Where did that e-mail “really” come from?

An insidious e-mail fraud is called Phising. You may receive 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?

You probably won’t be able to trace the fraudulent message directly back to its human sender. However you can usually poke around inside the message’s  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,  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

Be very suspicious of an e-mail that asks that you go to a web site and enter personal information like account numbers or passwords.

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