The internet and technology in general provides people with so many wonders, but they can also put people in danger as well. Catfishing, online predators, hackers, and cyberbullying are just some of those threats. However, the most dangerous of all can not only happen online but offline as well, This threat is known as cyberstalking. To learn all about this online threat, continue reading our guide below.
What Is Cyberstalking?
Cyberstalking is when someone uses the internet to harass or stalk a person, company, or group online. These online criminals use tactics including making threats, defamation, and using slander to intimidate their cyberstalking victims. They may also seek to gather the personal information of their victims (home address, email, phone number, etc.) so they can commit physical stalking or identity theft.
Cyberstalking usually begins harmlessly on social media sites, forums, or private instant messaging apps. After some time, the messages become negative, intrusive, and possibly threatening. When this occurs, it’s advised that all communications stop and you report the person online (if possible).
What To Do When Someone Is Cyberstalking You
Avoid Sharing Personal Information
If you believe someone is stalking you online, avoid sharing any personal information with them or on your social network accounts. This includes your full name, where you live, email address, name of your pets, phone number, credit card numbers, and more. Cyberstalkers can use this information against you through threats or by stealing your identity.
Keep All Of Your Devices Updated
To protect your devices from being hacked by cyberstalkers, always keep them updated. Usually, new updates come out to fix a vulnerability of a previous software version. If your devices are outdated, hackers may be able to infiltrate them by exploiting software flaws.
Manage Your Passwords Wisely
If cyberstalkers obtain personal information about you, they may be able to guess your passwords. To protect your account, change your passwords to a random combination of 12+ characters and store them in a password manager. Legitimate password managers like LastPass safely secure passwords to protect them from online criminals..
Use Online Privacy Settings
To secure all of your online accounts and devices, utilize any privacy settings they have. This may include fingerprint scanning, face ID, two-factor authentication, security questions, account recovery options, and more.
Block & Report Person
If the cyberstalking is occurring within a social media or messaging app, you can block and report the person. Depending on the app, you can provide additional information to the platform to explain more about your case. Once a person is blocked and reported, they cannot contact you again with that account. However, it does not prevent them from creating another account and contacting you that way.
Call Local Law Enforcement
If the cyberstalking is escalating to the point you are afraid for yourself or your loved ones, contact local law enforcement. Often, cyberstalking cases lead to offline stalking. Make sure to gather all documentation and communications to demonstrate your case to local police.
Is Cyberstalking Illegal?
There are state and federal laws that help combat cyberstalkers. On the federal level, a cyberstalker could face a fine of up to $250,000, and up to five years in prison. This type of charge can only occur when they communicate an intent to injure another person. For state laws, you will need to check your state government as cyberstalking laws differ. For example in California, those accused of cyberstalking could be charged with a felony or misdemeanor, and face a fine of up to $1000 (under Penal Code 646.9)
Famous Cases of Cyberstalking
Loren M. Okamura from Hawaii was accused of cyberstalking and tormenting a woman and her father in Utah. The cyberstalking all began after the woman ended her relationship with Okamura. From 2018 to August 2019, he sent repeated threats to the woman and her family. For example, he sent an email saying to “sleep with one eye open”. Online on Craigslist, he posted photos of the woman and her address, and posted multiple ads saying they were interested in drugs and prostitutes. Due to these ads, more than 80 unwanted service calls and 500 unwanted visitors came to the woman’s home.
Starting in June 2015, Kassandra Cruz became obsessed with an 18-year-old who did pornography. Cruz first created fake social media profiles posing as U.S. Marine Giovanni and friended the woman on social media. Cruz liked and commented on the woman’s images along with those of her friends. Eventually, Cruz’s fake accounts were blocked.
Once this occurred, things escalated. Cruz harassed and made violent threats toward the victim and her friends and family. She threatened to expose the victim’s pornography history unless they paid $100,000. Besides this, Cruz also made 900+ phone calls and texts to the victim’s personal and work phones. After the FBI intervened, Cruz was finally caught and was sentenced to 22 months in prison.
That is all the essential information about cyberstalking. It’s an online threat not to take lightly. As an online user, take the necessary precautions such as not messaging with strangers online and not sharing personal information about yourself.