Cyberstalking & Harassment

What is Cyberstalking?

Cyberstalking is a new term referring to online harassment. Cyberstalkers are just like physical stalkers, except they stalk through the Internet and email rather than in a face to face environment. Many people are victims of cyberstalking every day, and the crime seems to be on the rise. It is very important to recognize cyberstalking so that you can stop it from happening to you and if it does, know what to do about it. Cyberstalking can occur through chat rooms, message boards, online dating sites, email, instant message applications, and social networking websites. In many instances, stalking that begins online may translate to off-line stalking involving things such as phone calls and property vandalism.

How to Avoid Cyberstalking

To avoid potentially becoming a victim of cyberstalking, there are several different steps you can take to protect yourself. Never release your real name online, you can create a pen name to be known by so that your friends know you and stalkers can't figure it out. Don't release your phone number, address, or any other sensitive information online.

If you think you are possibly being cyberstalked, start encrypting your email, use a P.O Box address online, change your number to an unlisted number, create user names that provide no clues to who you are, what you do, or any of your interests and affiliations, and change your passwords frequently—being sure to create passwords that are nonsensical to others.

What to Do if You are Being Cyberstalked

If you are a minor, the first thing you need to do is tell your parents. They will be able to help you take the steps you need to in order to stop the cyberstalker.

One time and one time only, victims should clearly communicate to the cyberstalker that communications should cease. Do not threaten the stalker, and if messages continue, do not respond to them. Make sure to keep copies of all communications—online and in print. If possible, record all dates and times the stalker has communicated with you.

File complaints with your internet service provider along with the internet service provider the stalker uses. The companies may have tools to help block all communications from the stalker.

Contact online directories to request your information be removed. Change your online identities with instant messengers, email accounts, dating services, social networking sites and message boards. If necessary, change your telephone number.

Start using privacy and encryption software to protect your computer from attacks and protect your communications. There are many local stores that will be able to provide you with the tools you need to accomplish this.

The most important thing to remember is that you should never meet the cyberstalker in person, because a face to face meeting could result in a very dangerous situation.

Cyberstalking Laws and Resources

Because Cyberstalking is still a relatively new phenomenon, there is little legislation that regulates the crime. Even still, there are laws and regulations in place designed to protect cyber crime victims while still protecting the rights of “netizens”--internet citizens.

CC Most Wanted is a website dedicated to cyber crime awareness and prevention.

The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) provides a list of cyberstalking laws for each state.

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