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How to Avoid Becoming a Victim of Cyberstalking

Wednesday, April 20th, 2016

Guest Blogger Cassie Phillips

About the Author: Cassie Phillips is an internet security blogger who enjoys writing about tech news, online security and data privacy. She hopes you’ll use and share these tips to protect yourself and your loved ones from cyberstalking.

Cassie Phillips

Cassie Phillips

 

 

 

 

 

cyberstalking

Protect Yourself From Cyberstalking

Most of us want to feel safe in everything we do. Whether it’s the drive to work, a healthy bike ride, shopping at the store or even using the internet, we feel better if safety isn’t an immediate concern. There’s nothing more disconcerting than trying to use social media and finding out someone is creepily stalking everything you say and do.

It can get worse than just reading and following your posts. Some people use social media to follow you in the real world, which can lead to a list of problems, including:

 

  • Harassment, both in person and online
  • Physical threats
  • Bullying and cyberbullying
  • Actual assault

While not all instances develop into the worst-case scenario, cyberstalking always leads to a loss of productivity and sense of well-being for the individual. As a free person, you neither deserve to be the victim of such crimes, nor should you accept it as inevitable. There are things you can do to reduce the likelihood that you become a victim, depending on what stage of stalking, if any, you’re at.

Recognizing the Problem

Before you can treat the problem, you first need to understand the causes and symptoms of the issue. To that end, you might find yourself wondering what exactly constitutes cyberstalking and how to identify the early signs. These are crucial elements in keeping a situation from going from a slight inconvenience to a full time block in your daily routine.

The first sign of cyberstalking is an unwelcome advance. Know that on social media, in your email or on any digital platform that people have a reason for contacting you. No one sends you messages or comments on what you do at random. When someone you don’t know contacts you, ascertain who they are and what they want. Do they know someone you know?

If not, are they contacting you for promotional or business reasons? Sometimes advertisers can come on a bit strong to push their product, but they will tend to go away if shown the door both in real life and online. If you can’t figure out whom or what the person wants, it’s time to say goodbye.

Strangers are the easy part. The hard part is knowing when someone you do know is beginning to exhibit unwelcome or unwanted behavior. Excessive messaging (without your soliciting) is an early sign you may want to consider distancing yourself. Keep an eye on who comments on what you’re posting, as it’s odd for someone to follow everything you do. It may sound crass, but few people find anyone else that interesting.

Escalation

Once you’ve started to identify early signs of unusual behavior, watch for escalation. Escalation occurs when cyberstalkers try to take things to the next level. You may not know if they’ve been reading every post you make or following your every move (some stalkers are shy or just good at remaining unnoticed), but it’s sure to show at some point.

Depending on the type of infatuation, cyberstalkers may begin actively harassing you (sending excessive emails, messages, posting on your pages) or may start making untoward requests, such as meeting you in person when your relationship makes that inappropriate (you don’t know the person well or perhaps don’t even really like them).

Be aware that some stalkers try to isolate their victims by trying to separate you from friends with threats, character disparagement or convincing you to be paranoid. They might talk poorly about family or other acquaintances when you previously had no problems with those people.

Unfortunately, the perpetrators are more likely to be people you know, and in many cases, they may even be family members. That isn’t to say you should be paranoid of everyone. The goal is always to be vigilant and at worst concerned, but never worried (worry is inherently unhealthy).

Preventative Tools

There is a wide array of tools at your disposal to avoid cyberstalking. Knowing is a huge part, but it’s only half the story. The ignore/block button is your friend on most social media services. Sometimes you just need to tell someone goodbye. The same can be said about requests; not everyone deserves to be on your friends or followers list. If they can’t demonstrate the right behavior, they need to go.

Some services will show anyone and everyone your location. In some cases that’s favorable, but at times, you may not want everyone knowing where you are. If turning off location services isn’t an option, consider using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to hide your IP address. It’s an affordable tool that improves your overall internet security and helps against the rare but occasional stalker with hacking skills by encrypting your internet connection.

Avoiding isolation by picking up the phone or telling someone else will also protect you from cyberstalking. Remember that stalkers want to isolate you, so your best way to be safe is to avoid being alone both literally and metaphorically. Don’t push friends or family away; they’re your support!

Authorities are an option in scenarios where you suspect criminal activities. I would only recommend involving law enforcement if you feel a party actually threatens your safety. Online, you may be able to contact website moderators to report breaches in terms of service (most social media pages prohibit harassment or stalking).

There’s even an app for that; Dr. Phil and his wife have created a way to call for help in an emergency without contacting 911 outright. It’s mostly for domestic abuse, but that is in many cases the end result of cyberstalking.

Unplug

The most scorched earth way to absolutely put an end to cyberstalking is simple: unplug from the net. As cyberstalking is necessarily tied to technology, and by extension the internet, it doesn’t work when you’re not online. Even if you can’t get off the internet, you can definitely put social media on pause.

Facebook, Twitter and other services are fantastic tools, but if they get out of hand and stop helping your life, it’s time to put them down for a while. Once things settle down, you can reconnect to the world again, but sometimes you need a pause to get back to homeostasis in your social life.

