Can I get someone’s name and address from their IP address?

While getting someone's name and address from their IP address is technically possible, it's also typically difficult and requires involving law enforcement.

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I have the IP address from someone who’s causing me some problems. Can I get their name and location from that?

Yes and no. But mostly no.

This is perhaps one of the most common questions or comments that I get. Unfortunately, people’s expectations have been colored – often dramatically – by popular television shows and movies.

Unfortunately, this is real life – which isn’t nearly as easy or exciting.

Publicly available information

As I’ve discussed in previous articles, there are services on the internet that will return information about an IP address.

ARIN, the American Registry for Internet Numbers, is the canonical place to start. It’s this organization that actually organizes IP address assignments in the U.S. They provide a “who is” (often just referred to as whois, without the space) search, which will look up the owner of an IP address or refer you to the equivalent service in another country, if appropriate.

DomainTools.com is another one that includes a whois service that will look up both domain names (like “askleo.com”) and IP addresses, so you can see who owns them.

IP Address


An IP address, short for Internet Protocol Address, is a number used to identify a device connected to a TCP/IP network like the internet. In IP version 4 (IPv4), an address is
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PlotIP is an interesting service that will also perform a whois lookup and return information about the IP address, including a map of where the service believes the IP address is located.

The problem with public information

In all of these cases, and other similar services, the information retrieved is not about the current user of the IP address, but the owner of the IP address.

In other words, the information that you get relates only to the ISP or hosting company that has allocated that IP address to one of its customers.

Typically, the information returned will include the name, address, and phone number of the ISP. In the case of attempts to determine location, the information is at best an approximation and either represents the location of the ISP’s headquarters or the location of one of the ISP’s distribution points.

In a practical sense, it is never the location of the actual person who’s using that IP address.

Push PinGetting more detail

The ISP knows more. In fact, I’d venture to say that the ISP probably knows all. They know to whom the IP address was assigned. For dynamic IP addresses, I’m sure that they know or can find out who it was allocated to, when it was allocated, and for how long it was used.

But there’s a  problem that gets in the way of getting that information from the ISP.

Privacy.

Face it, you wouldn’t want your ISP to just hand out your private information to anyone who walked up with some kind of story claiming that they needed it. The same is hopefully true for any and all ISPs – privacy matters.

ISPs will turn over that information to law enforcement when the right requests are made and paperwork presented. In the U.S., that’s typically in the form of a court order. When done this way, the ISPs will provide the information to the police – not to you. They can then take the appropriate steps based on your reasons for going this far in the first place.

So can I get it or not?

Can you get a name an address from an IP? Yes … if you are the police and have the legal backing to go get it.

Otherwise, no. If you’re a regular person just trying to track something down on your own, that information is simply not available. The same privacy policies and restrictions that protect you protect everyone.

This is an update to an article originally posted : October 16, 2005

There are 64 comments:

  1. Greg Bulmash Reply

    One other way to get someone’s name and address is if the IP is for their web site server, it’s a dedicated server, and you use WhoIs to look up the registrant info for their domain.

    Now, given that almost every registrar offers anonymous registrations and few people surf from their web server, it’s a fringe case, but it can happen.

    What’s more troubling, though, are cross-site tracking cookies used by major ad networks like DoubleClick.

    A few years back there was news that DoubleClick was going to link up people’s identifiable information with their IP addresses (when they logged in at certain sites, the DoubleClick cookie would register the login), so that as people traversed different sites where DoubleClick served ads, DoubleClick could track their surfing habits and pair those up with their names.

    This caused a firestorm of anger among netizens and many major sites that used DoubleClick were deluged with angry e-mails.

    Eventually, DoubleClick dropped the plan, but it’s not impossible that some ad network could quietly do it. That’s why many “spyware” killers also kill cookies from major ad networks.

    - Greg

    • Steve Burgess Reply

      For the most part, we have dynamic (changing) IP addresses, which the ISP distributes & keeps track of. Some ISPs offer the option of a static (unchanging) IP address, and a lot of companies have static IP addresses as well. Th WHOIS registries will often tell you the identities of those with a static IP. While law enforcement has the means to require the ISPs to reveal the identity of who a particular dynamic IP address is assigned to, one can get a judge to issue a subpoena as well. In general, you need to have a civil case filed against someone. But you can file it against a John Doe, for the purpose of finding out their actual identity. Many lawyers are well-versed in this process, but just as many I run into are not. It’s a lot easier to have a lawyer request a subpoena than for you to do it yourself, but if engaging a lawyer for the purpose, it’s a good idea to ask if they’ve done this sort of thing before.

