What is Cyber Stalking?
Cyber stalking is when a person (or group) uses the internet to stalk or harass another. This can be through e-mail, chat rooms or any other form of electronic communication.
Where Does it Occur Most?
Most online harassment starts in the chat rooms. Because woman are still the minority of the internet population, (approximately 40%), the online chat rooms produce major competition among male users for female attention; (Kind of like a virtual meat market/singles bar). Other places users can become victims are message boards and Newsgroups (a virtual form of posting notes on a bulletin board) or e-mail.
Why is Cyber Stalking So Prevalent?
The experience of real-time online communications can be similar in effect to consumption of alcohol—the lowering of inhibitions and an increase in directness. Translation—any loser who doesn’t want to leave his coach can down a six-pack (or not) and have at it.
How Are You Targeted?
Just like any other predator, cyberstalkers look for an easy target. An online stalker is someone that wants to be in control. They look for victims that are “new to the internet” mostly females, children or those who are emotionally unstable. New users are easy to spot; they don’t know the chatroom lingo or have entered sites such as “Newbie chats” or the “getting started tour”. Stalkers will even go so far as hacking into victim’s internet profiles to get more information on their chosen targets. Showing vulnerability is also a “red flag” to a Stalker. Talking about feeling depressed, upset or abused in an open chat is a magnet for some predator to quickly pick up on. They usually start messaging you privately, offering words of comfort trying to lure you into a false sense of security.
How Cyber Stalking Generally Starts
Most cases of cyber stalking usually begins with either sexually harassing comments, a flame war (a back and forth argument that gets out of hand) or someone that has an extremely technical background and tries to show off by harassing internet users, busting into chat rooms, even networks. There is a distinction to make regarding this behavior: A cyber harasser is someone who commits these acts, but moves from victim to victim. The cyber stalker commits these acts but keeps coming back to the same victim. Both are obnoxious but the latter can turn quite dangerous.
AVOID Becoming a Victim of Cyber Stalking
Following the set up tips below can greatly reduce your risk of attracting a cyber stalker:
§ Never specify gender when registering for services online (i.e. C. Smith).
§ Never give out personal information through the internet unless you have thoroughly investigated the company (i.e. through simplesimon.com or other reliable information website).
§ Do not use your real name for your screen name or user ID.
§ Use a gender neutral screen name (yes, I know The Safety Chick is not gender neutral—but it is for business, not personal use).
§ Don’t share any personal information in online public spaces.
§ Change your passwords often (I know this can be a hassle, but better safe than sorry).
§ Do not sign or fill out guest books that are found on various websites throughout the cyber world.
§ Be extremely careful when sharing information about yourself online.
§ Never give out your work e-mail address for personal business (they can find out too much information about you that way; where you work, real name, etc…).
§ Avoid getting into arguments online, a.k.a. flame wars (stalkers or harassers love to pick an opposing view just to irritate another, don’t fall for their childish behavior, stop arguing or leave the chat room).
§ Remember, people who use the internet are strangers, treat them as you would a stranger you meet on the street (courteous yet careful).
§ Get out of a conversation with someone online that has become hostile or sexual; (log off or go to another chat room).
§ Don’t flirt online (let’s face it, in the real world flirting or making sexual advances with someone you don’t know or have never seen is risky; the cyber world is no different).
Cyber stalking and other internet crimes are very hard to prosecute. Law Enforcement has a tough time tracking these Cyber Criminals and the laws have not yet caught up to technology, but they need to be reported none the less. If you feel you are being cyber stalked, save ALL evidence and talk to local police for help.