Cyberstalking Dangers: How to Protect Yourself
No thanks to social media and other communication channels, cyberstalking activity is fast on the rise in the U.S. and around the world, prompting 38 states to implement legislation directly addressing cyberstalking activity. Given these trends, it’s more important now than ever before to protect yourself and your loved ones from dangerous individuals out on the Internet. Read on for a brief overview of cyberstalking’s risks and what you can do to avoid becoming a victim.
Real-life Risks of Cyberstalking
Cyberstalkers can have a variety of motivations that drive their unlawful activity. In some cases, they may simply be aiming to scare other individuals, rattling their confidence and security. Cyberstalking can serve as a form of bullying, especially among teens and other youth. But when cyberstalking is turned to in the aftermath of a failed relationship, it can increase the risk of domestic assault and other violence. Even kidnappings are a risk of this activity, and even if no physical contact is ever made, cyberstalkers may use these tactics to gather personal, confidential information about individuals and use this information to commit identity theft.
How Cyberstalkers Operate
Some instances of cyberstalking may seem harmless because of the sense of disconnect that can be created through online relationships, but experts say not to underestimate the effort a stalker will undertake in order to reach his victim. Furthermore, a study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry found that 85 percent of all stalkers—whether cyber-based or otherwise—suffer from some form of personality disorder. That means the mental processes and logic those individuals use might not be recognizable to people who haven’t had such mental health issues.
The actual tactics used by cyberstalkers can depend on their motives. In many cases, cyberstalkers can appear friendly and seek to build a relationship. Over time, they will gradually push for their victims to be more open regarding private information—this is especially true when trying to commit identity theft. But cyberstalkers can also be very aggressive, sending harassing messages all throughout the day in hopes of strong-arming their victim into the kind of behavior they are seeking. Because so many different strategies can be used, it’s sometimes difficult to tell when cyberstalking activity is occurring. As a result, the best bet is to take a preventative, cautious approach.
Prevent Cyberstalking and Protect Your Family
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, individuals should always avoid interacting with people who are strangers online, and they should never share personal information under any circumstances. Never agree to meet a stranger in real life, or if you do, never meet them by yourself. If interactions become hostile at any point, cease communications and consider reporting the individual to local authorities.
If illegal activity is an issue, consider protecting your personal information by enlisting the services of a fraud monitoring service such as LifeLock, which can pick up on stolen identities as soon as illegal activity starts. Know the privacy and rights of use policies for the various social networks and other communication platforms you use, and report any individuals who violate these policies. And if you continue to be harassed, consider contacting your cyberstalker’s Internet service provider about the activity—these companies have the power to cut off service to individuals that violate proper use and the ISP’s terms of service.
About the Author: Anne Scott
Anne is a stay at home mom who is obsessed with health and nutrition. She sells her own healthy snacks as a side business.