Online stalking, also known as cyberstalking, is a serious crime that could lead to physical harm or fraud. You need to be fully aware of how internet stalking works and how you can protect yourself.
What is Online Stalking (Cyberstalking)?
The internet has made it easy for predators to easily stalk someone online and form inappropriate connections with adults and children while still remaining anonymous. Often these scammers pretend to be someone else (catfishing) or misrepresent their age, nationality, location, and gender.
In real life, stalking would be defined as the unwanted attention of someone. It might include phone calls, showing up at your home or work uninvited, following you, secret surveillance, texting, or posting on social media.
Online stalking may be even more pervasive because stalkers can remain anonymous and carry out so much online. Most people share way too much information online through social media, chat, forums, email, etc. It’s become a stalker’s playground with so many victims to choose from.
The goal of any stalker physically or online is to defraud, intimidate, harass, threaten, embarrass, or hurt their victims. Some online stalker’s motives are even darker, looking to groom children for sexual exploits, lure victims for theft or fraud, and even worse.
Common Internet Stalking Signs
Some common cyberstalking tactics that a stalker might engage in would be:
- Tracking someone’s GPS for their physical location.
- Use spyware to listen in on conversations, read texts, or email.
- Stalking them on social media, reading everything, and downloading pictures and videos from the victim and their connections.
- They may send you threatening messages through email, text messages and even hack your email account and send embarrassing messages to your friends and family.
- They may post embarrassing photos or videos of you or fake media to portray you incorrectly.
- You may receive threatening messages from a cyberstalker.
- They may also post rumors about you or make false accusations to humiliate you.
- They could use Google Maps to watch your home locations and visit you virtually.
- Some even use spyware on computers or security webcams to watch you in the privacy of your own home.
- They may pretend to be someone else through catfishing and get you to trust them.
- If you have geolocation turned on in social media, they could follow your whereabouts as you get together with friends and family.
Some online stalkers are merely using you for identity theft. If you post a lot online and have been the victim of a data breach, they could have enough information to take over some of your accounts or open new ones in your name.
How to Protect Yourself from Online Stalking?
Most online stalking victims are women, but you might be surprised to find that 20-40% of cyberstalking victims are men. Regardless of your gender, you need to know how to protect yourself from internet stalking.
Some tips to keep you safe are:
- Perform a complete background check on yourself to see what comes up. If you know what information is out there, then you can clean it up. Start with a Google search or use InfoTracer to pull a complete background check from all public records, forums, the dark web, and even social media.
- Go through each of your social media accounts and tighten up the security and privacy settings. You might not be aware of how much private information you are sharing with strangers and the world. Try not to overshare and limit the specific details of where you are and when. Be sure to turn off geolocation when posting to social media.
- Always use very strong passwords for all your accounts.
- Turn on two-factor authentication for all your accounts.
- Never share personal information, especially logins, with anyone you don’t know. Keep a close eye on your home address, social security number, phone number, email address, and passwords.
- Be careful when posting images or videos that have anything in them of value to a stalker such as your driver’s license sitting on the table next to you.
- Turn off geolocation for images and video.
- Never click a link in an email or text message.
- Do not reuse passwords on multiple accounts.
- Do not connect to public Wi-Fi without using a VPN. If you do connect, never use banking or credit card apps. Hackers use public Wi-Fi for man-in-the-middle attacks.
- Limit social media connections to only “real-life” friends and family.
- Be sure to educate your children on the dangers of cyberstalking and what to look out for them online.
- Contact public records offices to be sure your phone number and home address are not shared.
- Keep good antivirus software on all your devices.
What to Do if Someone is Stalking You Online?
Online stalking can be very scary and disturbing. If you are a victim, don’t wait; take the steps below immediately:
- Contact the police to report it. Keep everything; the police will need documentation and proof.
- If social media is used, report the stalking to the platform. You may also need to provide them with proof and details.
- Block your stalker by phone number, email, or social media profile.