Online stalking is not a new phenomenon. And while most people don’t report or take necessary actions when stalked online, there is increasing evidence that online stalking is a serious and growing problem.
In fact, it’s now considered the most common form of harassment than face-to-face stalking. Recent statistics reveal that there’s a 17% likelihood that your ex or current partner stalked you by checking your phone to view text messages, phone calls, emails, or even photos.
This and many more concerns highlight the need to be more vigilant than ever and protect ourselves from being stalked. In this article, we delve into cyberstalking, how it threatens your privacy, and what you should do to protect yourself.
Read on to learn more!
What is cyberstalking
Technology evolution and the rise of social media use have created a platform whereby it’s easier to monitor what the other person is doing. The anonymity granted to users means perpetrators can easily gather data and terrorize you without any physical interaction.
Online stalking, commonly referred to as cyberstalking, occurs when someone uses the internet to target, bother, harass, and even threaten you. Anyone can be stalked, regardless of their age or gender. The stalking manifests in repeated actions over time.
A stalker will rely on tools such as social media and search engines to scare and get their victims worried. They resort to acts such as tracking where you go, going through your personal information, and generally keeping an eye on what you do online and in real life.
It’s important to know that cyberstalkers can go to the extent of gaining access to your phone and viewing some of your confidential stuff. And if you’re like most people asking yourself, can my ex track my phone, then you’re in for a shock, as the answer is yes.
There are multiple ways your ex can track your phone to know about what’s going on in your life. While this is a breach of your privacy and punishable under the anti-stalking and harassment laws, they can get away with spying on you for a long time.
It’s not easy, but you can tell if your ex or someone is spying on your phone with the help of spyware. For starters, the best way to tell you’re being tracked and spied on is by looking out for the following red flags:
- Rapid increase in data usage
- Constant phone overheating
- Battery draining fast
- Some strange noises when making phone calls
- Your phone getting sluggish.
The above signs will tell whether someone is secretly spying on you. And for that to happen, the perpetrator may have employed a few tactics to track you online, including:
1. Activity monitoring
Perpetrators often watch your online actions to gather information about you. This could include gaining access to your IP address, passwords, or electronic devices, which they can use to harass or impersonate you.
2. GPS tracking
Some individuals may plant tracking devices in your belongings to trace your whereabouts. Additionally, some smartphones, tablets, or computers have tracking features or settings that make it easier for you to be monitored without your knowledge.
3. Social media tracking
Although most social media platforms provide blocking options, a stalker can sometimes gain access through a friend of yours. For example, innocent posts about where you’re having dinner can inadvertently disclose your location and activities to them.
4. Using monitoring apps
Unfortunately, there are numerous monitoring apps and spyware available to track and find someone’s location. Some of these can be installed without requiring access to your phone. Simply clicking on an image can unknowingly download a monitoring app.
5. Device syncing
Certain apps sync information across devices to facilitate purchases or data transfer. Regrettably, if the perpetrator can access your device, they can read your text messages, delete pictures, forge documents, or view your browsing history.
Catfishing is a form of online stalking where the perpetrator assumes a false identity on social media. They may use fictitious names, photos, locations, and basic information. In some cases, they even pretend to be the victim, intending to deceive others and embarrass the victim.
How to shield yourself from online stalking
Protecting yourself from online stalking is crucial to maintaining your digital safety. There’s no guarantee you’ll achieve complete protection; however, there are a few steps you can take to reduce your odds of becoming a victim.
Here is a deeper look into how to stay safe from online stalking:
1. Keep your digital security a priority
Stalkers make you an easy target if you constantly let your guard down on simple aspects of digital security. In most cases, your online security starts with a personal initiative, and the more you remain complacent, the more you invite threats to your door.
To begin with, secure all your devices and online accounts. You can achieve this by strengthening your passwords and making them hacker-proof.
For example, you can use a combination of upper and lower-case letters, numbers, and symbols or even use a password manager for additional security. Also, set reminders to change your passwords periodically, preferably every few months.
2. Log out of your accounts after use
Some online stalkers want to gain access to your accounts so that they can use the available information to stalk you. As a good habit, always log out of online accounts, including emails and social media accounts.
This ensures that even if someone hacks into your device, they won’t have immediate access to your accounts.
3. Develop good digital habits
Good online habits will help you stay out of harm’s way. Most stalkers will disguise as people you know and use that to get closer. For a start, only accept friend requests from people you trust on social media.
To ensure that people don’t know much about what’s going on in your life, adjust your privacy settings to keep your posts and personal information private. Remember, don’t share sensitive information with someone you don’t know in person.
4. Configure security settings
On top of practicing good digital hygiene habits, you should step further and keep your accounts secure. Configure security settings to create a roadblock for those wishing to access your information.
Review privacy settings on all your online accounts, particularly on social media. Start by enabling all the available features that allow you to approve tags and posts mentioning you. This way, no one will have too much information about you.
5. Always keep your location confidential
As a necessary extra precaution, avoid revealing to people where you are. When sharing a post on social media, turn off geolocation settings in your photos to prevent sharing your exact location. Only post your location in real time if you’re sure about your digital safety.
Instead, you should only consider posting photos or updates showing where you’ve been after leaving the location. This will minimize the risk of immediate tracking or targeting by online stalkers.
6. Perform a social media check-up
You should always perform a regular check-up of your social media profiles to remove any posts or photos that disclose too much personal information. This includes details such as your full name or contact information to reduce the risk of unwanted attention.
Acting against online stalking
Online stalking is a serious issue, and safety should be your utmost priority. There are many ways you can get help if you’ve been constantly stalked online. The best way is to take the matter up and report it to the relevant authorities.
Cyberstalking laws and regulations differ from state to state. However, your local law enforcement agency will be more than willing to help or guide you on what extra steps to take. Always remember to keep all the evidence, including the texts or emails, to support your case.
But before that, reduce harm to yourself and prevent further attacks by:
- Asking the perpetrator to top
- Blocking them online.
Protecting yourself from online stalking involves a combination of proactive measures. Other than the awareness of the signs of stalking, you should also develop a digital hygiene that makes it difficult for someone to stalk or harass you online.
The above-highlighted steps are crucial to helping you achieve the desired online safety. They’ll significantly protect you from becoming a victim of online stalking. First, they help you stay vigilant and informed and also guide you on prioritizing your safety first.