E-mail tracing of Russian scammers
I have been in contact with an alleged Russian lady for about 4 weeks, e-mails almost daily apart from Sundays as no home computer, (she says, then one turned up on the 7/7/13 allegedly from an internet cafe).
I have been in contact with money and romance scammers through a UK site, (all approached me first) and I am wary of this one and have found some useful tips on your site as well as other sites about how to trace an e-mail's origin.
When she first g-mailed me I was able to trace it back to Kirov in Russia just about 40 miles from where she says that she lives, so you think ok, you are in the country that you say you are, but now all the e-mails trace back to various parts of the US, Ireland and even the UK.
I have heard that more than one server could be involved sending an e-mail from country to country, but should an e-mail be still origin traceable at all times, or do the multiple server movements hide its original start point.
She is now looking at coming to visit me but no money mentioned yet.
Bob's Answer: Thanks for the question. Unfortunately tracing email origins isn't always a straightforward task, and no, and email's origination is not always traceable.
When someone is using a local mail client, like Microsoft Outlook, such that their emails are stored on their own PC, they are usually traceable via IP address.
But email sent through web-based mail providers GMail or Yahoo Mail are different. Last time I checked Yahoo mail actually does put the IP address of the email's originating computer, but GOOGLE DOES NOT. There are lot's of IP addresses in gmail headers, but they are just the IP addresses of each mail server along the way, and they are useless in even narrowing down to a geographical region. I'm even shocked that one of them did track to within 40 miles of her home city.
So for you that's good news and bad news. The good news is that the results you've found are meaningless and she may be who and where she claims. The bad news is that there's no way to verify this using IP addresses embedded in email headers. Also bad news is the fact that scammers now know this and consequently gmail is their email provider of choice.
Do you have her phone number? If not, ASK FOR IT. If she says she doesn't have a phone, she's lying. If she says it's too expensive to use the phone, she's lying. In Russia/Ukraine all incoming cell calls are FREE and UNLIMITED, and EVERYONE has a cell phone. No exceptions. If she claims any of that you can know with 100% certainty she's a scammer.
If the excuse is that she doesn't speak English and needs a translator, YOU arrange a three-party translated call (using YOUR selected translator, someone she doesn't know). See Russian Translations: Phone and Written and click on the links to translation services.
But even better still would be Skype. Now I will acknowledge that not all Russian women have access to Skype with webcams, but it's worth asking.
I hope that helps. Feel free to post any other questions you may have.