How to combat cyberstalking

Thursday, 17 July 2003, 9:38 AM EST

Stalking is defined as "willful, malicious and repeated following and harassing of another person."

This can take any number of forms: following a person, appearing at his or her home or place of employment, making harassing phone calls, vandalizing someone's property or leaving objects or written messages. In contrast, cyberstalking generally refers to the use of the Internet, e-mail messaging or other electronic communication methods such as instant messaging to stalk someone.

In recent years, stalkers have found that the Internet provides a new medium through which to commit crimes against their victims. Cyberstalkers, like other predators, are opportunists and are often motivated by a desire to exert control over their victims. Given the enormous amount of personal information available through the Internet, a determined cyberstalker can often easily locate private information about a potential victim. Numerous Web sites offer personal information, including unlisted telephone numbers and detailed directions to homes or offices. For a fee, other Web sites promise to provide Social Security numbers, financial data and other personal information that cyberstalkers might find useful in the pursuit of their victims.

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