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How do I prove an email has been delivered?

Posted on 2007-10-05
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Last Modified: 2012-08-14
How can I prove that an email I sent has been received?

I sent an important document to a business, asking them to acknowledge receipt. To date, I have heard nothing from them. I wish to find out whether the document was delivered to their server. I am still awaiting a response from my ISP as to how I ask them to confirm the document was delivered, so I am asking the same question on two fronts here.

I haven't yet asked the recipient company, because I want to establish some facts before they turn round and say "What document? Sorry, we haven't received it", which is a possibility.

I'm afraid I forgot to mark the "inform me when received or read" markers when I sent the actual email - an oversight on my part.
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Question by:GSD4ME
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Expert Comment

by:psyclown-
ID: 20020891
Well, i think you are doing what you can all ready, so i think you all ready answered your own question :)
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Expert Comment

by:Pr1z
ID: 20020962
In short ... you can't

Email is a store and forward best efforts protocol.  All you can prove is that the message left your mail server and went to ???'s mail server.  That could be your ISP, their ISP or direct to them.  The problem is that you do not know what happened to it after that.

Checking the Delivery and Read Reciepts button also has little impact - email servers can easily be configured to strip these options out :-(.

In future you could do what spammers do which is embed a link to a picture on yourweb site.  When the recipient opens the email and elects to show the picture, you will see an entry in your web servers log.

Other than that there is nothing else you can do.  If you need a signature on a document you shouldn't send it by email :-(

Pr1z
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Expert Comment

by:war1
ID: 20022242
Greetings GSD4ME !

You can use a service like Didtheyreadit to confirm if recipient has read it.
http://www.didtheyreadit.com/

But the best way is send a registered mail by US Post Office.

Hope this helps, war1
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LVL 17

Expert Comment

by:upul007
ID: 20030170
Confirm the date time that your email was transferred from your ISP's emails servers to the recepients server. This will be simple as your ISP should be capable of providing this service. If your email server is your own, check the logs to confirm date/time.

This may work if the receiving party has it's own email server and IT Support. Contact the IT support there and see if they could help you trace your email. If your ISP confirms that the email had been transferred properly, send a follow up email or resend same email till you do get a reply. Alternatively Fax a copy with a line written saying that you will love to hear from them (hope it's not a 500 page attachment).

Another way is to courier the docs to the other party.
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by:war1
ID: 20041920
GSD4ME, any update?
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Author Comment

by:GSD4ME
ID: 20044128
No
My ISP are useless - their reply was "To prove that the mail was sent, there will be a copy in your SENT ITEMS folder"!!!
I would have thought that there would be an audit trail for every message sent via the WWW> Police manage to prove an email was sent so there must be a way.
As an aside, the company I sent the document to have acknowledged that they have received it (even though they admit as to not haveing READ it yet!)
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Expert Comment

by:war1
ID: 20044681
Have you tried the service Didtheyreadit, as I posted above?
http://www.didtheyreadit.com/
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Author Comment

by:GSD4ME
ID: 20044738
No, I haven't.
From what I gather, this product only works with emails that I want to send in the future.
I have ALREADY SENT the email I want to trace, hence the request
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Accepted Solution

by:
upul007 earned 375 total points
ID: 20049973
To reflect on the above question, a simple user has only a few simple means/tools at their disposal to use in order to verify whether an email gets sent or not. These features can be inherent to different email clients, be useless if the servers that handle the emails are not set up to allow this features to work and may also rely on the sending/receiving users as well. A good example is Microsoft Exchange server & MS Outlook. Certain features in outlook can be useless if it is not set up on the server. Luckily, though different servers use diffrent names to refer the same action, there is a level of compatibility across different servers/programs that at least if used correctly allow a simple user to track their email.

I am a user within a very large organization and within this spread out band of jolly users, I know when my email is delivered and even read. That is not available to me for internet emails, external to the system.

There will be other tools that allow you to track emails as pointed out above by the experts.

There is always a trail for an email. In order to gain access to this trail you will need to have special access (perhaps like what is envisioned in movies, but may actually be a person looking for info and then cross referencing these details) from different angles. Usually you email properties will show when & where the email originated and when & where it was received. Note that even this info could be spoofed to mislead you. Lifes a ball aint it.

Though I would like to make sure that all my emails are sent across (barring any typo's that may deter them) and read and then I am informed of it - It Is Not Possible.  Or perhaps it is not ALWAYS possible and maybe NOT in the same order.

What I can do is try. And I know I try very hard to prove that emails from my server are sent across to another party. Sometimes I get in writing that the email had been accepted and forwarded properly. Other times I dont and sadly give up the chase.

Sadly this is where I stand with this question and I suppose you do too!

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Author Closing Comment

by:GSD4ME
ID: 31408043
Many thanks
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