You’ve probably had first-hand experience with a significant other who is needy, dependent and increasingly obsessive about your relationship. This type of person may call or text several times a day, visit without warning and even show up at work. The attention can seem flattering at first, but it can soon progress to compulsive stalking and sometimes even violence.
The Internet Makes Stalking Easier
With so much of our lives taking place online, we’re exposed to more and more strangers. Obsessing over a casual love interest is no longer limited to individuals we actually know; it can be sparked by a picture on Instagram or a social media post. Many people with sexual disorders troll the internet looking for victims and they may go to great lengths to discover someone’s real-life identity. It is also easier for casual acquaintances to track you down online and attempt to communicate inappropriately.
Anyone who follows you obsessively on the internet, even after you’ve made it clear you’re not interested, is called a cyber stalker. Online stalking can be just as emotionally damaging and dangerous as physical stalking. Victims feel exposed and threatened and they are not sure how far the stalker will go. Cyber stalkers can also be physically dangerous. Some criminals may gather enough identifying details to track down their victims in person. Others may hack into private accounts and release sensitive personal data.
Avoid Becoming a Victim
At ReputationDefender, our privacy packages help to protect against cyber stalking and other online threats. We assist clients with internet security and run regular privacy audits to check for vulnerabilities. Cyber stalking can happen to anyone, so victims shouldn’t feel they are at fault. However, some behaviours - especially on social media and online dating sites - will make you an easier target.
Follow these six guidelines to avoid becoming a victim of cyber stalking:
· Don’t share your last name on dating sites. — Some fulfilling relationships do begin online, but this doesn’t change the fact that there are a lot of people on these sites for the wrong reasons. You’ll be much harder to find under a pseudonym.
· Don’t share your phone number. — Choose the option not to share your phone number any time it’s available. Even if the site doesn’t post the number publicly, adding it will make you easier to trace.
· Don’t share personal details with someone you’ve only met online. — It’s fun to message new friends online, but many seemingly harmless details can be used to identify you. People aren’t always who they say they are on the internet.
· Never share location details. — Don’t post about your physical location on social media and avoid sharing pictures that include a geo-location tag. This will just make it easier for a stalker to find you.
· Use the‘Friends Only’ settings on Facebook. — You don’t need a public Facebook page, unless it’s a professional career-based profile. Keep your personal page private.
· Use Strong Passwords. — Choose algorithmically generated passwords whenever possible as these will be harder to guess. Change your password regularly.
If you’ve inadvertently encouraged a cyber stalker, don’t be afraid to get help. Talk to friends and family about the situation. Set up regular check-in times so someone will know right away if you’re in trouble.
If the stalker posts pictures or videos of you, or threatens you in any way, make sure to contact the police immediately.