leaves blown on an electronic wind. Some of these e-mails are from friends, family, or business associates, so we already know where they come from and have no reason to conduct an email search on them. Others are so unimportant to us that they can be brushed away without any other investigation, deleted or marked as spam so that any other e-mails from that source will be filtered out of our already-crowded inbox.
However, there are times when we wish to find out in more detail who an e-mail really came from. Or, we may have an e-mail address as our only clue to the identity of someone we wish to contact. We might receive an e-mail that looks interesting, but might be spam, junk mail, or even something containing a virus or other malevolent programming. Before opening such an e-mail and potentially exposing our system to a scammer or hacker, it is possible to carry out an email search to hopefully learn who sent the message to us.
An email search is possible because most -- or perhaps all -- activity on the Internet leaves electronic footprints that can be followed by program designed for that purpose. Like a hound on the scent, a tracing program follows the twists and turns of an electronic path and provides you with whatever information it can provide to you about the sender. Sometimes, it may be baffled, at others, it can return only a few sketchy details; but often, it furnishes enough information to give you a good idea of where the trace came from, letting you guess what its purpose might be.
An email search is also a good idea when we've already opened an e-mail and intend to reply to it, but want to ensure that it has really been written by the person who claims to have written it. This is especially necessary if some kind of sensitive information is to be included -- anything from a telephone number and physical address, to confidential company or personal information such as sales figures, an FTP upload site, or even a social security number or personal financial data.
Generally speaking, an email search is carried out by finding an online search company that specializes in tracing e-mails to their source account. These search companies make use of the electronic traces of the Internet to match sender data against public records such as e-mail and address directories, databases, and other sources of publicly available information. When you pay for a search through one of these companies, their software quickly combs through the information on the Internet, finds the best matches, and presents you with the results, delivered at the speed that only automation can provide. It is then up to you to decide if the subject of your email search is who they claim to be, and send on your letter to them if they seem to be legitimate after all.