Modern services have made finding others easy. Just type Jack into Facebook’s search, and your old friend Jack Anderson pops right up.
It’s not so simple in the world of email addresses. Unless you’ve emailed someone before and have their address saved in AutoComplete, you’re probably out of luck. Let’s look at a variety of methods you can use to find an unknown email address.
This might sound obvious, but depending on the circumstance, the easiest way to find someone’s email might be getting it straight from them. If you already know the person but don’t have their address, try using another method to get hold of them. Send them a text if you have their phone number, or contact them using Facebook Messenger. Maybe even ask a mutual friend if appropriate; perhaps they’ve emailed the person in the past.
Of course, this won’t work for all situations, like if you’re trying to find the email address of someone you don’t know. Or, if you’re doing a bit of “research” on them, try some of the more advanced methods.
Check Social Media
Have a look at the person’s social media pages, where they might list their email address. Many people include this information in their Twitter bios, and Facebook has a spot for email addresses in the About section of a profile. Don’t forget about LinkedIn, either. Someone might provide their work address there.
On some Facebook profiles, you’ll see an Ask for [Name]’s email address link if they haven’t provided it. You can click this button to send a request directly to that person for their email address. This might come across as a bit creepy, but at least it’s straightforward.
Your next best bet is a Google search. Try searching the person’s name you’re looking for and see if they have a website or profile on their company’s page. Of course, you’ll have better results with this if your mystery person has an uncommon name. Finding Sarah Smith’s address is nearly impossible unless you have some extra information to include in your search.
If a basic search doesn’t turn anything up, try adding more information. Add their employer’s name if you know it, search for “Samuel” instead of “Sam,” or add a city. Women may have gotten married and changed their last name. Try using advanced operators to search for “Amy Anderson” AND “Pharmacist,” or remove unwanted keywords.
While it’s marketed towards businesses, Hunter is a tool that could aid in your search. Just enter a domain name (like @makeuseof.com) and Hunter will do its best to find all the email addresses for that company. A free account allows you 150 searches per month, which should be plenty for personal use.
What’s great about Hunter is that it lists sources for its email address findings. You can visit these and potentially dig up more information. Further, it detects the email address format for that business, making it easier to guess even if the person you want isn’t listed.
…But Don’t Bother with Spammy Search Sites
There are plenty of websites that offer to find people for you. Unfortunately, most of these are useless. Pages like Spock, Spokeo, or Intelius look exciting when you type someone’s name in, but they don’t cough up good information like someone’s phone number or email address for free. Most sites charge $5 or more to “unlock” a person’s full profile, but there’s no guarantee this information is even correct.
@inteliusreview.Intelius,This company is the biggest scam in the industry. Their only goal is to rob you blind.
— tomas (@tomaspr) November 16, 2015
If you absolutely must find someone’s email address and have no other options, a few dollars isn’t the end of the world. Just don’t go to these sites expecting anything easy for free.
Work With Dedicated Extensions
Install the eToggler extension for Chrome, then browse to any LinkedIn profile. You’ll see a small window for the extension in the bottom right of the page; click Add to eToggler and the person joins your list. Click View results and you’ll see some basic info pulled from their profile, including (hopefully) their email.
Since it’s aimed at professional users, this tool provides 300 free email lookups per month. That should satisfy even the most serious of email searchers. Note that you’re required to make a free account to use this service. We did so for testing, and had our password emailed in plain text. This means the site knows nothing about security, so use it with caution.
Try to Guess It
Depending on how well you know the person, you might guess their email address through a bit of thinking. Try email@example.com and other similar combinations of their name. Do they have any online aliases, perhaps on a gaming network, that they also use as their email address?
Any information you have about them, like their pet’s name or favorite sports team, could help you guess their email address. Once you think you’ve got it, send a short, simple email to the supposed addresses. Mention that you’re looking for Mark and thought this might be his email. If it is, explain you’d like to talk with him, and if not apologize for the disturbance.
Hopefully you’ll get lucky and contact the right person, but if not the other party might let you know that you’ve got the wrong address.
Outsource the Work
If all else fails, try posting in the soc.net-people Google Group. This is a group dedicated to helping track down people’s email addresses. Chances are you won’t have much luck, as most of the threads on this site haven’t gotten any responses.
However, it’s worth a try and doesn’t take much time. You should include as much info as possible on the person so other have an easier time tracking them down.
Tracking Them Down
Finding an email address is often quite difficult. There are even more methods, like the elaborate scheme Mihir cooked up that uses Gmail to locate someone’s address. But, unless you get lucky through social media or an easy Google search, you’ll probably come up short.
The best method is just asking people for their address, so don’t be afraid to contact them through a social messenger or similar means to ask. They probably won’t find it weird!
To think about the opposite side of this, discover how spammers find your email address.
Have you ever miraculously tracked down someone’s email address from the innards of the internet? Share your best tools for finding an email address with us down in the comments!
Image Credit: ra2studio via Shutterstock.com
Originally written by Guy McDowell on February 19, 2009