Are You a Victim of Cyberstalking?
Everyone should feel secure when using the internet. If you have been having uncomfortable encounters online with the same person or set of people, it’s important to take safe steps to determine exactly what is going on and how your problem could be resolved. Might you be the victim of cyberstalking?
What is Cyberstalking?
This particular type of online crime is actually a lot more widespread and varied than you might first expect. The typical assumption is that a cyberstalker is an individual who harasses their victim using constant public or private messages on social media platforms or forums as well as over email.
While this is one real and distressingly common form that the crime may take, there are numerous other activities that fall under the umbrella of cyberstalking – many of which often occur alongside one other.
So what makes a person a cyberstalker, and what can be done to stop them? Here are some possible experiences that a victim of cyberstalking may have, and a few suggestions of what to do if it’s happening to you.
They Keep Finding You
A possible sign that you are being stalked is that the person you suspect continues to “pop up” on all the sites you use online. They may or may not try to engage with you, but if you feel that their presence there is getting beyond coincidental, it may be worth taking care. It may, of course, be completely innocent – the individual may just have extremely similar interests to you.
They’ve Stolen Your Information
Identity theft is recognised as a separate crime, but it can also play a part in cyberstalking. Whether your stalker is signing you up for endless online newsletters – however benign their content may seem – or purchasing goods or services in your name, perhaps to be delivered to your home or office, this can count as an offence. They don’t have to use your bank details or any other financial information – it can be something as simple as your name and address.
You Think They Might Be Watching or Following You
Personal information might also include your daily routine or events in your calendar. If you “Check Into” a location on Facebook only to find the individual in question turning up at the same place a short time later, or you show that you are “Interested In” upcoming events advertised on the platform and just keep running into them there each time, you might start to get suspicious that they are using your online activity to work out where you’ll be at certain times, whether in order to interact with you or simply surveille you. This is another very unnerving possible aspect of cyberstalking.
Image credit: River Online
They Threaten to Sabotage Your Reputation, Or Actually Do So
Two powerful and highly illegal tools that many cyberstalkers use are sabotage and blackmail. If an individual is motivated by the idea of revenge, or the wish to “teach a lesson”, they may simply go ahead and use information or media they have collected against the subject of their malice. This could include emailing the subject’s employers, family members, loved ones or clients.
The material they use does not need to be factual – it could be as simple as a rumour they have created. Otherwise, they may collect compromising information, images or video of you and threaten to use it in this way if you do not do what they want. Again, this material may not truly exist.
They’re Sending You Viruses
If your computer or device is constantly becoming infected with malware – despite your best efforts to ensure that it is properly protected and visit only the safest sites – and you’re starting to suspect that a particular individual is to blame, that person could be convicted of cyberstalking if you have a way to prove it.
As with regular stalking, a common factor is that the individual may wish to take ownership of their actions and make sure you know who is behind your distress so that they can see how they are affecting you.
If you have received communications from a person claiming to behind any viruses or spam you have received, keep a record of it and be sure to use it when reporting the incident to the police.
It’s Not Just One Person
If you are experiencing personal online attacks from a group of people, it’s important to first establish what started it. The individuals in the group may already be making themselves vulnerable to prosecution for online harassment or – in certain circumstances – hate speech, but if they were encouraged to treat you this way by another individual, that person could definitely be considered a cyberstalker by law. Tricking others into behaving in a threatening or bullying manner towards an individual is illegal.
What To Do Next
If you know of a person who displays any of the above behaviours, the first step is to start keeping a clear record of what they are doing, when, and if anyone else is involved. You should also consult a lawyer straight away if you are intending to report the individual to the police and press any charges.
Legal specialists like DPP Law will be able to offer you any advice and guidance you require, and will also be able to represent you in court. For further information and help, call them today on 0333 200 5859.