How to Check If an Email Address Exists Using DNS MX Records, SMTP Connections, and Email-Sending Emulation
Nonexistent, invalid, or fake email addresses, which aren’t connected to existing business domain names, can spell trouble for organizations when used as part of a site’s registration process or in an online contact form.
Such addresses can be the product of human error. For example, users may inadvertently mistype their email addresses by omitting, adding, or switching one or more characters or words. However, using nonexistent email addresses can also be deliberate for different reasons that include:
- Abusing freemium services or features offered by a website by creating several fake accounts
- Getting access to premium content, like a gated white paper, without ending up on someone’s email list
- Hiding while conducting fraud
Any of the above can hurt a company. These practices can result in higher operational costs, as users utilize system resources without paying for them. Invalid email address usage also results in lower conversion rates and tarnished email reputations due to hard bounces, which affect deliverability.
It is, therefore, important for IT specialists to ensure that emails from nonexistent addresses don’t make their way into an organization’s systems or employees’ inboxes.
The first step is to check if an email address exists. That can be done by looking at Domain Name System (DNS) mail exchanger (MX) records and Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) connections and by emulating email sending. These functionalities are all available in Email Verification API.
How to Check If an Email Exists
The most basic way to check if an email exists is by actually sending a message to that address and waiting for a few minutes up to an hour to see if it bounces. If the email address doesn’t exist, you’ll receive an email similar to this:
Another manual method to check if an email address exists is to go to the website of its service provider, type in the email address, and press Enter. If the email address exists, you will be prompted to enter a password. If it doesn’t, you will see an error message.
Of course, these are very tedious and potentially questionable approaches for validating the existence of an email address. And they certainly won’t work if you want to verify addresses automatically.
How to Check an Email Address without Sending an Email
Email Verification API allows you to check if an email exists almost immediately without manually sending a message. Verification is even doable while a user is still in the process of signing up on your website.
To illustrate, we ran two types of fake email addresses on Email Verification API. One is nonexistent but uses a valid email domain (emailverificationdemonstration@gmail[.]com). The other uses a nonexistent domain (emailverificationdemonstration@pwemel[.]top).
In the first case, while the address’s syntax is correct, the tool detected that it does not exist since it couldn’t establish an SMTP connection when it performed email emulation. SMTP is the standard communication protocol used to send and receive emails, so checking for it is a foolproof way of verifying if an email address is valid.
The tool also checks if the domain exists. We ran the second email address with a nonexistent domain (emailverificationdemonstration@pwemel[.]top), and the tool detected that, too.
You can sign up to our Email Verification API for free to test the tool.
Testing the Waters: Do Top Websites Check If an Email Address Exists?
Out of curiosity, we used the said email addresses on Amazon, Canva, Craigslist, Shopify, and Wix to see if we could successfully register an account with them.
Case #1: Amazon, Canva, and Craigslist
Amazon, Canva, and Craigslist sent verification links and codes to the fake email addresses. As the email addresses do not exist, we couldn’t receive the codes and, therefore, weren’t able to create an account.
These websites implement a common type of email verification that requires users to take action. When they click the verification link or input the code sent to their inboxes, the customers verify their accounts.
However, in cases when users type the wrong email addresses, they would have to go back a few steps to correct it. Automating the email verification process by immediately informing customers that the email addresses they gave are invalid can help smoothen the signup process.
Case #2: Shopify and Wix
On the other hand, Shopify and Wix immediately proceeded to account creation for both fake email addresses.
Allowing the use of fake email addresses may have dire repercussions. If creating fake accounts is deliberate, the users may have suspicious motives in mind. For instance, they may use the accounts to set up shady websites that could serve as fronts for scams, counterfeiting, or fake news distribution.
However, if the customers only mistakenly typed their email addresses, they won’t be able to receive billing, account, and marketing updates.
What Are the Benefits of Email Verification?
Integrating Email Verification API into a website helps detect fake email addresses so you can effectively prevent users from utilizing them. Coupled with other marketing strategies and security measures, the tool can help organizations:
- Achieve better email marketing results since users are encouraged to sign up with real email addresses
- Contribute to maintaining Internet safety since bad actors can’t use nonexistent email addresses to create shady websites and accounts
- Increase revenue by effectively collecting payments and offering account upgrades since customers can receive billing and other account information
- Improve user experience by immediately alerting users if the email addresses they typed are invalid
Email address verification is essential to marketing, sales, and even cybersecurity. Filtering out nonexistent email addresses can help prevent issues that can pop up later on, which can be damaging to a website’s reputation and an organization’s overall security posture.