Anonymity on the Internet leads to a lot of abuse and harassment, even on popular platforms such as Google’s Gmail. Google has developed many ways to protect yourself and report this abuse; the actions you take will depend on the type and severity of the abuse. Make sure to immediately report any abuse you think is dangerous.
It”s against Gmail policy to send harassing emails, including content that’s abusive or obscene. If you are threatened by a user, immediately contact the police. However, there are a lot of ways malicious users can spoof — or pretend to send from — Gmail addresses, so Google first recommends to filter these emails straight to your trash. If the harassment continues or intensifies, report the Gmail user via the “Report a Gmail User” page (link in Resources).
If you receive a spam email that you’d like to report, you can mark it as spam through your inbox or inside the message. The toolbar above the list of messages has a Spam button that”s shaped like an octagon with an exclamation point inside of it. This button is also located in the message toolbar if you”ve opened the spam email. If your contacts say you’re spamming them, report that to Google through its “Report a problem with a message” page (link in Resources).
If you believe someone is using a Gmail address to impersonate you, file a complaint and report with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (link in Resources). The IC3 is a service offered by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National White Collar Crime Center, and it provides a straightforward complaint process. According to Google, it cannot participate in any mediation or other complaints regarding impersonation.
For a message that doesn’t quite feel right — Google calls them “suspicious” — there are different steps to take depending on if they are phishing or non-phishing messages. For phishing emails — those that ask for personal information in an attempt to steal your identity — Google provides a Report Phishing button through the drop-down menu next to the Reply button; when you press this button, Google adds this account to its list of potential phishing accounts to warn other users. If you receive a suspicious email that isn”t asking for personal information, Google recommends copying it and filing a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
Geoff Whiting is a writer and copy editor who has specialized in business technology, consumer electronics and research reports since 2007. He has written for national magazines like “American Shipper” and “BIC Magazine,” has written daily news articles for FierceMarkets, and has crafted research reports for Rider Research, Intel and Spotify.
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