Virginia Coalition of Police
and Deputy Sheriffs




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Dealing with a CyberStalker

QI apparently have an Internet stalker. I busted this guy scamming on eBay. For the past two weeks, he has been e-mailing me every day. His messages are abusive and sexual. I have reported the messages to his e-mail providers. Three of his accounts have been closed. But it is easy to get a new e-mail account. How do I deal with this? What laws will protect me?

AStalking is a difficult situation. And it becomes much more difficult to handle when it hits the Internet. After all, the Internet provides a certain level of anonymity.

First, letís talk a little bit about stalking. Then, Iíll show you specific sites that people can use to find your address, public records about you, and more. After we do that, I will help you get that information off the Internet.

Stalking is one area where technology has outraced the law. Few federal laws specifically address cyberstalking. In most cases, youíll need to rely on state laws.

There are several types of stalkers. Each type has its motives.

In your case, the stalker is seeking revenge. Your actions thwarted his scam. He probably perceives this as a loss of income. Also, he could face criminal charges for scamming others.

Fortunately, the dispute is happening in cyberspace. Usually, such online situations do not escalate into the real world. This does not mean that you should take the matter lightly.

He could be unhinged

The stalker could come to find you. For example, one man traveled 1,300 miles to burn another manís home. The reason? The victim called him a nerd on a popular photo-sharing site. You never know who is on the other side of the keyboard.

Hopefully, your stalker isnít that dedicated. He may give up and go away. So, do not respond to his messages, no matter how inflammatory. Responses will only encourage him.

Since you mentioned an eBay transaction with the stalker, he probably knows your name and address. An e-mail response might disclose something else. It could reveal your name or where you work. Also, a message will contain your IP address. This might tip him to where you live or work.

You need to find out what is posted about you online. Look at your e-mail address and eBay user name. Can these connect you to your real name and location?

The stalker may be able to find your name and address another way, say with a quick search. He may also be able to find out more than that. Click here for sites that can be used to find people.

In that case, youíll want to remove this information from the Internet, if possible. This is easier said than done. But it is worth a try. For tips on this, click here.

Back on eBay

You should also change your eBay user name. This will be a hassle, and youíll lose any positive feedback. Your safety is worth the sacrifice, though.

Your first instinct may be to change your e-mail address. This may not be a good idea. It sounds like the messages are disturbing. But they give you insight into the stalkerís mind.

For example, the messages may reveal what the stalker knows about you. You will also see if his threats are escalating. Additionally, the messages are important evidence. The authorities will need the messages if they are to act on your case.

Keep all of the messages the stalker has sent. Youíll want to keep both electronic and printed copies for at least a year.

All of this advice is defensive. It will help you mitigate the threat the stalker poses and discourage his actions. Hopefully, this is all you need.

If things continue, youíll need to take a more active approach. I canít help you decide when, though. On one hand, you should act as soon as possible. On the other hand, stalkers often become enraged when victims seek outside help. Contacting the police could make the stalker more aggressive.

When you go to the police, take copies of every e-mail. Make sure you include the message headers. They contain an IP address that can be used to track the stalker. And remember that eBay may be able to help identify the stalker. That is, provided he used his real information.

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