Where is the person you are talking to? Are they who they say they are? For verification, you can ask this person to follow a special link. You will see their IP address and this will tell you their approximate location.

How IP tracking links work

IP log showing the location of Nigeria
Wait a minute: they said they were in the US, but that says Nigeria!

We recently played along with a fake job recruiter scam. At the beginning we knew it was a scam, but we wanted to confirm the location of the scammer. They said they were in the US, but were they? We verified by tracking their IP with a link.

There is nothing special about this — when someone accesses a resource on the network, the server sees its unique IP address. And IP addresses are tied to rough geographical areas. But popular web services don’t usually show you the person’s IP address, although you could certainly see it yourself if you had your own web server. This method uses an online service that «wraps» the real link for you by tracking down the IP address that is accessing it before quickly sending the person to the link’s real target.

This has its limitations. Anyone can use a VPN to mask their real location. But, even if they are, there is a high probability that the VPN will show another place where they claim to be. In the case of our fake recruiter, the scammers claimed to be in the US, but they accessed our link from an IP address located in Nigeria.

If you don’t yet know the location someone is claiming from and you’re just trying to figure out if they’re genuine, you need to convince the person to say where they are before sending them a link. Bringing this into a conversation shouldn’t be too hard, the nature of the internet makes asking for location a regular part of online discussion — anyone else remember A/S/L?

Once you’ve done that, you’ll need to prepare the digital file for sending them. An image, a Word document, or anything you can attach to a cloud storage link will do. If you are dealing with a possible scammer, that scammer may ask you to send them something as part of a scam. If you are dating online, you can send a photo. When you’re ready to send the file, you need to wrap this regular link with an IP tracking service.

Unfortunately, this process creates a link, obviously for tracking purposes. You will need to use another service to hide this. You probably don’t want the other person to notice your trick.

RELATED: scam alert: fake recruiters tried to catch us, here’s what happened

How to Create a Disguised Tracking Link

You can link to any web page on the Internet, but this process will help you create a link to one of your files or photos.

The first step is to upload your file to a cloud service like Dropbox or Google Drive. If you suspect that the person you are communicating with is not trustworthy and you do not want to divulge any personal information, it is best not to use any master account you have. You can create a second «disposable» account if you don’t already have one.

After uploading the file, use the website to create a shared link. In Google Drive, you can right-click on a file and select «share link». In Dropbox, hover your mouse over a file and select Share.

Google Drive submenu showing the option to get a share link.

This is the link that your suspected scammer will hit at the end of the process. But don’t give them that link. By itself, this tells us nothing.

Instead, go to the IP registrar website and paste your URL into the «URL and Image Shortener» field. Click the «Get IPlogger Code» button below it.

IP logger site with arrow pointing to URL shortening option and

On the next screen, you will see «IP registrar link to collect statistics» and «link to view statistics». Copy the «View Statistics» link to a safe place. This is what you will use to see the person’s IP address and location afterwards.

The link for «gather statistics» is the one where the IP is tracked. Unfortunately, this link to «iplogger.com» will be a complete giveaway for your recipient.

IP logger generates a link to the site, with a callout for tracking and viewing links

To hide what you’re doing, you can use a URL shortener service. Unfortunately, these shortening services don’t like IP registrar URLs and generate errors. To get around this, click on the iplogger.org dropdown to the right of «Select a domain name» and select «2no.co» for your domain. The tracking link at the top will update, copy this new link.

Drop-down list of IP registrar domains with an arrow pointing to 2no.co

Then go to bit.ly — you can try another shortening service if you prefer, but we tested with Bitly. If you don’t have an account yet, create one.

Click the «Create» button in the top right corner of the Bitly website.

The bit.ly website with an arrow pointing to the create button.

Paste the 2no.co tracking link into the «Insert long URL» field and click the «Create» button.

The bit.ly website with arrows pointing to paste the URL and a create button.

You now have a Bitly link that you can give to a potential scammer. You can click the «Copy» button to find it quickly.

Beatley site with a border around the copy link button.

How to find out the recipient’s IP address

Send this link to the person you’re talking to just like you would a normal link. After that, return to the IP registrar, copy the statistics view link and paste it into your browser.

You’ll see a list of any IP addresses that accessed the link, where they’re from, and possibly what browser they’re using.

ip logger keeps track of the results showing several US pings.

Remember, this won’t tell you everything. If a person is using a VPN or similar technology, you won’t see their true location. But it’s another tool in your arsenal for identifying people who aren’t who they say they are. If your tracking results show a different country than you expect, be careful and consider leaving.

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