First and foremost never use your personal, corporate, or law enforcement email address for online investigations and intelligence gathering. We will explain why later. Gmail is the best option as it takes away your email header information and that will help you to hide your actual location, IP, and computer being used to conduct the intelligence gathering.

Setting up an Account

Getting started on Gmail is pretty straightforward. First, you must create an account.

One of the most important things about setting up your email is to use a fake persona. Or you might be duplicating the profile of another person so you will want to use a name that corresponds with the subject’s profile.

Once you’ve jumped that hurdle, the rest of your setup should be easy. Google will ask for a backup email address to send password information, in case you ever forget it. You’ll also need to give a phone number, but I have yet to receive any calls or texts from Google. So in this case use a prepaid phone such as net10, Verizon or ATT.

If you don’t already have a Gmail account, you’re likely not familiar with a lot of the terms that come with it. In order to understand some of the tips below, here’s a basic overview of Gmail vocabulary for reference throughout this guide.

  • Labels – A Gmail label is basically the same as an email folder, but each email is able to exist within multiple labels.
  • Filters – A filter is a setting that automatically applies specific tasks to an email before it even lands in your inbox. With filters, you can automatically apply labels, forward messages, archive or delete emails.
  • Stars – Stars are like labels, but you can only apply them once. Starred emails get pushed to the top of your inbox, marked as priorities.
  • Google+ – When asked to update your profile, or to customize your account with a photo, you must sign up for a Google+ account. It’s not required, but Google syncs all of its products, so you’ll need to join the social network to have a profile.
  • Chat – You can instant message contacts using your Gmail account. The Google application is called Gchat.
  • Hangout – This video chat feature also requires a Google+ account. If you want to video chat, it’s called “Starting a Hangout.” Both parties must have Google+ profiles and webcams to participate in a Hangout.

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