Reverse Email Lookup: What Is It and How Can It Reduce Fraud?

reverse-email-lookup

Opening an account online these days is virtually impossible without an email address. In fact, your email address is the closest thing to an online passport or identifier.

This means two things: one, email addresses are valuable for everyone, and especially fraudsters. Two, there is a data footprint attached to every email address. And by using the right tool, it’s possible to extract, collect, and analyze that data. 

That tool has many names: email profiling, reverse email lookup, backward email search, or email checker. In this article, we’ll look at how it works behind the scenes. We’ll see how you can analyse an email address to discover social media profiles, and how to use the results to reduce online fraud.

  1. What Data Can I Get From a Reverse Email Lookup?
  2. How to Perform Reverse Email Lookup?
  3. Is Reverse Email Lookup Legal?
  4. What Features Should Email Analysis Have to Reduce Fraud?

What is Reverse Email Lookup?

It is a tool that lets you gain personal information about someone based on their email address. By searching public databases and social networks for links to that email address, it can reveal someone’s first name, last name, social media accounts, and much more.

Data provided by data enrichment on a single email address

What Data Can I Get From a Reverse Email Lookup?

One advantage of using email addresses to research user information is that there is a vast amount of information associated with them. It is why they are also referred to as “email background checks”. They are also a lot more specific than, say, finding information about a device or IP Address.

Checking Email Address Validity

The first question to answer is whether the email address is real or not. This is verified using an SMTP check. In short, the tool sends a request to the email address domain (@gmail.com or @yahoo.co.uk, for instance) and checks if the address exists.

Verifying the Email Domain Type and Quality

There are high quality domains and others that are less trustworthy. It all has to do with how hard it is to open an account with them. For instance, mail.com sounds reputable, but it is free and easy to create an account with them. Other providers have more stringent verification processes, such as SMS verification, that makes them more secure. 

Then, you can also check the email address’s age. If it has been recently created, it could be more suspicious. A more mature address could mean it is more secure, unless of course it has been made public in a data breach (see below).

Custom domains such as mywebsite.com are easy enough to check, because you can easily see if the domain exists. If it does, you can also glean the domain registration date.

Domain quality is therefore very interesting in the context of fraud prevention. Users who create addresses with temporary or disposable email services are more likely to make accounts for fraudulent purposes, as this makes them harder to trace online.

Email Address and Social Media Lookup

One of the most powerful ways to check the validity of an email address these days is to see if it has been used to sign up to social media platforms. Also known as social media profiling, this process will check if the address is used by someone on LinkedIn, Instagram, or Facebook, amongst others.

76% of defaulting customer in lending industry used email address with zero social media presence

A fascinating statistic that proves just how efficient it can be to link email addresses with social accounts: According to our proprietary research for the lending industry, 76% of defaulting customers had no social media presence.

This is because a good social media lookup tool will also provide information about the person’s name, location, workplace, and bio – all information that would take a tremendous amount of time to collect manually.

Email Address Found on Data Breaches

A good tool can compare the address to those found on data breaches. While the website where it was used has been hacked, finding the address in one of those breaches helps us get an idea of how old the email address is, and how regularly it was used.   

Check Email Blacklist

Another way to check if fraudsters have already used that email address is to look for it on known public blacklists. Fraud prevention, cybersecurity and private companies are increasingly good at sharing that information, which helps reduce risk across the entire online landscape.

Email Address Quality

Finally, an interesting data point that can be hard to measure: how likely is it that the email address was created by a real user vs a bot or fraudster who need to work fast. This has to do with the quality of the email name itself.

Using string analysis, a good email profiling tool should be able to see if the email address looks genuine, or if it’s just been made automatically. Using a large amount of numbers or special characters can be suspicious. Same if the name in the handle and account are different.

How to Perform Reverse Email Lookup?

There are three ways to enrich data from an email address yourself. The first one is the easiest, but also the least effective: it’s about manually copying the email address and pasting it into a search engine or other tools for gathering info.

One of our unique solutions is a Google Chrome extension that allows anyone to perform a quick, manual email analysis directly from their browser. In the context of fraud prevention, it is particularly useful for manual reviews, where the process doesn’t need to be done on a large scale.

Finally, if you want to integrate reverse email lookup into your business operations, it will have to be via API. The advantage is that it can be fully automated, and lets you access all the raw, enriched data, and with complete flexibility of how you receive the results: API, a dedicated GUI or the Chrome extension.

Yes, but the solution must comply with data protection regulations. If you are in the EU, you must also ensure your solution is compliant with the GDPR. Our own solution only uses open source databases to cross check information, remaining fully legal for your company.

What Features Should Email Analysis Have to Reduce Fraud?

As we’ve seen above, there are a lot of parameters that such a tool can deliver to create a picture of online users.

But ultimately, a good email analysis tool should work in real time, fast, and at scale. This is especially true for businesses where hundreds of thousands of connections must be analyzed at once. Our solution, for instance, delivers results under 1 second.

Another must-have is a risk score, which will streamline the review process. Ideally you should be able to tailor risk thresholds so they make sense for your business, and decide at what risk score you want to approve, review or decline at signup or payment.

Email Profiling should also complete a full arsenal of fraud-fighting tools. It should therefore integrate with other modules such as Device Fingerprinting and IP Analysis so you get complete flexibility. Feeding the data into a powerful Machine Learning algorithm, should also produce risk risk scores whose accuracy can improve over time.

Key Takeaway – Reducing Fraud With Reverse Email Lookup

In fraud prevention, the more data you have, the easier it is to reduce risk. However, sometimes you need to work with single data points and enrich them. It turns out, an email address is already enough to create a good profile of your users with the right email analysis or reverse email lookup tool. It can help with multi accounting fraud and spotting connections between customers.

At SEON, we have simplified the process so fraud managers can instantly glean information from the comfort of their Chrome browser. It is ideal for fast manual reviews, and shows great results, especially with the social media search feature.

Our Sense Platform also incorporates the same powerful Email Analysis module and leverages its results through machine learning. All so you can control your risk preference to onboard new customers, and flag suspicious ones that can damage your business.

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