Have you been the victim of cyberstalking before? What did it teach you? If not, how have you avoided becoming a victim? Share with us in the comment section!

 


I’m Back!

Friday, December 11th, 2015

nancy salamone clu, nancy salamone

I’m Back!

By Nancy Salamone
Author “Victory Over Violence” now on Amazon.com

Dear Reader and Followers,

I know it’s been sometime since I posted an update. My dedication to those enduring domestic violence has not changed – I have now added a new dimension.

One of the most important issues for all women is financial self-sufficiency. According to Annamaria Lusardi, a professor of economics and accountancy at George Washington University and the academic director of the Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center, “There is a clear gender difference when it comes to financial literacy.” Further according to Professor Lusardi women in all the countries were less likely than men to correctly answer questions about financial literacy, particularly those that used technical terms. “The more sophisticated the question and the more financial jargon that was used, the less likely women were to answer the questions correctly”, she said.

Financial self-sufficiency is a necessary ingredient for all women and especially those who are enduring domestic violence. One of the reasons many women do not leave an abusive relationship is lack of adequate finances and financial literacy. Many women’s shelters include financial literacy as part of the programs they provide women escaping abusive relationships. This education is vitally important and goes a long way to help a woman get out and stay out of an abusive relationship.

I will always be available to organizations (both for and not-for-profit) to help them navigate the dangers of domestic violence in their workplaces. Additionally, in my new dimension, I will also lend my marketing expertise to financial services organization to help them attract female customers.

A recent WSJ (Wall Street Journal) article titled “Women, Especially, Are Failing Financial Literacy” states “The lack of {Financial} knowledge can be costly for anyone, of course, but the consequences may be worse for women because they tend to live longer than men”. I believe financial services organizations need to provide the education women need and honestly crave about their finances. To that end I have written a White Paper “Capturing Your Share of The Women’s Market” which describes in detail how a financial services company can increase their share of the women’s market.

In addition to writing about domestic violence I will now include how financial services companies need to market to women which will not only increase their share of the women’s market and help women increase their knowledge of finances. Financial services organizations are uniquely positioned to provide the education, advice and knowledge women need to be financially self-sufficient.

As my annual Halloween blog post states “Let your daughters, granddaughters and nieces be a princess on Halloween but teach them that they are responsible for their financial futures and give them the skills they need to manage their finances.

Thank you for reading this – I’ll be back soon…

Warmest Regards,

Nancy

 

 


A Domestic Violence Story – The Catholic Religion and Me

Tuesday, May 26th, 2015

By Nancy Salamone
Author “Victory Over Violence” now on Amazon.com

domestic violence memoir, nancy's story, amazon.com,

Nancy’s Story – A Victory Over Violence tells the story of one woman’s struggle with domestic violence.

Even though I was raised Roman Catholic I don’t consider myself a Catholic nor do I associate with any organized religion. The Catholic religion, like other religions, has their rituals. One of the rituals is confession. In my book “Victory Over Violence” I share the story of my first confession which was very scary to me.

Here it is…

My First Confession

I was in first grade when I made my first confession.

A first confession was made before making a first communion. Before making a first communion, you had to be pure—in other words, confess your sins and be granted salvation.

The school was associated with the Immaculate Conception Church. I was six years old when I, together with all of my classmates, made my first confession. On the appointed day, the nuns marched us to the church. I always thought it was dark and dank in the church. It was a scary place to me.

We all lined up against the church pews, waiting for our turn to go into the confessional box. The nuns told us we had to confess all of our sins, and we had to give an accounting of how many times we committed each one of them. For example, if your mother yelled at you because you did something wrong, you had to confess how many times she yelled at you.

When it was my turn, I entered the confessional box, which was even darker than the church. In fact, it was pitch-black in there. A small window opened, and it was my time to talk. “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. This is my first confession, and my mother yelled at me four times, and I was mean to my sisters three times.” I went on like this for what seemed an eternity until I finished. The priest then told me to say five Hail Marys and one Our Father, and off I went, glad to be out the confessional box and absolved of my sins.

I was six years old and scared to death. And yes, I lied to the priest, as I had no idea how many times I got yelled at or how many times I might have been mean to my sisters.

Every Friday after my first confession, we were marched off to church to confess our sins once again. I had a rule: I would never admit that I ever sinned more than five times. I don’t know why five, but I must have felt that any sin committed fewer than five times was not that bad.

So much for what I learned about confession …


Domestic Violence Awareness – Facebook can be a Dangerous Place for Domestic Violence Victims

Thursday, May 21st, 2015

By Nancy Salamone
Author “Victory Over Violence” now on Amazon.com

Facebook exposes domestic violence survivors

Facebook Endangers Domestic Violence Survivors

Yesterday The Daily Beast posted an article titled “How Facebook Exposes Domestic Violence Survivors”. The piece authored by Samantha Allen in part tells the story of Lily a domestic violence survivor who had not seen or heard from her abuser for 20 years.

