In today's digital landscape, email has become a primary communication channel. Unfortunately, it has also become a target for cybercriminals seeking to deceive and manipulate unsuspecting recipients. One common technique employed by these criminals is email spoofing, where they forge the sender's identity to trick recipients into taking malicious actions. However, with the right knowledge and tools, you can detect email spoofing by analyzing the email headers. In this expert guide, we will delve into the world of email spoofing and teach you how to check email headers for spoofing, empowering you to protect yourself and your organization from potential cyber threats.

Understanding Email Spoofing

email spoofing

Email spoofing refers to the act of forging the header information of an email to make it appear as if it originated from a different source than the actual sender. Cybercriminals often use email spoofing to deceive recipients into believing that the email is legitimate and trustworthy, leading them to disclose sensitive information, click on malicious links, or open infected attachments. By understanding how email spoofing works, you can develop the necessary skills to identify and combat this deceptive technique.

What are Email Headers?

Email headers contain valuable information about the origin, path, and content of an email. They include technical details, such as the sender's IP address, server information, and message routing data. By examining these headers, you can gain insights into the email's journey and potentially uncover signs of spoofing.

Steps to Check Email Headers for Spoofing

email spoofing


To check email headers in Gmail, follow these steps:

  1. Open the email you want to analyze.
  2. Click on the three-dot menu icon.
  3. Select "Show original" from the dropdown menu.
  4. A new tab or window will open, displaying the email's full headers.
  5. Review the headers for any suspicious or mismatched information, such as inconsistent sender domains or unusual IP addresses.


To check email headers in Outlook, follow these steps:

  1. Open the email you want to analyze.
  2. Click on the "File" tab.
  3. Select "Properties" from the dropdown menu.
  4. In the "Internet headers" section, you will find the email headers.
  5. Examine the headers for any irregularities, such as unexpected sender domains or modified message paths.

Other Email Clients

The process of checking email headers may vary across different email clients. However, the general idea remains the same: look for suspicious or mismatched information in the email headers, such as inconsistent sender domains, modified message paths, or unexpected IP addresses.

Signs of Email Spoofing

To identify email spoofing, be on the lookout for the following signs:

  • Inconsistent sender domains: Check if the sender's domain matches the email's content and purpose. A mismatch could indicate spoofing.
  • Modified message paths: Analyze the "Received" fields in the headers to ensure that the email's path aligns with the expected routing.
  • Unusual IP addresses: Look for IP addresses that don't match the expected geographic location or the sender's usual communication pattern.
  • Poor language or formatting: Emails originating from spoofed accounts may contain grammar mistakes, odd phrasing, or inconsistent formatting.

Additional Measures to Combat Email Spoofing

While checking email headers is an effective way to identify spoofed emails, consider implementing the following measures for enhanced protection:

  • Enable SPF, DKIM, and DMARC: These email authentication protocols can help validate the sender's identity and reduce the risk of spoofing.
  • Educate employees: Conduct regular cybersecurity training to educate employees about the risks of email spoofing and the importance of verifying email authenticity.
  • Implement robust email filtering: Utilize advanced spam filters and antivirus software to prevent spoofed emails from reaching recipients' inboxes.
  • Stay vigilant: Be cautious when sharing sensitive information, clicking on links, or opening attachments in emails, even if they appear to be from a trusted source.

Commonly Asked Questions

Q1: Can email spoofing always be detected by checking email headers?

A1: While checking email headers is an effective method to detect email spoofing, sophisticated attackers can employ techniques to obfuscate their tracks. Therefore, it's important to use multiple security layers and remain vigilant.

Q2: Can I prevent email spoofing entirely?

A2: While it's challenging to completely eliminate email spoofing, implementing email authentication protocols like SPF, DKIM, and DMARC can significantly reduce the risk. Additionally, user education and robust security measures can further enhance protection.

Q3: What should I do if I identify a spoofed email?

A3: If you identify a spoofed email, do not respond or engage with the sender. Instead, report the incident to your organization's IT department or the appropriate authorities for further investigation.


Email spoofing poses a significant threat in today's digital world. By learning how to check email headers for spoofing, you gain a powerful tool in your arsenal to protect yourself and your organization from malicious activities. Remember to stay vigilant, implement email authentication protocols, and educate yourself and your team about email security best practices. With these measures in place, you can confidently navigate your inbox and mitigate the risks associated with email spoofing.