Marines

Cyberstalking: It's real and It's Serious

It was a nuisance at first, just another unwanted piece of seemingly random junk email clogging your inbox. You deleted it along with all the get-rich-quick offers.

Then more emails began coming, again and again, from the same anonymous sender. Their tone became angry and threatening. One email mentioned personal details about you and your friends.

Who is sending these, how did he or she get your email address, and why are you a target? Those questions often are difficult to answer for the victims of the growing form of illegal Internet activity: cyberstalking.

Cyberstalking is the use of the Internet, e-mail, or other devices to stalk another person. It can take many forms, such as:

  • Threatening or harassing email or instant messages

  • Flaming (online verbal abuse)

  • Identity theft, including credit card, driver's license, PIN, and social security numbers

  • Leaving improper messages in newsgroups from you

  • Pedophile activity

  • Email forgery (sending false or damaging email from you)

  • 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 post any photos. Some stalkers become obsessed with an image.

As useful and fun as the Internet can be, a lot of information about Internet users resides online, and an enterprising criminal knows where and how to find it. People who participate in live chat discussions or post messages in newsgroups are particularly vulnerable to approaches from strangers.

There are ways to foil potential cyberstalkers:

  • Create a gender-neutral username for your e-mail address or chat nickname. Most online victims are female; don't tip off a harasser.

  • Don't post your primary email address in the public domain. Share it only with people you know and trust. Use a free email account for all your other online activity.

  • Don't fill out profiles with personal information or a photo of yourself.

  • Block or ignore unwanted or unknown users from sending you email or instant messages.

  • If you receive a harassing message, do not respond. Stalkers generally lose interest if they don't get the reactions they seek.

  • Never give your password to anyone, especially if someone requests it in an email or instant message.

  • Don't give out credit card numbers in a non-secure environment.

  • Instruct children to never give out their real name, address, or phone number online without your permission.

  • 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 post any photos. Some stalkers become obsessed with an image.

If you receive a harassing or threatening e-mail, forward the entire email to the sender's Internet Service Provider (it is often listed at the end of an email address, if at all) and ask it to take action.

If you receive email with a very specific threat, contact your local law enforcement department. A cyber stalker could step out into the physical world and lure you for a first meeting; vandalize your home, workplace or vehicle; send threatening or obscene mail; and make abusive and excessive phone calls.

    Marine Corps Installations Command, MCICOM