Stalking and harassment have always existed, but since the growth of the internet, it has become easier for those who carry it out to do so either as an extension of their existing activities, or purely online. This persistent and frequent unwanted contact from another individual is highly undesirable and the outcome to either male or female victims is at best, discomfort and annoyance, and at worst severe distress and mental trauma.
Cyberstalkers can be either strangers or people you know (sometimes ex-partners), and there are many different motives. The more determined or obsessive stalkers become, the more likely they are to move from one online channel to another until your online presence is fully intruded upon. They commonly obtain their information about you via your online details of personal and financial affairs, relationships, social and work life and your location.
- Ensure only the minimum information about you is available online.
- Take stalking seriously and report it before it has serious effects on you and others.
- Identity theft – having your credentials controlled
- Having your online accounts being taken over
- Having your contact details obtained and used
- Location and tracking of you by GPS on mobiles, tracker devices or spyware on phones
- Having false profiles posted on social networking and other sites
- Having malicious websites, blogs and social networking sites created about you
- Impersonation of you being used to stalk others, positioning you as the guilty party
- Being discredited in social media and other online communities
- Being discredited in your place of work
- Receiving direct threats through email/instant messaging
- Stalking or harassment of your relatives, friends or colleagues (on average a stalker will contact 21 people connected to the victim)
- Use of your image
- Others being provoked to attack you
- Escalation to physical violence
- The stalker taking over your online accounts
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Protect yourself against cyberstalking:
- Review what online information exists about you and keep it to a minimum
- Regularly change your email and passwords for key online accounts and keep them safe
- Review all your privacy and security settings
- Avoid public forums
- Ensure that your computer and mobile devices have updated antispyware software installed and turned on
- Ensure your wireless hub/router has security turned on.
- Unless you are using a secure web page, do not send or receive private information when using public WiFi
- Limit the personal and financial information you share on or offline
- Educate friends, family and work colleagues into the risks
In cases of cyberstalking:
- In cases where the offender is known, send the stalker a clear written warning saying the contact is unwanted and asking that the perpetrator cease sending communications of any kind. Do this only once, and do not communicate with the stalker again (Ongoing contact usually only encourages the stalker to continue the behavior).
- Save copies of all communication from the stalker (e.g., emails, threatening messages, messages via social media), and document each contact, including dates, times and additional circumstances, when appropriate.
- File a complaint with the stalker’s internet service provider (ISP) and yours. Many ISPs offer tools that filter or block communications from specific individuals.
- Own your online presence. Set security and privacy settings on social networks and other services to your comfort level of sharing.
- Consider changing your email address and ISP; use encryption software or privacy protection programs on your computer and mobile devices. (You should consult with law enforcement before changing your email account. It can be beneficial to the investigation to continue using the email account so law enforcement can also monitor communication.)
- File a report to National Police Agency or speak with our Legal experts to get advice.