      • Leo Reply

        And in either case it adds cost – lawyers (good or bad :-) ) rarely work for free.

        • ShiraQ Reply

          Hello。I was one of the few family name, the Uyghur,I asked: how query IP address?Which site can query? Thank you

    • Janice Reply

      Well, the NSA apparently knows it! No court order required!

  2. Bob Harris Reply

    Following up on Ed Carver’s comment that “you can use WhoIs to look up the registrant info for their domain:”

    Is there a way to do this on a volume basis?

    For example, create a text file & load it into WhoIs, or elsewhere?

    If I enter 129.34.20.80 into ARIN WhoIS, I get IBM. I’d like to be able to find out the names of all companies where the IP is for their web site server.

    Thx, Bob

  3. 7h3.r4gm4n Reply

    I was wondering whether a person could be tracked after posting on a forum. After all, most sites record the visitors IP address.

  4. Leo A. Notenboom Reply

    The closest I could get from your IP address is “Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad y Telecom” in Costa Rica. I would have to contact them to find out more. It’s doubtful that they’d tell me anything. So technically you can be tracked, if the people tracking you have law enforcement on their side, but most people do not.

  5. Jeremy Reply

    Lyn, It depends on what ISP (Internet Service Provider) ure using. Some use a static IP which means your IP address is always the same and some use an dynamic IP meaning the IP changes every time you sign on to the internet.

    Jeremy O.

  6. Ethical Hacker Reply

    Hi Sameer, well you can get the IP address of the person you are chatting too on MSN or Yahoo, but there is a little more you will have to do. Ask the person to send a file to you or vica versa through the send file option of the IM. Then while the file is being transferred you can open the DOS Prompt and type netstat -n and get the listings of all the connections and ports opened from your system to any system or server on the net. But as netstat will give you many results you need to distinguish it, so I suggest that you take the snapshop of the listings and do the analysis later or user various softwares like ethereal etc. Otherwise there is no way to get to know the IP address for live chat or offline messages.

  7. Threnody Reply

    Some one is poisoning everything I do and making my life a living hell.He has been trying to end my marriage by sending emails to my husband saying that I am cheating. I have his IP address what can I do with it? c220-239-141-178.eburwd1.vic.optusnet.com.au He is trying to destroy my life, and I have no way to end this. If you can help please let me know how.

  8. Jose Reply

    Hi, i like the way you are explaining this.. I hope that you can help me here.. Someone is taking over my yahoo email. I can’t access it now.. Is there a way to know any information about the person whois accessing my email..

  9. Leo Reply

    No. Only Yahoo can do that, and they’d probably need you to involve law enforcement.

  10. extremely hurt in Ottawa Reply

    Hello Leo, recently someone at my school made a piczo site making very mean and extremely hurtful comments about me and other people in my school, is there anyway to get the person’s ip from the website so i can then contact the proper authorities as some of these remarks re very threatening?

  11. Leo Reply

    Only the people who run the website can tell that information. You can’t get it yourself.

  12. Leo Reply

    I would login to your eBay account change the password and the email address asap. I don;t believe you can track the person yourself, buy you should report this to Ebay and provide them with the information – thay may be able to use it.

  13. Helper Reply

    There is basically NO WAY for us common people to “track down” and pinpoint or locate a person to their house via the internet just by using the IP adress and hunting ourselves.

    The closest you may get is obtaining their IP address, and going to a site like “Geobytes.com” and clicking “IP Locator” and it will give you what city they may be from. OTher than that… it doesn’t get any closer than that.

  14. Leo Notenboom Reply

    As I keep telling people, that type of service gets you only the region, not the address. In my case it’s 20 *miles* wrong.

    It does correctly identify my ISP, which is what I’ve been saying all along is all you can get.

  15. Joe Reply

    Recently in June 2006 someone had posted my unlisted name and home address at a yahoo group. I was able to get their IP address and find out the location of the person. I have their yahoo ID and a copy of the posting of my address. I filed a complaint with Yahoo and they took the necessary action according to their TOS,which is being ban from Yahoo.
    I still would like to know who this person is and how they were able to get hold of my unlisted address. I contacted the FBI and they said to file a complaint online, Internet Crime Center.
    Any other suggestions?

