Cyberstalking generally involves using electronic communication to harass, disturb, threaten, pursue, intimidate, or “follow” someone against their will, without their permission and to the detriment (whether it be psychological, emotional or physical) of the victim(s) in question.
In general, such pursuits are illegal but it is not always easy to tell without someone suspected of being a cyber stalker has committed a crime. In fact, some of the things cyber stalkers do (bullying, cyber bullying, send gifts, write emails, etc.) are not, per se, illegal but, if the person informs the individual that he/she does not wish to receive such attention, then, if the individual does not stop, then it may be considered cyber stalking.
Who’s a Victim of Cyber Stalking?
Anyone can become a victim or cyberstalking. When the words “bullying” or “cyber bullying” are used, however, it generally refers to the victims being children—more specifically students of private or public schools.
Cyber stalking, however, can touch anyone, including adults. Children, however, are popular victims. Other people who might be victims of cyberstalking include:
- Disabled persons
- The elderly
- People who spend a lot of time on the Internet
- People who’ve attempted to break up with someone or divorce them
- Employers (by fired ex-employees)
- People who know or have been introduced to or who have worked with mentally ill individuals (who often form unhealthy or abnormal obsessions or liking for someone else).
Some Other Important Facts to Know about CyberStalking
While this list is not exhaustive, the following 25 facts should be kept in mind if developing safety programs, establishing prevention strategies or simply conducting research into cyberstalking:
1. There are generally three types of cyber stalking:
- Cyber Stalking (generally involving fear or threats)
- Cyber Harassment (being more of a nuisance)
- Cyber Bullying (generally involving children or students)
2. Every state has or is working to have laws on the books addressing cyberstalking. In most states, there are already laws pertaining to stalking—when possible, these are used to prosecute offenders but, because of the special nature of Internet crimes, special laws are needed.
3. You should check to see what statutes or laws apply in your state; you can do this by doing a routine search engine search.
4. Cyber stalking can involve humiliation and embarrassment, in addition to harassment.
5. Cyber stalkers have been known to hurt people financially, such as by tampering with their accounts or trying to ruin their credit.
6. Cyber stalkers can also go after friends, family and acquaintances of victims.
7. Social media is a potential place to pick up or run into a cyber stalker.
8. It is best not to show/display fear to stalkers since this is what they may be after.
9. Cyber stalkers can be dangerous—they can turn out to be serial killers, child molesters, or psychotic individuals—yet another reason to take cyberstalking seriously.
10. Although the term cyberstalking is fairly new, the concept of “stalking” has been around for a long time.
11. Most countries, not just the US, are scrambling to deal with the headaches of cyberstalking.
12. Be careful of what computers you use—especially if they are public computers. You may unwittingly give cyber stalkers the information they need to start a harassment campaign against you.
13. Cyberstalking is a form of social terrorism—accordingly, it’s expected that laws dealing with this crime will become more and more stringent and merciless.
14. Clean out your computers and mobile electronic devices before donating, selling or getting rid of them; the information you leave in them can become crucially important in protecting your privacy, identity and peace of mind.
15. In spite of the fact that cyber stalking is a “virtual” crime, there is nothing virtual about it—it’s real and it’s as dangerous as any other type of on-the-streets crime.
16. Not all cyber stalkers are mentally ill or psychotic—some of them just want to get even with someone or they may want to get something out of the victim. These latter stalkers are, accordingly, committing several different types of crimes in addition to blatant harassment.
17. Although it’s difficult to prosecute cyber stalking, authorities do take the crime seriously—in fact, communities are adding departments only to deal with cyber crime. The law enforcement officers manning these jobs are especially trained in these new technologies.
18. Contrary to popular opinion, cyber stalking is never “victim-less” or a white collar crime. Every victim of cyber crime is negatively affected, often in the same way other crimes would have affected them.
19. In spite of law enforcement activities, cyber stalking is getting worse.
20. When you know or experience directly cyber stalking, you must report it. Only by reporting it can you put a dent in this horrible source of crime.
Cyberstalking is a very complicated type of crime. Persons who want to improve safety on the Internet or activate better prevention programs, need to contact organizations working to make the Internet safer.
Additionally, you can contact local politicians and, by letting them know how you feel, compel them to pass tougher, more stringent and more meticulously enforced laws. Society needs to keep up with what’s happening on the Internet—this includes the negative things happening therein.