As a private investigator that specializes in cyber stalking investigations and reverse email search investigations many times I'm asked if it is legal to trace an email back to the sender. I suppose this is because many people think the only way to identify the sender of an email is to hack or crack into their account or use some kind of password phishing technique. Honestly it's questions like those that make me wish clients would not assume so much and jump to wild conclusions.
A reverse email search investigation is perfectly legal. No laws are broken or even bent. Many time this kind of email trace can be accomplished with a simple data base search. The subject of the investigation has used the email before in an online transaction or profile and the email address has become available in a data base. There are many data bases of this type that are only available to licensed professionals, law enforcement and collection agencies.
Other times you can do an examination of the email headers and compare that information to known suspects in the case. Either obtaining an exact match or completely excluding that person as a suspect. You can continue this process until you narrow it down to the person you want.
Many times to can email the person and trick them into revealing who they are. You can do this is many ways that will nor arouse suspicion or adversely go out of your way to arouse their suspicion. This way they will turn around and try to investigate one of my pretext email accounts and fall into a clever trap that will ultimately reveal their identity. This type of pretext is very effective with the "computer savvy" type of cyber stalker that really believes they are untraceable on the Internet.
Another method would be to examine the headers and then trace the IP address back to the ISP, you can with subpoena the custodian of records of the ISP or if you have other resources or data bases you can often match that IP number to a name and address. Follow up investigation can attach that computer to an actual person.
The techniques mentioned above are all perfectly legal and only a fraction of the many tricks we investigators use to legally trace emails using reverse email search investigations to track down and identify cyber stalkers. In fact all of our information can be reduced to a report that can be used in court or for a police report.
Copyright (c) 2011 Opperman Investigations Inc