  16. Dom Reply

    Hi Leo, suppose someone knows your IP, and he calls your ISP, but your Ip is not static. My IPS can still give my personal information, even if my IP changes everytime? They keep a log with all the IPs they gave me?

  17. sousou Reply

    good morning
    how can I get the IP address of a person who is in a room in paltalk messenger?
    I’m waiting for your respnse.
    sorry if the this question is out of subject.

  18. Leo Notenboom Reply

    You probably cannot. Most chat rooms do NOT make that information available.

  19. Lucian Reply

    To get someone’s IP from yahoo messenger conversation, go to start -> run and type cmd, then in the window type netstat, but before close any other open programs. This will show all your connections, if you have few, it will be easy to get their IP address.

    To find information about it try http://www.ipgp.net

  20. edward Reply

    hey leo i am trying to find out who a user of an msn account is, as he has been menacing people at my school. We have tried everything in terms of trying to talk it out of him (who he is) but to no avail. Will the method shown in the article work for the IP of this person’s msn address??

  21. Leo A. Notenboom Reply

    —–BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE—–
    Hash: SHA1

    “The method in the article” doesn’t get you the name of the person.

    The best you can do without help is to identify their ISP – Internet Service
    Provider. To actually identify the person you’ll need that ISP’s help, and THAT
    will likely take a court order.

    Leo
    —–BEGIN PGP SIGNATURE—–
    Version: GnuPG v1.4.6 (MingW32)

    iD8DBQFGUxVpCMEe9B/8oqERAg2LAJ9WfzcX3TKan4KFV1x+GaQuxe3nPACgiNZ2
    ppg/idxqwgLkqHBSgVuLCCk=
    =9R4x
    —–END PGP SIGNATURE—–

  22. brian Reply

    i had some kids say they were going to change my name on msn messanger. inorder to do that they had to basicly recreated a password because they must of knowen my security question i have both of thier ip addresses but i was wondering if u can somehow contact hotmail to get the last ip addresses from them so i can prove they did it cause im afraid they did more then that.

  23. ss Reply

    IP address 69.120.95.217
    Hostname ool-45785fd9.dyn.optonline.net
    ISP Optimum Online (Cablevision Systems)
    Country United States

    here you go my friend prashant

  24. nelaon.a Reply

    I am working for an IT security training project.Is there a way to get web site address and phone number by IP Address?

  25. Leo A. Notenboom Reply

    —–BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE—–
    Hash: SHA1

    You must live close to your ISP’s point of presence, because it’s still only
    information ABOUT YOUR ISP that these services can return. They CANNOT go
    further, unless your ISP makes the information public.

    In my case, they’re 300 miles off.

    Leo
    —–BEGIN PGP SIGNATURE—–
    Version: GnuPG v1.4.6 (MingW32)

    iD8DBQFGaIvsCMEe9B/8oqERAnjrAJ0XohUa+YNpKdR1n80eOKJQFV6LyQCfYQ/z
    duw18f/KUjcsOS/v8JnHcLM=
    =sF8b
    —–END PGP SIGNATURE—–

  26. Patricia Reply

    my computer got hacked into by someone who keeps changing they’re name on yahoo. but seems to keep the same area in mind from [email address removed] to [email address removed] which is just recently. well here’s my problem, they have managed to not only hack my computer but also my razor phone and sent everything from my txt’s and instant messanger conversations to my spouse and all his friends. this person claims i know who it is but when i get the emails it keeps changing from i to we and they wanted me to just leave my husband for them..i feel like i’m on a lifetime movie. i don’t know what to do..can anyone help and what really sucks is all this started when i started to talking to a friend who is in the Navy..apparently IT’s have a whole new way of life in the military.

  27. RHA Reply

    Hi leo.
    After someone emailed me some spam last month, my washing machine has been leaving my underwear all gray. Please, please help me!

  28. Louisa Reply

    Hi great site and very helpful insights :). my isp moblie addy has been found out and shared. im awear not much can be done with someone having my isp address. But i was told the person posting it had “inside” knowledge to seek my details ie name address this has got me thinking can just anyone that works for law enforment or service provider trace a random isp address? And are they allowed to share information found to people like friends or family ect if law enforcement is not seeking it? And is there away to protect my isp address or too late now its out there?

