Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.
Depending on how careful you've been about posting public information about yourself, an email address can lead people to find a lot about you.
I was on craigslist & posted an ad about possibly meeting up with someone. So some guy & I chatted back & forth about meeting up. But than a day or 2 later when I never got back to him to hang out. I basically blew him off because I rethought the idea on meeting someone over the web because he wouldn't send a photo of himself also his wife was out of town, so he could possibly hook up with people while she was around. He was calling me out saying I'm a fraud for not showing up to hang out and that he wants to report me to the police for messing up his day off. But the only way of contact he has is my email, is there anyway I can be tracked just from my email? When my email doesn't have any info on what my home address or phone number is? Also I was thinking what if i just delete that email address? If it's deleted he won't be able to keep sending messages to me threatening to be reported?
I'm glad you rethought what you were doing.
The short answer is that yes, it's quite possible you could be found by just your email address. It could be very easy, or it could be nearly impossible. Exactly how difficult it might be depends on how you've used your email address and what information you've put in public places.
Oh, and whether or not you've broken the law.
You might start by searching for your email address on the internet. (Most search engines don't let you search for your exact email address, treating "@" and "." as if they were spaces, but it's a start - especially if your email address is unique). Now realize that anything you find associated with your email address is something that anyone can find if they're trying to track you down.
The worst case would be something like a standard "name and address" listing:
Your Email address
Your Physical address
Your Phone number
If you've posted, or allowed to be posted, information like that, then absolutely anyone can quickly and easily find you.
In fact, the person you're talking to knows several other things about you besides your email address:
Your name (unless you took care to hide it, which I assume you did not)
Your general location (since I assume you were looking to meet someone in your own general area)
Combine those and it's more data for someone to go on.
Something people overlook a lot are social networking sites. Not just the big sites like MySpace and Facebook, but other niche sites as well. With any of the information above (typically name and city are enough), there's often a lot of information visible to the public. Once again, log out of any social media sites you happen to be a member of, and now search for yourself with just name and city and see what information is available to just anyone.
As it turns out the questioner had a fairly unique email address which he (apparently) also uses as a "handle" on assorted sites. That in turn lead me to a city on Long Island, New York where I suspect he lives, his age and a MySpace link. That, in turn, lead to photos, what I suspect is his real first name, his high school, and the fact that he had logged in to his MySpace account today.
That's about 5 minutes of work with just an email address. I'm sure that a more dedicated searcher could turn up more.
You get the idea - the real concern is not what can people find, but rather how easy you've made it for them to find things.
One common piece of advice is to use a "throw-away" email address when placing craigslist ads, or for that matter on any social connection site where the contact could eventually lead to meeting new people. The throw-away account should be completely unique, unrelated to you, and should be created with completely made-up information. That way at least the casual searchers such as myself will find very little from just the email address.
But what about the not-so-casual searchers?
Even a throw-away email address may not be bullet proof if you've broken the law.
I'm no lawyer, but it doesn't sound like you've done anything illegal, so this might not apply to you, but it's worth knowing.
Just like IP address tracing, which I've talked about a lot here, it's possible that in the course of investigating a crime the authorities could approach the email service that you've used for your throw-away account with a court order to get additional information - like the IP address or other characteristics of the computer or location from which you created the account. That could potentially be used to locate you. It's not something done lightly, but if the crime warrants it, it's certainly possible.
My bottom line advice? Well, I'd avoid using random classified ads to meet people, but if you must, make up a completely fake throw-away email account to use for it.
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