Catch a Thief
September 21, 2009 12:36 PM   Subscribe

NearImpossibleFilter: Help me track down the owner of an email adress.

Someone has somehow gotten ahold of my passwords or accounts and setup forwarding to an email address I'm unfamiliar with (@gmail) on four of my personal email accounts. All four are tied to my blackberry - which is practically taped to my head 24/7. No seriously this thing is never out of my sight.

I realize this maybe nearly impossible, but any regular tips or secret hack tools to help me get closer to finding out who the owner of this email address is?

And yes, I changed all of my passwords on any type of online account that I own to very secure and unrelated password (I think I've already forgotten two of them) and cleared out the forwarding.

Throwaway email: (yes its spelled incorrectly)
posted by anonymous to Technology (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
This won't help, but if they're smart, they set up a throw-away email address to receive the forwarded messages. That way, if/when you inevitably discovered the settings, you wouldn't be able to tie it to them, assuming the culprit is someone you know.
posted by arnicae at 12:43 PM on September 21, 2009

Given that what they have done is illegal, perhaps google would be of some assistance in this matter.
posted by dersins at 12:46 PM on September 21, 2009

Here is an idea that is a bit of a longshot.

First turn the forwarding to the snooper's gmail account back on, or forward a few select things to the account to make it look like automatic forwarding is still working.

Then set up a new gmail account and have the new password sent to your current email account. (And forwarded to the snooper's account)

Check the logs of your new gmail account. Gmail will give you the IP address of anyone who has logged into the account. There are ways around this, but it might tell you whether they were local or not.
posted by pseudonick at 12:54 PM on September 21, 2009

Send an email to him. An HTML email with no text part. Make it sounds like something he wants to open. Now, include a picture in the email, an <img>. Have it be a file you host yourself. Go check your server logs, because when he views the message you'll have his real IP address, assuming he doesn't browse the net behind a proxy. If you don't have a server, memail me and I can probably help you.
posted by floam at 1:27 PM on September 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

This is a VERY long shot and will only work if the person is especially stupid, but try typing their gmail address into the search fields of services such as Facebook or Myspace. If it's someone's primary email address and they're a user of one of those sites, it will pull up their name.
posted by dacoit at 2:23 PM on September 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Floam's suggestion is (at least in my experience) a good one. At the very least, IP address/request headers/time and date can give you some information to go on, more than just the email address.
posted by verb at 2:33 PM on September 21, 2009

Note on floam's solution.

Gmail defaults to not showing images, you may have to try something that would incite the person to turn images on.
posted by bitdamaged at 2:46 PM on September 21, 2009

Engage Google legal, now. Seriously. Get a lawyer of your own to send them the particulars and shut it all down and preserve what's there.

That or go buy some dodgy spy-on-a-person'ware (like Spyagent) infect a document, and send it to yourself from a friend's account -- knowing full well it'll get opened by the person on the other end. Name it something like "SecretBankInfo.doc" to ensure it gets opened. *

(* may violate laws, obvs)
posted by bhance at 2:59 PM on September 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

As a followup: if all four accounts are/were tied to your Blackberry, you'll probably want to look into the online Blackberry management tools to see if someone hacked these out via the "secret lost password question" option that your cellular provider likely uses. This has been the culprit behind several celebrity mobile device hacks in the last year or so.

If you BB is managed by your employer, on an enterprise server, etc. - that's another obvious place to start looking for answers.
posted by bhance at 4:48 PM on September 21, 2009

In The Gift of Fear, Gavin de Becker writes that many of his clients explain that they have no idea who could be harassing them, but he insists that their intuition is a better guide than anything he can suggest as an outsider.

The husband and wife who make an appointment with me to discuss the harassing and threatening phone calls they are getting want me to figure out who is doing it. Based on what the caller says, it's obvious he is someone they know, but who? Her ex-husband? That weird guy who used to rent a room from them? A neighbor angry about their construction work? The contractor they fired?

The expert will tell them who it is, they think, but actually they will tell me. It's true I have experience with thousands of cases, but they have the experience with this one. Inside them, perhaps trapped where I can help find it, is all the information needed to make an accurate evaluation. At some point in our discussion of possible suspects, the woman will invariably say something like this: 'You know, there is one other person, and I don't have any concrete reasons for thinking it's him. I just have this feeling, and I hate to even suggest it, but ...' And right there I could send them home and send my bill, because that is who it will be....

When interviewing victims of anonymous threats, I don't ask, 'Who do you think sent you these threats?' because most victims can't imagine that anyone they know sent the threats. I ask instead, 'Who could have sent them?' and together we make a list of everyone who had the ability, without regard to motive. Then I ask clients to assign a motive, even a ridiculous one, to everyone on the list. It is a creative process that puts them under no pressure to be correct. For this very reason, in almost every case, one of their imaginative theories will be correct.

posted by dhartung at 8:48 PM on September 21, 2009

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