    • Leo Reply

      So there are a couple of miss-statements here that make me wonder if perhaps there’s come confusion. It’s not an “ISP” address, it’s an IP address. That’s commonly exposed, and in fact simply leaving a comment here tells me what your IP address is. “Normal” people cannot get any useful information from it – as the article you commented on states. Law enforcement can, but typically not without a court order. Exactly how hard that is, or even if it’s required at all, will vary depending on your country, your location within that country, the laws in effect, and even the level of corruption, if any, in your legal system. EVERYTHING is really dependant on how interesting you are, and for the most of us that’s “not very”. It’s not trivial to get the information, so I wouldn’t expect law enforcement to do it without a valid reason in general.

  29. Bill Pytlovany Reply

    This is great info and in context of the subject line Leo has provided all the facts about what is available from just using the IP address. Unfortunately, with the combination of other meta data most web sites can easily connect you with what you may think is an anonymous post and keep a history of all your activities.

    Every time you connect to a website your IP address is included and available.
    So when you register for any site that includes your name and/or Email your IP address is going to be included as a gift to the website. Any future communications with that site could easily be connected to the IP address used when you registered.

    While it was once common for ISP’s like Time Warner or Comcast to assign dynamic IP addresses it’s easier for them to keep you using the same. ISP’s make a point to tell you they use dynamic IP addresses to prevent you from running servers or other high volume services. So while they won’t guarantee a permanent IP address they rarely change it. I don’t remember the last time my IP address changed.

    So anytime you sign up for a forum, register your software or make an online purchase that company could create a database with your history including every time you visit.
    Bill

  30. Raj Reply

    IP cant be traced , i mean to the location …Most of the online tools are mere and near finder..
    Some application are there to download,,which is utter useless..
    Some one who wants to Trace IP of others may be doing some nasty things with them ( Not All )

  31. Anony Reply

    I’ve had the same problem as the original poster. My blog was being used against me in legal situations. Rest assure that it was inconclusive evidence, but just knowing you’re being tracked that way…
    1. I placed an ip tracker on my blog and sure enough I got over 100 hits a day from two people in particular.
    2. I then used an ip blocker called toolator to block the two suspected ip addresses. You can block up to three for free.
    Its hard to know when Internet stalking becomes an Internet crime. You can be 99% sure who your harasser is, but who wants to be at the butt-end of bad guess work?!

  32. Mahmoud Reply

    Well, sadly but Thanks … you spared me the time & efforts searching the internet all daylong

    • Connie Delaney Reply

      And when you think about it from the other point of view… it’s a good thing. I certainly don’t want everyone to be able to track my location!

  33. Scott Reply

    i have a situation i would like some advise on pertaining to IP addresses and email. Recently i was using Yahoo email where i listed a few items for sales online. I started communicating with this couple that was interested in a item for sale. we were communicating through Yahoo sms and their cell phone (which they gave me) as well as email. Long story short they started receiving many repeating texts to their cell phone from my account due to an issue with yahoo messenger which i was unaware were being sent – some of which were weeks old. they threatened to file a police report if i didnt stop and also advised me that they have my email, name, place of employment and license plate number which i believe they probably got from watching me where we were supposed to meet while i waited and they never showed. they threatened to prosecute me. I deleted my yahoo account in effort to stop the texts to their phone. I do not believe they know my real name or anything in detail about me other than my email address. What would they need to do to find out who i am? Would police call the ISP to obtain my computers IP and locate me? Would they have to go to the local police and file a report first or could they go right to a court? how long would it take for the police to locate me via an IP address. I have information showing yahoo was having issues with their sms service and i also have a ticket number for when i closed my yahoo account. I am more worried about what they may be doing behind the scenes that i do not yet know about. Any information would be helpful
    thanks

    • Leo Reply

      Typically it does involve law enforcement of some sort. All you can do is be prepared with the information it sounds you have just in case they take action, but personally I’d be surprised.

  34. help Reply

    Tell me one thing. Let say if someone did review comments about former company in some site. can the ip address tracked for that review comments? can that former company able to find the ip address??

    • Mark Jacobs Reply

      It’s unlikely that they would get access to the IP addresses unless they managed that website or somehow could get tat website to give them that information. In any case, as it says in this article, they wouldn’t be able to determine who wrote the comment simply knowing the IP address.

