I have yet to have someone stalk me online.  I do happen to know people who have some how obtained a “cyberstalker” in there life.  I don’t think it was intentional.  I found a report on About.com that explains what cyberstalking is.  Because I know a few people who have problems with cyberstalkers/cyberbullies I decided to report about my find.

First things first.  What is Cyberstalking?  Cyberstalking is a technologically-based “attack” on one person who has been targeted specifically for that attack for reasons of anger, revenge or control.  Now that is pretty intimidating just reading that.  People go out of there way out of anger, revenge or control to attack someone via the internet.  Having that much hatred for a person is unhealthy and dangerous.  The people I know who are being cyberstalked have honestly done nothing wrong to deserve the attention they are getting from these people who so desperately want to hurt and punish them, for basically NO reason.  It sickens me to think that there are people out there who will take time and effort to harass someone to no end. 

Cyberstalking can take many forms, including: harassment, embarrassment and humiliation of the victim, emptying bank accounts or other economic control such as ruining the victim’s credit score, harassing family, friends and employers to isolate the victim, scare tactics to instill fear and more.  Now thats quite a few horrible things to obsessively want to inflict on a person.  I am not saying that everyone is innocent who is burdened with a cyberstalker.  Just the ones I know. 

The term can also apply to a “traditional” stalker who uses technology to trace and locate their victim and their movements more easily.  Like accessing someones Facebook or Myspace to find out certain information regarding an upcoming event or plan that is going to take place in the targets life. 

Do not get confused with identity theft.  Cyberstalking and identity theft are not the same   An identity thief, whether stealing from a stranger or a family member, has a very specific goal in mind — financial gain. Identity thieves are unconcerned by the consequences of their behavior on the victim’s life, whereas the actions of a cyberstalker are deliberate and focused on the consequences to the victim.

I am also including in this 12 tips to protect your self from cyberstalking

#1. Never reveal your home address. This rule is especially important for women who are business professionals and very visible. You can use your work address or a rent a private mailbox. Just don’t have your home address readily available.  I would think that is common knowledge not to reveal your address or any personal information TO ANYONE unknown over the net.

#2. Password protect all accounts including cell phones, land lines, e-mails, banking and credit cards with a secure password that would be difficult for anyone to guess. Change it every year. Your secret questions should not be easily answered either. Former VP candidate Sarah Palin’s secret “reminder” questions were so easy to answer that a cyberstalker was easily able to gain access to her email accounts.  Well I am 2 for 2 this far.

#3 .Conduct an internet search using your name and phone number – be sure that there is nothing out there that you are not aware of. A cyberstalker may have created a craigslist account, web page or blog about you. Only you can stay on top of how your name is being used online.

#4. Be suspicious of any incoming emails, telephone calls or texts that ask you for your identifying information. The “Caller ID Spoof” can mimic your bank’s caller ID. It is very easy for a cyberstalker posing as a banking representative, utility, credit card representative or your cell phone provider to obtain your personal private information. If you are suspicious hang up and call the institution directly to be sure that you were not a target of a cyberstalker.  In alot of states you can hang up on the suspicious call and immediately dial *57 and it will trace you last call.  After 3 calls you can have it investigated by your phone service provider.

#5. Never give out your Social Security Number unless you are absolutely sure of who is asking for it and why. With your “social” as they call it in the business, a cyberstalker now has access to every part of your life.  Honestly I almost didn’t post this one because I hope most if not all know this.

#6. Utilize stat counters or other free registry counters that will record all incoming traffic to your blogs and web sites. With a stat counter you can identify who is viewing your site or blog easily because the registry records the IP address, date, time, city, state and internet service provider. It is useful for marketing and it also provides a very valuable safeguard in the event that your web site or blog is targeted.  Very helpful to those who run a forum with people being targeted.

#7. Check your credit report status regularly, especially if you’re a business professional or individual who is in the public eye. Do this at least two times per year, especially if you feel that you may have a reason to be concerned. You can request a free copy of your credit once a year directly from the credit bureaus. It is worth the additional cost to pay for it the second time. Go directly to each bureau; you will not damage your credit rating if you obtain a copy directly from the bureaus. Avoid paying third parties to obtain copies of the report because often the third parties charge more than what the credit bureaus charge and you’ll end up on another mailing list.  I think that should be done regularly regardless.  To many criminals out there these days to be ignorant  about your credit.

#8. If you are leaving a partner, spouse or boyfriend or girlfriend – especially if they are abusive, troubled, angry or difficult – reset every single password on all of your accounts to something they cannot guess. Inform your bank and credit companies that this person is not allowed to make any changes to your accounts no matter what the reason. Even if you are reasonably certain that your former partner is “okay,” this is a good practice for moving forward on your own. It is also a good idea to get a new cell phone and credit card that the ex doesn’t know about. Make these changes before you leave if you can.  That is kind of a given when leaving an abuser.

#9. If you encounter something suspicious – a weird phone call or an emptied account that can’t be explained by your bank – it could be a cyberstalker so act accordingly. Change all your accounts, and ideally change banks. Check your credit report. Note anything else that appears strange. If you have more than one or two “strange” incidents per month, it’s possible you are a target.  I would report it to your bank and the proper authorities immediately.  You can never be to cautious in a situation like this.

#10. If you think you’re a target, have your PC checked by a professional. If you are already experiencing cyberstalking incidents, your computer may already be compromised. Have someone in the know check it for spyware and other viruses.  Some company’s do it for free or little cost.

#11. If you think you have a cyberstalker, move fast. Lots of people don’t take action because they think they’re “crazy” or imagining things. Record incidents – time, place, event. Victims of repeated attacks tend to become paralyzed with fear. Meanwhile, cyberstalkers often get such a rush off the first “attack” that it encourages them to keep going. The faster you take action and block their ability to hurt or harass you, the sooner they lose interest in their project.  Like I said you can never be to cautious in a situation like this. 

#12. Get lots of emotional support to handle the cyberstalking period and to deal with the aftermath. It is normal to feel high levels of distrust and paranoia after a cyberstalking encounter. A lot of people will not want to deal with someone with a cyberstalker; it puts them at risk. You may feel isolated and alone. The best thing I did was learn to keep reaching out until I found the brave people who helped me put my life back together. Having support was what got me through but I had to fight for every bit of it.  No one wants to go against a crazed person alone.

It’s a shame we cant do more to protect ourselves from cyberstalkers.  There needs to be laws implemented to protect people who are being stalked, targeted and harassed over the internet.  I like the way the author put it when she stated  “for now, you are a pioneer. Like the Wild West, it’s every man, woman and child for themselves when it comes to cyberstalking”.

Be careful out there, its a wide open vast universe on the net and there are many people willing to harm you at any moment.  Utilize your mind and make yourself less of a target by protecting you and your identity.

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