The Future of Stalking is Now

Guest post by: Richelle Duane, Civil Advocacy Supervisor, HAVEN

When I was growing up cartoons, movies, and television shows about the future were pretty common.  There was The Jetsons, Back to the Future and Star Trek, just to name a few.  These ideas of what the future may look like and be like were exciting and fascinating but at the same time seemed so far away and fantastical.  It was hard to believe any of it could or would ever be reality.  Little did I know that the future was only a few short decades away.

Granted we aren’t all flying around in hover crafts, teleporting, or living in outer space; at least not yet.  But the rate at which technology has evolved, the devices we now have and the things we are now capable of are astounding compared to just 30 years ago.  While these technological advances are impressive and beneficial they also come with a risk.  In my experience, technology can be a blessing or a curse depending on who is utilizing it and what their intentions are.

Although this view could apply to lots of things, the risks to which I’m referring are specific to the internet, computers, and GPS.  These are things that most of us have come to rely on and use on a daily basis. Our phones have become mini computers, we can access the internet from just about anywhere now, and satellites can locate, guide and even see us from outer space.  However, aside from concern that bank or credit card information could be compromised during an online transaction or that we might accidentally expose our device to a malicious virus do most of us really think about the dangers that this technology presents or the ways in which it may be misused?  Probably not.  At least not until it becomes an issue in our own life or that of someone we know.

At HAVEN we see the ways in which technology is used to stalk and abuse our clients on a daily basis.  The tactics are numerous and constantly evolving.  Below are just some of the ways in which commonly utilized technology is misused by abusers for purposes of stalking.

Email

  • Account hacked to gain access to private, personal conversations.
  • Once hacked, this gives the abuser access to change other online account (phone, credit card, social media, etc.) passwords that are linked to that email.
  • Abuser can obtain contact information for victim’s friends and family.
  • Abuser has ability to send victim messages and pictures 24/7.

Social Media

  • Monitor where victim is or is going through victim’s own status updates and posts or ones that the victim is “tagged” or mentioned in.
  • Abuser may create fake or imposter profiles in order to gain access and contact with the victim.
  • Use profile information to learn where victim lives, works, spends time, etc.

Computer Software

  • Keystroke tracking software records every key pressed revealing passwords, websites visited, and messages sent.
  • Computer webcams and microphones can be remotely accessed and used to spy and record.

Cell Phone

  • Phone (and therefore the victim’s) location can be tracked using GPS signal, “family locator” type services through phone provider, or hidden applications uploaded to the phone.
  • Applications designed and used to block or disguise caller’s ID
  • Abuser has ability to call, text, or send pictures to client 24/7.

Internet Search Engines

  • Search of a person’s name can be used to bring up any information on a person that has been posted publicly on an internet site or database.  This can include past and present addresses, phone numbers, names of relatives, articles in which the person was mentioned, resumes, and online profiles.
  • An image search of a person’s name can bring up pictures of that person that were publicly posted online.

Have you tried searching your name lately?

Other Devices (most likely available at your local Spy Shop)

  • External trackers that can be installed in or on cars, cell phones and other objects
  • Microphones or “bugs” used to record or spy on conversations
  • Spy cams that are built into or can be hidden in objects

Don’t worry; I’m not giving abusers and stalkers any ideas or tips.  They are already well aware of these methods and many more.  Every day new devices, software and applications are being developed and used.  Technology is a stalker’s best friend and knowledge is our best defense.  By knowing these tactics we can take steps, such as the following ones, to protect ourselves.

  • Change passwords frequently and don’t use any word, name, phrase, or date that has a personal connection to you.  Better yet, don’t use any actual words.  Mix up numbers and both upper and lower case letters.
  • If you think your personal or home computer has been compromised or is being monitored, use a public computer such as at a library or computer lab.
  • Learn about and utilize privacy settings on social media sites.
  • Always be mindful of the information you post online keeping in mind that anyone could see it.
  • Ask friends not to mention or tag you in their online posts
  • Limit online connections to people you know well and trust.

If you or someone you know is being stalked, get help by calling the HAVEN Crisis and Support Line at 877-922-1274.

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Filed under National Stalking Awareness Month

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