It may not be difficult for someone to find your email address online. Your email address can open the door to your location and social media profiles. And without permission settings in place on popular social networks, you may be revealing quite a bit about yourself to cyberstalkers.
Many people use one email address to sign up for services. If you’re among them, there’s a risk of someone trying to sign into a service you use with your email address. Although guessing a password is difficult, a seasoned cybercriminal may manage to figure it out given internet users’ tendency to pick easy to guess passwords.
Creating alias email addresses for the services you use can reduce the risk of someone using your real password to stalk, harass or impersonate you. In this post, I take you through the different ways in which cyberstalkers can lay their hands on their target’s email address, online social profiles and other personal information.
Via your social media pages
An obvious place to look for your email address is your Facebook or LinkedIn page. You may have added it to make it easy for people to reach you. If you use Twitter or Instagram to promote your work or business, your email address may be ‘on here’ too, to use the popular social networking slang.
Along with your email address, the rest of your social data - your full name, gender, age, relationship status and avatar picture, is publicly available to anyone.
A reverse email lookup tool, which is used by detectives, people doing a background check on their dates or checking if their better half has a Tinder account, and concerned parents, can just as easily be used by cyberstalkers. Your location, social media information, job and phone number and address - if they are in the public domain - may pop up.
On your company website
The ‘Team’, ‘Leadership’ and ‘About Us’ page of business websites may feature the founder’s, CEO’s and team members’ email address and social media profiles. Many websites don’t provide this information, but some do, offering cyberstalkers another way to access email addresses.
Through Google search
A simple Google search of your name will bring up your social profiles, public databases that may show your email address, and websites you’ve written for. Cyberstalkers may cut to the chase by using search operators such as:
[first name last name] + email address
[first name last name] + company + email
[first name last name] + company + contact
The following search operators help find your business email quickly:
site:example.com + name + email
site:example.com + name + contact
Via Twitter Advanced Search
If your cyberstalker is following you on Twitter or knows your Twitter handle, they can use Advanced Search to discover all tweets with the word ‘email’ in it. If a follower has tweeted a request for your email address or you’ve shared it for a campaign or research study, it will be highlighted in the search and become known to your cyberstalker.
Through email retrieval websites
Websites like RocketReach use machine learning to gather datapoints on millions of professionals - verified email addresses, social media profiles and phone numbers are available once you become a member of the site. You can search for a person’s email address by inputting their name, company or LinkedIn profile URL.
Finding social media profiles using the email address
A number of tools online let you search for the social media profiles of people using their name or email address. Lullar is a free tool that shows a list of social media URLs of the person being searched. Spokeo is a paid tool that sifts through 120 social media platforms and even tells you if the email address is valid. The bottom line is that there are online tools meant for people to discover each other for professional purposes, but can be leveraged by cyberstalkers bent on causing harm.
Performing a reverse email search
If you’ve sent a message to the wrong recipient or if you receive an email from someone unknown to you, a reverse email lookup can help uncover the mysterious identities!
One way is to do a Google search for that email address. The person’s name may come up if their email address exists in the public domain. If not, you’ll have to resort to other ways:
- Search for the email address on Facebook. Copy-paste it in the search box and you’ll know who they are, so long as they use Facebook.
- Once you’ve identified the FB user, download their profile picture and upload to Google Images to do a reverse image search for the person’s other online social profiles that have the same photo. This will help you build a broader profile of the sender.
- Open the header of the email message and inspect the line that says “Received: from” with the IP address next to it. Copy the IP address and paste it into a tool that traces IP addresses and shows you the geolocation of senders.
Alias email addresses for privacy and security
Many professionals are preferring to use alias email addresses in place of their Gmail and Yahoo accounts to minimize spam and deter cyberstalkers. With your actual email address hidden behind a disposable alias, you can also insulate against phishing scams and account hacks.