Protection from Cyberstalking: Basic Advice
Generally, most people don’t think about cyberstalking until they are being harassed. Listed below are some basic steps that individuals can take, at any time, to minimize their risk of being cyberstalked. If you have fallen victim to a cyberstalker, some of these measures will reduce the likelihood that the behaviour continues.
Preventative measures* one can take:
- Choose a genderless screen name, and change it if necessary;
- Create a separate email account through a free service that is not tied to personal or work addresses, and is only used for online activity;
- Don't use your real name or nickname;
- Choose a complicated password that uses alpha and numeric characters, and is of no significance. Passwords should not be shared with anyone, and legitimate businesses will never prompt a user to give them their password;
- Protect your privacy by not publishing or talking about your real name, address, or other contact details. Set privacy options to the most restrictive possible;
- Change online routines, so that the stalker is not able to connect easily;
- Ignore unknown communications sent to you;
- Depending on level of threat, do not confront the aggressor. If the threat level is low, send a clear message that communication is unwanted. This will act as a benchmark for any future police investigations/legal proceedings. Once it has been sent, do not respond to any further communications;
- Use filters to remove unwanted communications, and block the user from interacting with you if possible (how to do this will vary by device, use manual or internet search for instructions);
- Stop using site or service (if possible);
- Do not post or give out personal information;
- Change passwords for all online points of contact, including email, IM, and social networks. If there is a risk that personal devices have been compromised, these changes should be made at a neutral site, such as a library;
- Don't have personal conversations in publicly viewable forums;
- Refrain from publicizing any plans (personal, vacation, travel, etc);
- Learn cyber etiquette (lingo, profile rules, etc) particular to the site being accessed;
- You can Google yourself to ensure no information is posted about you;
- If a situation becomes hostile log off and surf elsewhere;
- Keep a handwritten log of contacts from the cyberstalker, especially if there is a possibility that the computer/device has been compromised;
- DO NOT delete original messages. Save all harassing/unwanted messages, in soft and hard copy, this will be useful if reporting to authorities;
- Take screenshots of any harassing behaviours, especially those that are hard to log like video chats (how to do this will vary by device, use manual or internet search for instructions).
For more persistent harassment or escalating of the stalking behaviours or threats, or if the cyberstalking moves from the online world to direct, in person contact, please consult the fact sheet entitled “Reporting cyberstalking to the authorities”.
*These suggestions assume that there is no imminent danger of physical harm. If there is such a threat, the victim must attend to their personal safety, by contacting the police, with the addition of family, friends and other appropriate supports.
National Center for Victims of Crime. (2009). Stalking Safety Planning. Accessed on February 9, 2011 at http://www.ncvc.org/src/main.aspx?dbID=DB_Safety_Plan_GuideLines333.
Network Abuse Clearinghouse. (2008). Using abuse.net to report spam and other abuse, Accessed on February 9, 2011 at http://www.abuse.net/users.phtml. Last updated: May 16, 2008.
Southworth, C. et. al. (2005). A high tech twist on abuse: Technology, intimate partner stalking and advocacy. Accessed on February 9, 2011 at http://www.mincava.umn.edu/documents/commissioned/stalkingandtech/
stalkingandtech.html#id131035. Last updated: March 25, 2009.
Wired Kids, Inc. (2004). What is a quick list of safety tips to avoid cyberstalking/harassment?. Accessed on February 9, 2011 .
Wired Kids, Inc. (2004). What can you do to avoid becoming a victim of cyberstalking/harassment?. Accessed on February 9, 2011 .