How to trace a web page and/or an e-mail.

Ask an I.T. person how to do this and you get an answer. Easy, just find the IP address of the e-mail or type the web address into one of the many trace services available on the web. Hey presto! you've found the bad boy. Er, have you? IT people can be an innocent bunch, who tend to be a little oblivious of the real world around them. Imagine you are a bad person who sends out half a billion e-mails a day. Are you going to put your real address onto the e-mail so that Mr Plod can come knocking at your door? If you, Dear Reader, can simply Google "how to trace an e-mail" do you not think they've not been there before? Muddy Ground here suspects that they have.

Your IP address from the e-mail is pretty useless. Kind of fun to trace them, but that's about it.

Web pages are the same too. Mr Bad Person [or naughty government agency] isn't going to go out and register his honey pot web page to his home address now is he? He'll register it to somebody small, like Microsoft, or somewhere where there is limited law enforcement, or misdirect it to the other side of the world to his actual location.

Our I.T. person would be beaming by now; he's traced the web page through something like Centralops. "It's in Russia!"

Yeah right.

Best thing to do with a dodgy web page that you've innocently clicked onto via an e-mail attachment is pass it on to whoever it was purported to be from. Your bank, PayPal whoever; look for a trademark and pass it on to them. Give it to them, go on. Lots of these big companies employ devious characters of their own who go out kicking doors in; metaphorically or in reality. To properly find out where something came from needs size 12 hob nail boots. You've got to go to Virgin NTL, Google, whoever and knock on their door. The stuff was routed through them using their servers, or was at some point registered to them. They'll know roughly where it came from. Roughly is sometimes good enough as then Mr Plod can go hang around the area watching.

Bet Mr I.T. would be surprised to find that quite a few so called Nigerian 419 websites, the funny Canadian Pharmacy or the bank scams aren't actually from that far away geographically. Amsterdam is pretty hot, as is Moscow or Gibralter. Oddly so is Bromley. Who'd figure that?

Actually I'm fibbing a little bit. Some e-mails and web pages can be traced; eveybody makes mistakes now and then. But to find them you have to keep at it; using not only the e-mail you have, but also find others via the web or other users in your corporation. This really is why it's best just to pass them on - big corporations will eventually find the pattern and pin Mr Evil down.

The best thing to do is not open them in the first instance. Learn how to 'block sender' pdq. And if it is somebody you know who is passing them on, I tend to go onto the web and search out bad news concerning whatever it is they are fronting. But then my friends know what I do for a living so don't even bother.

By the way, the Canadian Pharmacy type operation. Cheap drugs! Oddly enough buyers do actually get a product a lot of the time. But what is it in the package? This stuff is made, invariably China, in somebodies back garden, or in a shed hidden in a jungle or mountain clearing. They'll have lots of different brews on the go, roughly similar to what was in the original pills. But these are not clean people. The raw materials are cheap enough to get, but it's the dies used to cast the pills that are expensive. Do you think they'll clean them out between batches? No. The other catch to this type of operation is that a buyer has to register. Lovely valid credit card details against what may be an embarassing purchase. In signing a buyer may also agree to regular deliveries. OK you can cancel, but the operators realise this. What they do is send out the first package slowly - you can actually track them from China as they give you the shipping number, so know where they are in the world. By the time you get it, package number 2 is on the way, and you again know this from the tracking info. Package 1 contains some funny blue pills that you can use, or sell for a couple of quid each down the pub or under the counter.

Personally I'd rather take my chances elsewhere.

Oh yes, Ali Baba. Ha ha! How many middle class people, or students buy "designer gear" from this site? "Ooo, I can sell this on eBay or Amazon or to my friends!" Do you know how long it is before they get caught out, and Mr Official comes knocking on their door, or a customer complains? Usually the first time they sell anything. OK Mr Official with his hob nails will be very rare, but customers aren't daft. They know snide when they get it. But clever you have imported £500 worth of useless counterfeit iPhones by then. Silly, silly.

My favourite is the job offer ones, or those lonely but oddly gorgeous Romanian women. I always without fail reply to these because there will be a real person on the other end. If they respond to me, then they are not scamming somebody else. Eventually they cotton on, but you can get three or four Gmails out of them by then, just don't do it from home using your own e-mail. The jobs by the way don't exist. You'll end up as a money mule. Quite often what they are after is just a viable address that they can send dodgy goods to. The asbestos tobacco, kiddie porn that type of thing. If you reply, you'll never see anything as the parcels will be intercepted prior to delivery. Yet one day Mr Plod will pull postie, and your address will be on one of these packages. You try explaining away 14 million blue pills, or films featuring horses.

Now Dear Reader one thing that enforcement agencies do is trace people and their activities on the web. Here you'll be surprised how much information can be drawn from something as simple as a Google search. [By the way if you want even more information, try using a different search engine.... like Facebook] Easiest thing to do is to type in somebodies name and see what comes up. may well give their town, which means you can narrow down the next search. Do they post onto blogs? If they do, then you've got their nickname, or variation of, so may even tag them to eBay. They may even have been a company director [surprising number of people are these days]. If so then bang! you can get their address.

One guy I work with bragged that he was not on the web in any form, as his employment meant he could not post on social sites or join web based clubs or forums. Off he went to make some tea. Took me 5 minutes to find out he was a magistrate, from there I got which clubs he belonged to. This gave me a rough address, so a back search via council tax got me his actual address. I then found out his wife's name, plus how many children he had and their names. I even got as far as finding out where the son worked just as he came back with his tea. He was not impressed. Another guy I managed to trace entirely just from his eBay name - with streetview I even got a picture of his flat. Ten minutes tops.

People, if you do not want to be found, use an alias or don't post on to blogs! If you post on to Facebook, use eBay, or somebody somewhere has referred to you by name in a report, somebody somewhere can find you. This Dear Reader is how some of the spammers work, but they have very clever programs that can put this data together for them.

One side effect is that if you are very naughty, and convincing, very quickly you could even get a credit card issued to you whereby some major company would have to foot the bill. It doesn't take long to create a fake persona; start with a video membership card and away you go. And you'd be surprised how little interest the Police etc. take in your affairs, even if they know you've two different passports, or seven different mortgages..... so long as you pay your bills on time, nobody would be bothered.