Real or Fake? Verifying Email Addresses Made Simple

If you’ve ever been suspicious of an email address you’ve been given and wondered whether it was real, read on for tips on how to find out.

The easy way

The most basic way to test if an address is real or fake is to send an email and see if it bounces. If not, you can assume that it’s real.

Essentially, the email goes to an SMTP server that will then search the recipient’s domain’s Mail Exchange records. If they are found to exist, then the process will uncover whether or not the username exists too.

The tecchy way
You can use this method manually, using your Windows desktop command prompt, which saves you from having to send a test mail.

Firstly, enable telnet in Windows. Then open the command prompt and enter the following (using gmail as an example):

nslookup –type=mx gmail.com

This command is able to extract and display the domain’s MX records. Of course, you can replace gmail.com with the domain of the email address that you’re trying to verify.

For example,

gmail.com MX preference=30, exchanger = alt3.gmail-smtp-in.l.google.com
gmail.com MX preference=20, exchanger = alt2.gmail-smtp-in.l.google.com
gmail.com MX preference=5, exchanger = gmail-smtp-in.l.google.com
gmail.com MX preference=10, exchanger = alt1.gmail-smtp-in.l.google.com
gmail.com MX preference=40, exchanger = alt4.gmail-smtp-in.l.google.com

It is standard to find several MX records displayed at this stage. Pick one of the servers listed (perhaps one with a low preference level number) to simulate sending a test mail from your desktop.

Go back to the command prompt and enter the following:

(Connect to the mail server)
telnet gmail-smtp-in.l.google.com 25

(Acknowledge the other server)
HELLO

(Identify yourself with a false email address)
mail from:

(Enter the email address you’re trying to verify)
rcpt to:

The response you receive to the ‘rcpt to’ command will let you know whether an email address exists or not. Look out for ‘OK’ for validation or an error message letting you know that it’s not legitimate.
ie. The email account that you tried to reach does not exist or The email account that you tried to reach is disabled.

And that’s all there is to it. If you’ve found that the address exists, you can simply search for it in Google to find out who it belongs to.

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