Cyberstalking Awareness and Prevention.
Recently I found myself preparing to speak on a panel related to domestic violence and the Internet. As part of this presentation I researched the most common computer crimes related to DV. Obviously cyberstalking is the big one. Here are some thoughts related to cyberstalking prevention and victim tips. As always, this is not meant to be advice, this is food for thought.
Although I’m writing about cyberstalking prevention I’ll list some other ways to be safe as well. Most stalking cases involve an ex-intimate so I focused on this type of stalker. So to the nuts and bolts of it:
- Recognize the warning signs that your intimate has violence, control, or other issues that are going to make terminating the relationship difficult. Frequently we miss the behavioral clues people display indicating their emotional state. If there is history of violence or control prepare yourself for the worst.
- Make sure the ex knows the relationship is over and you want no further contact. Document the conversationin some form or have a witness with you if the conversation is over the phone. After you have this difficult but final conversation you should not contact your ex again. I think any further contact could muddy your message. WARNING, when the ex realizes the relationship is truly over this can become a very dangerous time for the victim. Ex’s can transition from MONITORING the situation to REVENGE. Be prepared and aware.
- Prepare for the bad behavior before it starts. This includes changing the door locks, removing all the hide a keys, change the alarm codes, tell your neighbors, coworkers, friends, online friends, and family about your situation and tell them to let you know if they see your ex around or hear from your ex. Park your car in secure garages in view of the security cameras. Change your passwords to all accounts and consider changing your email addresses. Wipe your hard drive with a free tool like DBAN and reinstall your operating system on your computer. Change your cell phone account if you were sharing a plan with the former intimate. Keep your social networking accounts as private as possible and use an alias instead of you real name.
- Be aware of your surrounding. Pay attention to changes in your online accounts. Has email been read that you did not read? Has someone tried to access you online accounts from a computer you do not recognize? Don’t be that person who friends everyone and their mother on social networking sites, no strangers including people you have never met in person. Your ex could pose as a stranger who has similar interests as you just to see who you are talking to and where you are at?
- Keep a journal of inappropriate behavior by your ex-intimate and report the crime of stalking to the police as soon the offense has occurred. Also note which email addresses, usernames, Internet Service Provider, IP addresses and social networking sites your ex used in the past. Keep a folder with all of the evidence of your ex’s unwanted contacts. This could include screen captures of online activity, chat logs, text messages, emails (including the email header), and phone calls left on your voicemail. Always note the date and time as well and how the contact made you feel. This can help you articulate why you need to be issued a stay away order later. Victims who are continually harassed should consider changing their phone numbers, all email addresses, and Internet Service Provider.
- Think like the stalker. How could someone who knows where you live, work, play, eat, sleep, where your friends and family live, where you go online, shop, keep track of you. Check you online footprint. Go to sites like Zaba search, Pipl, and Spokeo to see what information is out there about you. Google your name, address, phone numbers, etc. If any sites have your information contact them and ask them to remove it. Document the conversations with their legal compliance departments.
Be strong and protect yourself.
Read the related blog, Cyberstalking awareness, 5 tech tool stalkers are using.