While social media opens up a world where we can easily stay connected with family and friends, it can also be misused and abused as a tool to control and instill fear.
Cyberstalking is the act of following someone online or through electronic communication to intimidate, harass or frighten. Often, the cyberstalker is someone you know; typically, it’s an ex-intimate partner, colleague or acquaintance.
What makes cyberstalking more dangerous is the potential for the stalking to move offline. As a result, victims may experience abusive and excessive phone calls, vandalism to their property, threatening or obscene emails, trespassing by the stalker at their home or workplace, and/or assault.
There are ways to protect yourself if you’re stalked online. Here are five steps you can take:
- Don’t engage. The aim of the stalker is often to connect with you to build a relationship. Therefore, refrain from responding, never agree to meet, and don’t confront them about the stalking.
- Be careful accepting friend or connection requests on social media. Even if you block a stalker, they can create a fake profile to connect with you online. Only accept requests from people you know.
- Report it to the police. If the threats and unwanted messages have escalated, don’t hesitate to contact the police. If you don’t feel safe contacting the police, here are other steps you can take.
- Document everything. Keep track of all the messages your stalker has sent. Be sure to include information about their online profiles.
- Build up your online security. Your abuser can collect information about you online, so refrain from sharing personal information (e.g. locations, where you work, pictures of your house or car, and even while you’re on vacation). Use strong passwords and delete or change the name of your social media profiles if you suspect your stalker is impersonating you or hacking into your accounts.