Tips: Avoid Online Stalking Incidents
One in five (19 percent) Americans have come in contact with someone
online who made them feel uncomfortable through stalking, persistent emails,
and other aggressive outreach attempts, according to new data released
recently by the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) and McAfee in time
for Stalking Awareness Month this January. The study, conducted by Zogby
International, also revealed that two-fifths (39 percent) of those victims
reported the incident while 61 percent remained silent.
National Stalking Awareness Month, a time to focus on a crime that affects
3.4 million victims a year. This year's theme, "Stalking: Know It. Name It.
Stop It." challenges the nation to fight this dangerous crime by learning
more about it. The Stalking Resource Center of the National Center for
Victims of Crime states that one in four victims report that the stalker
uses a variety of technologies, such as computers, global positioning system
(GPS) devices, or hidden cameras, to track the victim's daily
Stalking is a crime in all 50 states and the District of
Columbia, but it is often difficult to recognize, investigate, and
prosecute. Unlike other crimes, stalking is not a single, easily
identifiable crime but a series of acts, a course of conduct directed at a
specific person that would cause that person fear. Stalking may take many
forms, such as assaults, threats, vandalism, burglary, or animal abuse, as
well as unwanted cards, calls, gifts, or visits.
"The Internet is an
amazing tool for sharing and connecting with people. Unfortunately, there
are some people who will use it to track, harass or make unwanted contact.
Stalking can be dangerous and should be taken seriously," said Michael
Kaiser, executive director of the National Cyber Security Alliance. "We
encourage anyone who believes they are being victimized online to report the
crime and seek help, if needed, from law enforcement or a victim service
"Cyber criminals are more resourceful than ever. This data
supports an ever-increasing need for online users to be vigilant in their
actions each day," said John Thode, executive vice president, consumer,
mobile and small business, McAfee. "Americans must be educated to recognize
the signs of stalking and other forms of cyber crime as well as taking
action to protect ourselves, our youth, and our digital infrastructure from
The below tips from McAfee can help consumers avoid
stalking incidents online:
1) Cleanup your online profiles --
Don't include your address or phone number in an online profile. If you must
use a professional networking site such as LinkedIn for work, include your
company's corporate address instead of your actual office to prevent someone
from knowing where you work. Think about each piece of information you
include on your profile and whether it would be dangerous if it fell into
the wrong hands.?
2) Lockdown your privacy settings -- If you are
a social networking user, make sure to set all of your privacy settings to
"private" or "friends only" to keep people outside of your network from
accessing your information. It's also important to regularly check the
settings to make sure there haven't been any changes that leave your data
3) Be careful whom you connect with -- When using social
networking sites, only connect with people who you know in real life. A
stranger who tries to "friend" you could become trouble later on. Also, pay
attention to the people your friends are connected with to prevent your
information from being shared with someone suspicious.
yourself to see what's out there about you -- You might be surprised at what
you find when you search for yourself. Old website profiles, online forum
posts, and pictures of you posted by other people could all be unearthed in
a quick search. If you find information about yourself that you want
removed, contact the website or person hosting the content.
Don't use an email address that is easy to identify -- Stay under the radar
by selecting online handles that don't include your name, date of birth, or
other details about you that a stalker might easily recognize. Once you have
an anonymous address, guard it as you would your credit card or Social
6) If you have a personal website, don't post
your email address -- These days many of us have blogs and personal
websites, but it's a bad idea to post your email address. Instead, use a
contact form so that people can reach you without having your personal
7) Be careful when posting photos online -- You never
know where photos can end up when you post them online. Someone could find
them in an image search, post them to a website or downloaded them to their
computer. And if the photo contains information about where you live or
work, you could wind up giving a stalker all the information they need to
locate and harass you.
8) Create strong passwords -- Make it
difficult for someone to guess your passwords by using a mix of letters,
numbers and characters and make sure that they don't spell anything.
Passwords that include the name of your pet or some other personal detail
could easily be guessed, allowing an attacker to gain access your account.
The same goes for security question answers. Choose hard-to-guess answers to
prevent someone from using the password retriever function to obtain your
9) Avoid using location-based services -- "Checking-in"
to restaurants and other locations can be fun, but it can also be dangerous
if someone is stalking you. If you must use location-based services, choose
a unique username or alias that is not associated with any of your other
accounts to make it more difficult for people to identify you.
Delete old posts or entries -- If you have a stalker, they will scour the
Internet for any tidbit of news about you so it's a good idea to delete any
old forum posts, Tweets or status messages that include any personal details