e-mail sent verification

Posted on 2004-08-28
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2010-04-11
I need to know if there is a way to verify that a sent e-mail message was actually received by the intended recipient. I am not talking about a "delivery receipt" setting for future e-mail, but rather, a past message where no such options were enabled. I have an archived e-mail for which I need to verify validity, and all I can see in the header that could be a unique identifier is a key labled "message ID." I asked my service provider (Earthlink) if it is possible, but I was told by a support tech that there is no way to trace the information. He further said that the same identifier key might actually be assigned to another message going through their system at some point in the future. Is this correct? It didn't sound quite right to me, hence my reason for approching the experts. To make matters more difficult (and archaic), the message in question is a year and a half old, and was sent from an older machine on a 16-bit platform with Netscape 3. Can any kind of a viable outgoing trace, at any level, be executed under these circumstances?
Question by:rontree

Expert Comment

ID: 11923239
Your isp is 100% right its not possible


Accepted Solution

LimeSMJ earned 1500 total points
ID: 11923291
The message ID field is an optional header field.  Its purpose is to give the email a unique identifier - it is generated by the originating MTA.  This field by RFC 822 should be globally unique but since it can be spoofed, it can't be guaranteed.

SMTP servers, at the administrators discretion, can be set to log incoming message ID headers but given your email is over a year old, I highly doubt that log file would even exist still - but who knows... it may be archived on a tape somewhere.

Expert Comment

ID: 11923393
but this will show You only that destination server was reached not the recipient.... (IMHO of course)

LVL 31

Expert Comment

ID: 11926928
"...actually received by the intended recipient..."
Only theoretically possible, if there is a log on the far end server, showing the recipient downloading the message (with the message ID), but of course it doesn't show that the actual recipient did indeed do the download, or even saw the message at all. All such logs are probably long gone anyway...
LVL 17

Expert Comment

ID: 11928148
Trace of the actual message on the users computer.....that is assuming the user in question has not updated his computer or reloaded all software from scratch etc.  

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