Computer crime takes a variety of forms, with new methods and criminal ventures developing daily.
Cyberstalking is online harassment, by email, chat, instant messaging or other means, that serves no useful purpose other than to cause emotional distress to the victim, while laying the groundwork for serious danger later on. The stalker is bent on gaining information about a victim that gives him a sense of power and helps him plan ways to physically or sexually assault the intended victim.
Stalking is also used for intimidation, and often comes before kidnapping, homicide or sexual battery. The best way to protect potential victims from harm is to help all people, men and women, with safety planning, and to intervene early if they are stalked.
Tips to Prevent Cyberstalking
- Be very cautious about putting any pictures of yourself or your children online anywhere, or allowing anyone else (relatives, schools, dance academies, sports associations) to publish any photos. Some stalkers become obsessed with an image, and find ways to learn who that child is and come to see them, or at least try to talk to them over the Internet.
- Always select a gender-neutral username for your email address or for chat. Don't pick something cute, such as "email@example.com" or use your first name if it is obviously female. Since the majority of online victims are female, this is what harassers look for.
- Keep your primary email address only for people you know and trust.
- Get a free email account and use that for all your other online activity.
- Don't fill out profiles when you sign up for your email account. Provide only minimal information about yourself, and nothing that can positively identify you or allow others to trace and track you.
- Block or "ignore" unwanted people. Whether you are in a chat room or using instant messaging, always check out what options/preferences are available. Take advantage of "Block all users except those on my buddy list," or add unwanted usernames to an Ignore list in chat. If anyone bothers you and won't go away, put them on block or ignore.
- Don't defend yourself. People naturally want to defend themselves, but a reaction is just what the harasser wants.
- Lurk, or read messages and don't respond or post any, when you first sign on to newsgroups, message boards, mailing lists, and chat rooms. Wait a while before you begin posting; get the "lay of the land."
- Look for digital footprints you made on the Internet. Put your first name and last name in quotes in a search engine such as Yahoo!, Google or Dogpile, and see if any results refer to you. See if there is any private information out there that could give you away.
- Never give your password to anyone, especially if someone instant messages you. Your internet service provider will never email you for your password or ask you to provide it at a website.
- Don't provide your credit-card number or other identifying information as proof of age to access or subscribe to a website run by a company you are not familiar with.
- Tell children to never, ever give out online, without your permission, personal information - their real name, address, or phone number; where they go to school, where you work.