Did someone email you out of the blue? Who are they? What do they want?

Time to find out.

1. Keep one file with everything you find. This makes it easier to draw connections.

2. Google their name, obviously. But also Google their email address. A name like “Joe Brown” gets a million results, but an email is unique to you.

3. Put their email into Facebook’s search bar. That gives you their Facebook profile.

4. Pipl will search based on name, email, username, phone and location. WhitePages searches by name, phone and location.

5. If they use a pseudonym, search for that. People often reuse the same one. Eg. someone might make a forum post as just “catamaran363”. But their Twitter account is under “catamaran363 (Bill Smith)”.

6. Any website someone owns lists their contact information in WHOIS, unless they cloak behind a proxy.

7. If you have a photo, put it through TinEye’s reverse image search. Even if the photo isn’t of them, they might have posted it on other pages they own.

8. Google for exact phrases. Eg. suppose you’ve found someone’s blog, but it’s anonymous. Try taking five or ten words from a post, and Googling them in quotes, eg. “someone owns lists their contact information” (for this post). Odds are, you’ll only get hits if the post was copied elsewhere.

9. If a website is down, or stuff on it was deleted, search previous versions with the Wayback Machine.

10. If their email’s cloaked, search for “(name) gmail”, “(name) yahoo”, etc. People often leave emails in unlikely places. Old mailing list posts are everywhere.

11. Personal websites usually lack phones and addresses. But they often have resumes, which do for some reason.