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Spammer Hunting 101: How to Check if an Email Address is Fake

illustration of a hacker

On today’s episode of Rational Geographic, we look at the hunched spammer in its natural habitat. Spending most of its days behind the screen surfing the interwebs, the spammer actively seeks out ignorant and uninformed victims by the millions. These villains have become so skilled in their craft that it is almost impossible to distinguish fake emails from legit ones. Before we go any further, let’s look at some statistics and see how many people have fallen victim to these email spamming fiends.

Over 110 billion emails are sent every single day; some of them real, others fake. These emails are targeted at individuals, employees, and companies. The scary part is, research shows 94% of employees can’t tell the difference between genuine emails and those meant for phishing. Sure, you probably receive hundreds of emails a week. How on earth are you expected to manually check the validity of each one? How can you make sure that an email address isn’t fake?

Lucky for all you spammer hunters out there, you came to the right place. In this segment, we’ll show you how to identify fake email addresses as well as how to kill these spampires and put them in the coffin they belong – the spam folder. That’s right folks, welcome to Veloxy’s School of Email Spammer Hunting; class is now in session.

Here’s the two BIGGEST things you can do to check if an email address is fake:

  1. Checking for invalid emails (unreachable addresses)
  2. Checking for fake SPAM emails

Types of Fake Email Addresses

When we talk about email addresses being fake, here’s what we mean.

-An address is invalid or doesn’t exist and therefore can’t be reached

-The address is controlled by spoofers, spammers and pretenders (your usual breeds of spampires)

In today’s hunting guide, we look at how to identify both of these types of preying techniques and shut them down.

1. Checking for Invalid Emails (unreachable addresses)

From free to paid, accurate to inaccurate, fast to slow, there are several different ways to identify invalid emails. Of course, the holy grail of e-address checking would be software that is free, fast and highly accurate. But since that kind of software doesn’t exist, you might have to compromise on at least one of those things.

Option a: Ping to Verify - Free, Accurate, Slow

So you got an email from thismail@gmail.com. How do you test to verify if the email address is real? The first thing you want to do is open telnet if you’re using windows. Alternatively, you can use the puTTy tool. Open up the command prompt and enter “nslookup – type=mx gmail.com”.

This command will bring forth a list of MX records on the domain example.com.In your search, you’ll notice it’s not unusual for a single domain to have multiple MX records. Just pick one of them and send out a test message. Just connect to the server and enter the formula “telnet+server=25.” Proceed to say HELO to the other server. Afterwards, email them with a disposable email address. Watch the servers rrsponse for the recipient to command. If the email address is real, you’ll get an OK. Otherwise, you’ll get messages like “The email account you’re trying to reach is disabled or doesn’t exist.

Option b: Email from Free Address (free, varying speeds, inaccurate)

This method is both short and quite straightforward. Start by creating a free email address with ISP like Yahoo or Google. Using this new account, send a message to the address you want to verify. Wait a few minutes and if the email bounces, then the address is as fake as they come.

To be fair, there are times when you’ll have to wait for hours or an entire day depending on the server. Sure, most of the hard bounces are notified in an instant. However, be aware that you might have to wait a tad longer. The good news is that this strategy can be applied by anyone making it quite a popular method. NO technical skills or knowledge required. Unfortunately, this comes at the price of lower accuracy levels.

Option c: Use email verification software (fast, accurate, paid)

Using email verification software is hands down the best and most reliable way to identify and eliminate fake emails. Good software should eliminate the following types of emails and more:

-MX Records

Hard Bounces

-Syntax Errors

-Domain Validation

-Disposable Emails

If you’re looking to protect your domain reputation, increase email marketing ROI, and eliminate all sorts of fake emails, then email versification tools are the way to go. You could even take things a step further and crosscheck email addresses with a list of known spammers if you want to be thorough.

2. Checking for Fake Spam Emails

As mentioned above, there are two types of fake emails. We’ve already covered invalid addresses, so let’s jump to the next type. These are spam addresses controlled by spoofers, spammers and all those other mail molesters. Here are a few pointers on how to identify these types of emails.

a) Keeps a lookout for where an email ends up. If it goes straight to the spam folder, be very suspicious of that address.

b) Watch for long strings of number before the @domain.com. If they’re also using a free ISP, chances are that it’s fake.

c) Personal Information – If the email asks you for personal information such as name, contact information e.t.c. you’ve probably got a phisher on your hands.

d) Emails with bad spelling, grammar and syntax might be fake. An deven if they’re not, chances are that they’ll be treated with very high prejudice.

e) Greetings and salutations also matter.  Companies tend to use people’s real names in a greeting. So if the email refers to you as Good Sir or Valued Customer, you’re probably not that valued am I right? Oh, and it’s also probably fake.

Conclusion on Fake Email Addresses

A word of caution dear spammer hunters. While the methods above are all solid ways of determining the legitimacy of an email address, they’re not 100% safe or foolproof. As the hunched spammer evolves, so does its tactic of deception. You could run a well spoofed email address though all the above fail safes and it’ll still manage to fool at least a few of them into thinking it’s real.            

To give your organization the best fighting chance, you need to have the right tools ready to deploy. We’re talking about pairing your email verification software with the leading plugin for Outlook. Veloxy offers a myriad of benefits when it comes to all things email. In addition to helping organize all your emails, Veloxy comes with a lot of features designed to make Outlook email management a lot more easier. One of them is Veloxy for Email Marketing – the best email template builder in the world, complemented by Email Tracking, and Sales and Email Analytics. Not only does it save you time with ready made templates, it also incorporates an array of added benefits such as:

  • Reaching numerous prospects in one go
  • Adding more people to your email list
  • Knowing when your emails are read or forwarded with real time alerts
  • Analyzing and improving email engagement
  • Logging all email activity and save key emails to Salesforce
  • Making bulk cold emails CAN-SPAM compliant before sending
  • Adding new prospects to Salesforce and set up a meeting in seconds
  • Creating unlimited personalized email templates

Veloxy works on the other end to show you how your calls, emails, tasks and other actions affect the pipeline. It improves email engagement by showing you how your emails perform and what the best time of day is to reach your prospects. Join Veloxy today and say hello to a whole new way of safeguarding and managing your emails.

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Peter Daniels

Peter Daniels

Peter Daniels has written 100+ blog posts on sales. From Salesforce adoption to email marketing, and fields sales strategies to cold calling tips—Peter's is committed to helping sales professionals all across the world.

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