It seems Lily Facebook account was suspended last December as she used a pseudonym and Facebook requires the use of an “authentic name”.  Lily opened a Facebook account using her “authentic name” and received a message by the man who she says beat her, broke her ribs, and repeatedly raped her two decades ago.

Lily told The Daily Beast “My blood ran cold, I was sweating, and [having] heart palpitations opening the message,” Lily told The Daily Beast. “It made my skin crawl.”

Ms. Allen goes into great detail about the issues surrounding Facebook’s policy regarding the use of “authentic names” and I urge you to read her entire article.

Digital abuse is the new frontier for abusers to harass, intimidate and “keep tabs” on their victims. I discussed this in my post dated February 20, 2014 titled “The Dark Side of Technology – Digital Abuse”. The information in that post is as timely now as it was then and I am sharing it with you today.

The Dark Side of Technology – Digital Abuse

I love technology! I love how I can easily access my email, post to my Twitter account, quickly find stores and other locations, talk with my friends via SMS and update my Facebook account instantly.  All this is great but there is a dark side to technology – Digital Abuse.

When I left my abusive ex-husband he stalked me. I left him before technology was as advanced as it is today, and I am sure if the technology was as powerful then as it is now, he would have digitally harassed me in addition to physically stalking me.

One of the most dangerous times for a domestic violence victim is when they leave their abuser.  When a victim leaves their abuser the abuser fears they are losing control over the victim, hence the violence can escalate and in many cases turn deadly – It certainly escalated for me. Today’s technology allows the abuser to easily harass, threaten and intimidate their victim 24/7.

This type of stalking is known as digital abuse or digital harassment – I call it 21st century stalking – and it is extremely dangerous. A recent article in Daily Life talks about how digital abuse is now the new frontier of domestic violence. The article also refers to a February 10th blog post in The Daily Beast titled “Digital Harassment is the New Means of Domestic Abuse”.  Both articles highlight the extreme lengths abusers will go to in order to maintain control over their victims.

My ex-husband would constantly call me at work to see that I was in my office, now with the advent of this new improved technology, texting has become a way abusers can harass their victims. As the Daily Beast points out young people are calling the National Domestic Violence Hotline talking about how their partners are constantly texting them and if they don’t respond in appropriate time there are repercussions and fights break out. Many others have reported their partners are “constantly texting them to know where they are and who they are talking to.”

Digital abuse is not just the domain of the young. The article in Daily Life reports that a woman who finally obtained a divorce from her abusive husband thought she would be free from his emotional and physical abuse but email and text messages from him became his new weapon of choice.  She could not delete his email address as this was the only method she had of corresponding with him regarding his visitation with their children.

Certain smart phone apps, like StelthGenie (Update StelthGenie has been $500,000 and forced to turn over the source code as it is a Federal Crime in the US to sell spyware – but there are other apps that will spy on a significant other), can be used to track someone’s cell phone without their permission. This technology allows a stalker to track a victim’s whereabouts whenever they like.  GPS cell phone tracking apps certainly help parents keep track of their children to insure their safety. Now in the hands of abusers these apps have the opposite effect when it comes to domestic violence.

While many states have enacted Cyberstalking laws we still have a way to go especially since the cyber landscape is constantly changing.  According to Roberta Valente a consultant with The National Domestic Violence Hotline, who was quoted in the Daily Beast post, says that laws are struggling to keep up with the changing digital landscape. “This is a new world for legislators”, she says. She also said in an email that those working in the domestic violence non-profit space are hopeful there will be more that can be done from a law enforcement standpoint eventually, particularly with efforts to seriously address cyber-stalking.

Technology is fantastic except in the hands of an abuser!


A Domestic Violence Story – The Face of Domestic Violence

Wednesday, May 6th, 2015

By Nancy Salamone
Author “Victory Over Violence” now on Amazon.com

domestic violence memoir, nancy's story, amazon.com,

Nancy’s Story – A Victory Over Violence tells the story of one woman’s struggle with domestic violence.

In the Preface of “Victory Over Violence” I talk about how there are millions of women, like me, who endure domestic violence and are employed. I am sharing this section of the Preface because when you think of the face of domestic violence – all you need to do is look around a room. Domestic violence is an equal opportunity social disease and can affect anyone regardless of race, religion, cultural background, sexual orientation or socio-economic status.

“I am a survivor of domestic violence. For years I lived two lives – one a successful Wall Street Executive and the other a behind closed doors abused wife. My story is not unique as there are millions of women who endure domestic violence every day and never tell anyone. I never told anyone because I was ashamed –I could not reconcile my professional success with what I felt was my personal failure.

My story is an exploration of how my cultural, familial and religious background led me to be in an abusive relationship, which I was unable to break free from for many years – thankfully after 20 years I did break free.

Every day millions of abused women go to work in companies across the country – just like I did – which is why I was compelled to include a chapter about how domestic violence affects the workplace. The chapter “Domestic Violence Goes To Work” talks about the dangers in the workplace created by domestic violence and the need for employers to develop programs to safeguard not only the victims but also their co-workers.”

My hope is that those who have endured their own struggles with domestic violence find something from my story and realize that they too can create a self-sufficient life that they choose and achieve their own “Victory over Violence”.