  35. David Reply

    I did the IP check up on that website, you are right about it not being accurate. I accidently gave my IP to some people on Skype, but I’m glad that the IP gives out the wrong address. It says I’m in Hawlay PA which is off. That’s just where the PC was SOLD. So they can’t get my physical address?

    • Mark Jacobs Reply

      They can’t get your physical address from your IP. Even the fact that the IP they got was the city where you got your computer is purely coincidental.

  36. Bob Reply

    Hey Leo,

    I’ve heard of people getting people’s personal information (including SSN) by knowing their IP. They call their ISP pretending to be a tech from the ISP and use ‘social engineering’ to get the information. Obviously this could be prevented if ISP’s had strict protocol for their support staff to follow in regards to verifying the caller is indeed really one of their techs on site. Who knows what the rules are for ISP support staff…

  37. Mary Reply

    Hi Leo,

    I had a relative work for Microsoft in Seattle a few years ago. Small world. I have a question for you. If you cannot get a police to get a court order to find outwho a blogger is, yet the blogger alluded that you were party to lying so another party could lie and steal from an organization, could an attorney get that information for me somehow? I have a person who is cyber-stalking me and cyber-bullying me and also harassing me in person and I would lie to know if it was definitely them saying those things about me.

    Any help would be appreciated.

    • Mark Jacobs Reply

      That’s a question you’d probably have to ask an attorney or possibly the police.

    • Leo Reply

      I don’t know but if law enforcement cannot or will not help I would expect a discussion with an attorney would be the next step.

  38. a Turk Reply

    Leo,
    On twitter, If someone sends me a link as a private message taking me to a ip tracer page, once I click the link, can they access my IP address? I mean, is twitter shadowing my IP address once I leave the twitter domain? (twitter might have a matrix assigning new IP address for outside of its domain) It sounds costy but I would like to know. This is important especially for people whose identity under threat by its own government. Thanks for your immediate response.

    • Leo Reply

      When you click on a link twitter is typically no longer involved. The web site you visit (ANY website you visit) gets your IP address. Heck, I got your IP address with this comment. And to be super clear: it doesn’t matter. Read the article and you’ll see why.

  39. Raha Reply

    Hi Leo
    I need to ask you a question and I hope you help me – because I need this answer
    I live in a small city – in my city about 20 poeple has internet in there home
    so I need to find the IP address of some one’s of them but I dont have any contact with
    not email , not chating
    please help me how can I find some one’s IP address in my network area
    great thanks
    Best regards :
    Raha

  40. Confused Reply

    Question:
    It’s looking like I will need to subpoena google for IP addresses for BlogSpot posts and possibly gmail information on posts that are over 2 years old. From what I’ve located on the net, it looks like google only retains IP addresses for 9 – 24 months at most. Is it at all possible there would be any way they could even provide me with the info at all with my lawyer’s help or do you figure it’s information that’s just too old?

  41. dodu Reply

    one time i saw this video on youtube where he traces their name and phone number but im not sure if its all done by ip tracing

  42. Mark Jacobs Reply

    I just found an email I sent that a whois search revealed exactly what building I was in when I sent the email. I sent if from a university where I work and the university was listed as the ISP, and the address was listed as the building I was in. So, be careful if you are sending an email or visiting a website from a university or large company which operates it’s own ISP.

  43. Muhammad Yousuf Saad Reply

    Dear Leo,
    hoping you with good health, it is to state that i borrowed loan amounting to Rupees 112000/- (PKR) and became a member of http://www.cclicking.com and i started earning and returned back my loan amount. later than when a month passed, someone hacked my email address and i requested the admin to help me recover my account he helped me and reset my password and internal informations. also told me the ip addresses from which the hacker successfully logged in to my account at http://www.cclicking.com the ip addresses are as under:
    59.103.212.73 login time 16:05 date 11-07-2014 according to pakistan time
    59.103.214.215 login time 14:34 date 11-07-2014 according to pakistan time
    182.168.247.104 login time 19:15 date 11-07-2014 according to pakistan time
    182.188.244.126 login time 00:33 date 13-07-2014 according to pakistan time
    please help me finding the person who is that can you please provide me his phone number? i will be thankful to you. May Allah almighty bless you. REGARDS: Muhammad Yousuf Saad, from Taunsa Sharif, District Dera Ghazi Khan, Province Punjab, Pakistan. email address {REMOVED}

    • Leo Reply

      Please read the article you just commented on. We cannot help you. You need to contact your local law enforcement agency.

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