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Harassment via email


Dealing with

Reading email headers

Complaining to a sender's ISP

Harassment menu


Serious harassment via email and cyberstalking should be reported to the sender's Internet Service Provider. Here's how.

Contacting an ISP about harassment

First you need to assess the level of harassment you're suffering (see previous page). If you went to court, would the judge say, "Yes, this behavior is not only unpleasant but breaks the law"? If you're sure this is the case, you can expect help from the sender's ISP. If you find the harassment unpleasant, but you're not sure it breaks the law (threats usually have to be involved) then you'll probably find the ISP less helpful.

But the messages you've received may still break the terms and conditions laid down by the ISP for its users, which gives you another angle. You can usually find these on the ISP's Web site, and if the harassment is mild but breaks these terms (they're known as T&C) it's worth quoting the section that's been broken to show you're serious and you've done your homework.

You may not get the action you're looking for, but your complaint might become part of a cumulative effect. When the ISP receives another complaint from a different source, they may then decide to act.

Busy bees

You may be used to receiving 20 emails a day, maybe 50. The person you're about to contact at an ISP probably gets hundreds a day, and deletes most of them after reading ten words.

Put yourself in the shoes of somebody who receives this enormous amount of mail. How do they want to be approached?

Well, basically, they don't want to be approached. So if your query is trivial it will be ignored.

If it's important, they want to know it's important within the first ten words, and they don't want any flannel, just the facts. Get this right and they'll feel grateful towards you. You've just increased your chances of a getting a result.

Here's an example of how to approach an ISP about harassment. You should check the ISP's Internet site to find the email address for complaints and legal queries. The majority have one these days. If there isn't one, try postmaster@the-isp-domain.


Email subject line: Serious harassment by one of your clients.


I am being seriously harassed by one of your clients.

Here is a full email header from the latest message I received on (date). The headers from the other (nine) messages I received show similar details.

[Insert copy of Full header, not abbreviated header or a cut version. Don't bother to point out the details. The person you're talking to can pick them out in a second.]

Here are extracts from messages I received from your client:

[Insert threatening/obscene passages from three separate messages, each dated.]

Could you please take action to prevent your client abusing your service in this fashion. Can you please also record your action and the details of your client, in case legal proceedings follow.

Thank you for your assistance. I am happy to forward the full messages to you if you request them.


There's a very good chance this email will inspire action. The people working at ISPs are decent human beings (I've met lots of them) with partners and children, and they don't like the idea of their service being abused by aggressive cranks. If you give them sufficient evidence, they'll stay late in the office just to get you a result.

Cutting off (what an appropriate expression!) the offender's ISP service is a good result. Most offenders will recognize that they've been identified and they'd better pack it in pronto. A warning from the ISP is also a decent result. Again, the offender will know they've been identified, which is crucial.

A few dumb ones who lose their account might get another one and continue. But there's nothing the police like more than being presented with a bunch of evidence (the emails you received) and an easy method of tracking down the offender (the original, helpful, ISP, which now has a record of its actions and the offender's details). It makes their eyes light up.

Avoiding the problem

Reading email headers

Dealing with harassment

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