Let me ask you this. Have you ever used a dating app? Or what if one day your friend told you they saw you on a dating app, when in fact you have never used a dating app before?
Well, this is known as impersonation – when someone is pretending to be your identity online by creating a bogus account.
And how such impersonating accounts become successful in luring your friends to believe it is indeed you is in fact through the perpetrator’s cyberstalking of you. You see, not only can perpetrators hide behind the safety of their screens and private networks, it’s also hard to control the access, spread and veracity of information on the Internet.
It’s just like stalking and harassment in real life, which can take the form of threats, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or the publication of identity information, to intentionally harass, alarm or cause distress to the victim. This includes actions like following a victim, continued communication or attempts to communicate even after being told to stop, and keeping the victim under surveillance.
Similarly, cyberstalking largely involves similar actions, except the stalker uses online means to go about it. So instead of constant phone calls and loitering around the victim’s house or workplace, now it’s hassling the victim via online channels.
Alarmingly, according to the Singapore Police Force, the number of stalking cases that were deemed to be cyber in nature increased from 12 cases in 2018, to 26 cases between January and November 2021. Moreover, about 75 per cent of the victims were female!
So how do you spot the signs of cyberstalking? Well here are 10 ways:
You may find the cyber stalker aggressively following you on every social profile you have, be it on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, etc, and find his comments on every post you write
Another sign of cyberstalking is that the stalker keeps sending you emails on a daily basis, and may be texting you as well on your Smartphone
You may find the stalker everywhere you go, be it in shopping malls or cafes. One major reason is that he may be keeping track of your location through your phone’s GPS
Your profile is constantly viewed by multiple sham accounts
You constantly receive messages either through phone, email or your social profiles
You receive threads of causing harm to yourself, your reputation or your business
You realise rumours or falsehoods are spreading about you online
You realise your personal data has been published online without your consent
You find out that there has been published messages under your name online
You discover that they are also already following your family members, friends and relatives in an attempt to get as much information on you as possible
So if you do fall victim to such cyberstalking scenarios, here’s what you should do:
Take screenshots of electronic communications if any, together with the time stamps and account information
Keep records of the acts of harassment, including their frequency, duration and the manner or circumstances in which they were carried out
Don’t delete distressing messages or block the sender’s accounts, even though this may feel counter-intuitive