Cyberstalking is the use of technology to harass or pursue a victim. Stalkers may use social media, phone calls, email and text messages to threaten, intimidate or steal a victim’s information. Cyberstalkers are driven by anger, jealousy, hatred, revenge, infatuation, and obsession. Some suffer from mental illness while others have no clear motive. A cyberstalker can be a stranger but is most likely an ex, schoolmate, co-worker, someone with whom you’ve had an argument, a fan or possible love interest.
Cyberstalkers may cause trouble for their victims. Cyberstalking can include cyberbullying, which often happens between adolescents. Cyberstalking can include actions of a sexual nature.
The National Center for Victims of Crime has published a list of stalking facts.
- Cyberstalkers victimize 7.5 million people in the U.S. each year.
- 15% of women and 6% of men have been stalked.
- Most stalkers are known to the victim: 61% of female victims and 44% of male victims are stalked by current or former intimate partners; 25% of female victims and 32% of male victims are stalked by an acquaintance.
- 50% of victims indicate they were stalked before the age of 25.
- 1 in 8 stalking victims lose time from work as a result of stalking.
- 1 in 7 stalking victims move as a result of stalking.
- 2/3 of stalkers track their victims at least once per week.
- 78% of stalkers use more than one method of approach.
- Almost 1/3 of stalkers have stalked before.
- You can take simple precautions to protect yourself from cyberstalking.
- You should restrict access to your phone, computer, and other devices. Use strong passwords and change them often.
- Run a search on your name to see what information is available online.
- Ask friends and family not to post personal information on their social media accounts.
- Don’t announce travel plans or share where you will be at a certain date and time.
- Use screen names that are gender neutral.
- Use anti-virus, spyware and anti-tracking software on all devices.
- Never open attachments from unknown sources.
- Don’t give out personal information.
- Don’t get involved in online arguments.
- Set up separate email addresses for dating sites and social media accounts.
After the Fact
If you think you have been cyberstalked, act immediately. Call the local authorities.
- Change email accounts.
- Take all suspicions and threats seriously.
- Change your account passwords.
- Report any illegal activity.
- End contact with suspected cyberstalkers.
- Record and block phone numbers or emails used to contact you.
- Limit information on social media profiles.
- Reset privacy settings on internet browsers and programs.
- Delete online accounts if necessary.
- Inform family and friends of your suspicions.
- Be aware of any real-life stalking activity, including hang ups and missed calls or strange noises around your home.