We hear about cyberstalking every now and then. People who have experienced it must know that how mentally and emotionally disturbing it can be. Typically, stalking refers to an obsessive and unwanted attention of an individual given to another person. Online environment, on top of that, offers an amazing platform to stalkers to do their ill-intentioned activities which are commonly known as online harassment or cyberstalking.
Unfortunately, cyberstalking has turned into a worrying problem, considering the current estimated rate of cyberstalking cases. A recent survey has found that approximately 1.5 million people become victims of online stalking worldwide. Most victims are females aged between 16 and 39, whereas 56 percent perpetrators are men.
There is no denying that cyberstalking has become one of the most serious problems in the last few years. Many countries have enacted legislation to overcome this vicious cycle. However, still, there is a lot that needs to be done in order to combat this issue. It is important to initiate safety measures yourself to avoid becoming a cyberstalking victim.
If you are unsure what you should do, we have you covered here. Below we have discussed some important information you need to know to prevent cyberstalking.
What is Cyberstalking?
Commonly known as online stalking, cyberstalking is an electronic means to harass or stalk anyone. It can be done via messages, emails, social media and various other online forums. Cyberstalking can take the form of sexual harassment, torture, and threats against a person’s safety.
In other words, cyberstalking is a legal crime in which stalker harasses an individual with electronic messages. According to Working to Halt Online Abuse (WHOA) – an organization formed to stop online stalking; this problem began in 2001 when people were stalked through email messages. Since then, unfortunately, the issue has escalated. There are several other organizations that have been putting in their best to eradicate cyberstalking, but the current results are not satisfactory.
Few reasons are the decreasing level of account privacy and the ubiquity of social media platforms that allow intruders easy access to anyone’s personal information.
The reason behind Cyber Stalking
Apparently, there are not clear reasons that make a person a cyber stalker. However, studies on human behavior and psychological researches have helped psychologist outline certain characteristics that most cyberstalkers have in common.
Typically, people who turn into stalkers are suffering from anxiety or depressive disorders. Most of them are stressed or addicted. According to a study Crime and Challenge, cyberstalkers are mostly isolated individuals who live with an obsessional pursuit and do not have an active social life. There is a tendency to lose connection with people in the real world as stalkers spend much of their time online. This is what leads them to harass, intimidate, coerce or frighten unsuspecting users.
How to Prevent Cyberstalking?
Sharing Your Personal Information is a Risk
According to a recent report, around 22 percent of cases of cyberstalking originate from different social media platforms, such as Facebook or Instagram. There is nothing peculiar about this fact as 65 percent of people upload their personal profiles on the popular social networking sites.
Most profiles on these networking platforms are visible to everyone, making them an easy access for cyberstalkers. The stalkers approach their victim on social media by concealing their true identity.
The technical word for this activity is catfishing in which a cyberstalker steals a victim’s name, personal details, as well as profile pictures. Using a fake identity, an online stalker gains the trust of his victim. Here is where you need to be extremely cautious in terms of sharing your personal information.
To stop a privacy intruder from looking into your personal information, make sure to adjust its settings that allow only friends or family to view your information. Besides this, avoid sharing your phone number, workplace and home address.
If you suspect someone as a potential catfisher, this is what you can do:
- Go through their profiles images. Catfishers never share their pictures with family and friends. Most of them put up their selfies only.
- Search on Google images for the picture you see on the suspected user’s profile. Cyberstalkers mostly steal the images from Google.
- Check their friend’s list. Cyberstalkers have fewer friends.
- Offer them Facetime chat on Skype. If they hesitate or make excuses, this is a red flag.
Using VPN is one of the best options you can try to prevent cyberstalking. VPN is software that encrypts data traffic on a network and that is what makes it stand out when it comes to security. By using a VPN service, you can keep all your data secure and private. That means there is no way a cyberstalker can gain access to your personal information. Plus, they will not get a chance to get into your system to steal your details.
Avoid Sharing Your Location
Whether someone is vacationing or visiting a local restaurant, clicking pictures or sharing current location has become a social norm. Apparently, it does not have any harm but what most people do not realize is that it allows cyberstalkers to follow your day-to-day activities. It helps them track you. A cyberstalker can easily gather your information within minutes by just scrolling through your newsfeed.
That does not mean you should stop posting images on social media. It means it is better to not share your location on the social networking site. Try to post images in which your surroundings are not clear. Plus, keep checking the fitness apps you are using as most of them post workout schedules that everybody can see. If you are at the gym, your current location can be seen by online stalkers. That is why it is very important to not only keep your account private, but avoid updating your location as well.
Overall, there is no doubt that cyberstalking has emerged as one of the major criminal issues in the last decade. It has dramatically increased in the last few years and that makes taking preventative measures highly important. The given tips will help you protect yourself from becoming a victim of cybercrime.