I don’t know what to do but someone has taken my name, set up a new e-mail
account and is sending very nasty e-mails to family members. I’ve contacted
Yahoo! but I don’t know the personal information to get into the account since
I didn’t set it up and they still haven’t contacted me back. I don’t know if
this is a punishable offense and I don’t know how to get Yahoo! to take me
seriously. What should I do?
It’s trivial to set up accounts on the free services in which you can be
anonymous – using entirely fake information – or in which you can impersonate
I’m not sure I’d expect much help from the provider – Yahoo, in your case.
To be honest, even if they did bother to reply, they wouldn’t know who to
believe. You and I know that you’re not, but how’s Yahoo to know that
you’re not the impersonator, or just someone trying to hassle someone
Here’s what I would do…
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First, I’d make sure to distinguish it from a form of spam that may also
look like it’s coming from you. This article: Someone’s
sending from my email address! How do I stop them?! covers that
Second, I’d seriously consider whether it was worth doing anything at all.
As we’ll see in a moment, I believe that chances of resolution are actually
pretty small. If you can simply ignore what’s happening, or let your friends
and family know to ignore email from that bogus address, it might be the
simplest solution of all. Basically ignore it, and get on with your life.
I know that’s not always an option.
Certainly it doesn’t hurt to contact Yahoo, or Hotmail, or the customer
service desk of whichever service this person is using. I’d go ahead and do so,
but would keep my expectations very low. Free email services simply don’t
invest in a lot of customer service, and actual responses are very, very rare.
Make very sure that you are using the correct contact method, and that your
request is tagged as a report of abuse.
In addition to the normal customer service channels, I would also email
“abuse@” that service. That’s supposed to be a standard email address for
reporting system abuse like what you describe.
As to whether or not it’s punishable – there’s no way to know. It could be
in violation of the service provider’s terms of service, and in fact I would
hope so. But as we’ve seen, it’s nearly impossible to get the service
It could be illegal. Again, that may depend on many factors including
exactly where you and the other person are located, and the exact form of the
email abuse or harassment. It could even be considered a form of identity
theft, I suppose. The bottom line here is that there’s no way to know for sure,
without contacting law enforcement.
And if things are serious enough, then yes, that’s my next step. But once
again, I’d keep expectations low. Depending on where you are, cyber crime and
cyber harassment may simply not be a priority, or the agency may not be
knowledgeable about these issues. Hopefully they are, or can direct you to the
appropriate agency to deal with this.
The good news, if there is any in all this, is that the service providers
such as Yahoo, Hotmail and others, do respond to law enforcement.
But ultimately, as long as the problem is serious enough to warrant their
attention, taking legal action may be your only recourse. And even then, there
are no guarantees. My only advice is to remain persistent – but again, only if
the problem is serious enough to warrant it.